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Equestrian Journal: Staff USA Rises to the Problem for an Olympic Medal

By Lindsay Brock

Because the world began to peek out from below the veil of a worldwide pandemic and look forward to brighter days, the Tokyo Olympic Video games have been simply what the world wanted. Folks longed to return collectively after a 12 months of separation, and as soon as once more have fun the expertise and inspiration of residing beings.

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Whereas the video games have been a beacon of hope, the trail to Tokyo was one paved with uncertainty. As tire- much less work offered for a secure and wholesome plan of execution, a year-long delay as a result of COVID-19 pandemic introduced with it many challenges for U.S. Present Leaping. A brand new format was launched in Tokyo with three-person groups competing with out the security web of a drop rating. Merely put, there was no room for error in Tokyo.

Moreover, the stress was on U.S. Present Leaping to call “the best” workforce to signify them on a world stage. Delays introduced with it new horses, surprising accidents, and new alternatives.

Laura Kraut & Baloutinue.
Laura Kraut & Baloutinue

Olympic veterans Laura Kraut and McLain Ward could have appeared like no-brainer picks with 4 Olympic medals between the 2 of them, however they rode rookie mounts. Baloutinue joined Kraut’s string in April of 2021, simply three months earlier than the opening ceremonies. Ward’s companion Contagious additionally stepped as much as the Olympics for the primary time to fill the footwear of his earlier silver-medal profitable horse HH Azur. The theme of latest expertise continued with Jessica Springsteen, 29, who made her Olympic debut and fulfilled a childhood dream within the course of.

“This has been an enormous dream of mine ever since I can bear in mind,” mentioned Springsteen, who piloted Don Juan van de Donkhoeve, a horse she has been partnered with since 2019. “I’ve admired these riders all through my profession, so to be named to the workforce with them was an honor.”

McLain Ward & Contagious
McLain Ward & Contagious

Springsteen’s teammates echoed her sentiment, noting that they have been honored to have the ability to signify their residence nation at an Olympic Video games that nearly didn’t occur. “There have been unimaginable procedures and precautions put in place, and for this specific workforce, quite a bit modified,” mentioned Ward. “I feel that, as we have been coping with the world at this time and COVID, this group and the folks behind us—our groups, supporters, workers and the federation— actually moved on the fly and made selections whereas being versatile, and that’s what allowed us to be on the Olympic Video games and prepared for that second.”

For Springsteen, quarantine and a 12 months stuffed with extra time at residence allowed her to develop an unbreakable bond together with her horse. “When it got here time for the choice occasions, I felt assured in how far me and ‘Don’ had come,” she mentioned. “I felt ready heading into the Video games, and all in all Don was wonderful your complete week. I’m so completely happy for him.” Laura Kraut famous of her new companion Baloutinue, “He’s a little bit of a mixture between a Thoroughbred that I like to trip and [2008 team gold-medal winning horse] Cedric, my greatest horse. He was simply within the recreation. He was relaxed and centered and did every- factor I requested of him. He’s nonetheless new to this stage of leaping, and he bought higher every day that he jumped.”

In the end, the U.S. workforce staged a repeat jump-off towards Sweden for a gold medal. Not like the 2018 World Equestrian Video games version of that battle, the U.S. workforce settled for silver. They returned residence with way more than {hardware}, nevertheless. They touched down on North American soil with horses that proved their place in elite present leaping, a renewed religion within the resiliency of horse sport, and a gradual gaze in the direction of a vivid future.

Pictures by Shannon Brinkman

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