Sunday, September 19, 2010

Davidson Legacy Will Be Part of the WEG at Kentucky Horse Park - Full Story

September 18 2010

Nancy Jaffer/For The Star-Ledger

McLain Ward, who will be the cornerstone of the U.S. show jumping team at WEG with his two-time Olympic team gold medal mount, Sapphire, got a good warm-up for the Games when he won the Pfizer Animal Health $1 Million Grand Prix last Sunday at the HITS show in Saugerties, N.Y.

The grand prix, the richest ever, had a tough course by Olympic designer Steve Stephens that enabled only two in the field of 43 to qualify for the jump-off. Charlie Jayne had a rail down with Athena while Sapphire, as usual, went clear to take the title, worth $350,000.

Meg Sleeper of Frenchtown yesterday was named to the U.S. endurance team for the WEG. A veterinarian who finished 21st in the last WEG, Sleeper will be aboard her 8-year-old Arabian, Syrocco Harmony.

In an e-mail, Sleeper talked about the training camp where the horses are based while revving up for the WEG.

"Pretty frequently, we have people just stop by who have seen the sign “Shaker Village- home of the 2010 USA Endurance Squad” on the road. They want to see the horses and learn about endurance,, so it seems to be good PR and they have lots of questions about the sport. I checked my weight with tack today and I am pretty good;only one-half pound under the minimum. I think I can deal with that by drinking a lot before weighing in, but Dave (her husband) is going to bring a gel pad from a good friend just in case I need the extra weight.

"We are trying to prepare the horses for the UAE (United Arab Emirates) tactics of galloping by screaming to unsettle the other horses (which isn't that hard with a mass start of 160 horses anyway). So we practiced riding in a large circle with two people peeling off and cantering in the opposite direction (passing as close to the oncoming horses as possible and yelling at the top of our lungs as we did it). Then we repeated it while traveling in the same direction, which is more intimidating for the horses (having a screaming horse and rider passing you at the hand gallop).

"We looked like fools and the horses must have known it was just tactical maneuvering. At least they all stayed fairly calm..."

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