With the first 2016 North American horse trial to kick off this weekend with Equiventures in Ocala, FL, riders are pumped and ready to tackle that last leg of the ride to Rio. Fans are following along earnestly while wondering and predicting who will be the final four for each nation.
In no particular order, here are 16 riders that had some interesting results in 2015 and are vying for a coveted 2016 Olympic team spot. For the next few months, tune into this varied group of youth and veterans as they give it their all and ride for a chance to compete at the most prestigious games in the world – 2016 Rio Olympics.
Waylon Roberts (CAN) – Canadians were able to hear our anthem at two major FEI events in 2015 and both times this rare treat was made possible by Canada’s rising star Waylon Roberts. He won both the Fair Hill CIC2* and the Bromont CIC2* on Bill Owen. His riding resume boasts team experience; he was a member of the bronze medal team at the 2015 Pan Ams and silver medal team at the 2007 Pan Ams. He has already qualified one horse for the 2016 Olympics, Kelecyn Cognac. Plus, his other top horses Bill Owen and Faolan; both have Advanced mileage under their girth. Waylon’s road to Rio is looking clear and paved at the moment. Go Canada (we are Canadian)!
Tim and Jonelle Price (NZL) – Tim and Jonelle are dominating the international Eventing scene and are currently Eventing’s number one super couple. In 2015, at four-star competitions, a Price had a top five finish, five times. Tim has five horses (Wesko, Ringwood Sky Boy, Xavier Faer, Bango, The Court Jester) already qualified for the Olympics and Jonelle has three (Faerie Dianamo, Classic Moet, Cloud Dancer). It is quite possible this pair will field half of New Zealand’s 2016 Olympic team.
Will Coleman (USA) – He has been Mr. Consistency in 2015. He started his 2015 off with a 6th place finish at the Rolex CCI4* on Obos O’Reilly. In the fall, they headed overseas to compete and had an 11th place finish at the Blenheim CCI3*. He ended 2015 with a win at the Fair Hill CCI2* on Tight Lines, a very promising 7-year-old gelding. Will has been putting a lot of effort into developing a solid string of horses and his work is paying off in spades. Another stellar Rolex performance in 2016 would probably put him in heavy contention for a coveted spot on America’s 2016 Olympic team.
Holly Woodhead (GBR) – The Eventing world took notice of this 21-year-old when she rode DHI Lupison into second place after dressage at the 2015 Blair Castle European Championships on a score of 31.7. Unfortunately, she had a stop early on cross-country but she still finished the competition in 21st place. Holly competed at the European Championships as an individual but her selection made it clear that the British selectors have their eye on her. If she irons out the kinks on cross-county with DHI Lupison, she could be on the podium at the 2016 Olympics.
April Simmonds (CAN) – At only 18-years-old, she already has 39 FEI event starts under her saddle. She was named as an alternate for Canada’s 2015 Pan Am team riding Quebec NZPH. She was the youngest rider on the alternate list joining some of Canada’s top veteran riders; Kyle Carter, Lesley Grant-Law, Jessica Phoenix (on her reserve horse), Selena O’Hanlon and Mike Winter. April successfully made her Advanced debut at Richland Park Horse Trials, on Quebec NZPH and Impressively Done. At her first CIC3*, at Plantation Field, she rocked the dressage on both her horses. However, on cross-country she had a horse fall with Impressively Done and withdrew Quebec NZPH. Fortunately, April and her horses are okay and she is currently, training with Canadian team coach, Clayton Fredericks, in Florida. Although she is not yet qualified, April has made it clear that her goal is the 2016 Olympics. It is likely that she is Canada’s youngest Olympic declared rider as she kicks down the road to Rio. Go Canada (we are Canadian)!
Gabriel Silva Cury (BRA) – Brazil is hungry to win medals on home turf at the 2016 Rio Olympics and this young man could be a key contributor. He has major game experience as at only 19-years-old, he finished the 2014 World Equestrian Games in 41st place on Grass Valley. He has been training with Mark Todd for several years now and his partnership with Grass Valley has been flourishing. He finished 39th at the 2015 Badminton, with no cross-country jumping penalties. Then in the fall, he was fourth at the highly competitive Boekelo CCI3* Nations Cup Final, after laying down a stellar dressage test. If Gabriel keeps bettering his dressage he will definitely be a strong contender at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Tamie Smith (USA) – Racking up nine FEI wins in 2015, this girl is on fire. Her most notable win was the prestigious Fair Hill CCI3* with Mai Baum, where she bettered some of America’s top Olympic hopefuls. Tamie has yet to ride on a US team but she is definitely on the selectors radar for the 2016 Olympics.
Clark Montgomery (USA) – In 2015, Clark and Loughan Glen won three out of the four FEI events they contested. The most notable of these wins was the Blenheim CCI3*, which he lead from wire to wire on his dressage score of 33.8. He finished sixth at Luhmuhlen on an impressive 37.5. Clark has been consistently finishing events with scores that could easily win him an individual medal at the 2016 Olympics. If their 2015 results continue, Clark and Tamie Smith are the two riders that could potentially see the USA back on the podium with individual and team medals.
Ryan Wood (AUS) – Ryan’s name was at the top of the leaderboard at nearly every FEI event on the United State’s East Coast. In 2015, he had 29 FEI starts on nine different horses and finished in the top ten at over 50% of these events. He has already qualified McLovin, Fernhill Classic and Frankie for the 2016 Olympics and with a solid crew of two-star horses it is likely he will be qualifying more horses this spring. Since moving to the US from Australia in 2007, he has been taking the American Eventing world by storm. Americans beware, if he ever gets his American citizenship like Boyd and Phillip, there might be one less place on future US teams for you. Australia produces some amazing riders!
Claas Hermann Romeike (GER) – Claas’ dad, Hinrich Romeike, won the individual gold medal at the 2008 Olympics and it appears that Claas is working towards accomplishing the same feat. He made his four-star debut in 2015, at Luhmuhlen finishing in a respectable 19th place. At the Aachen and Waregem CIC3* events he was eliminated on cross-country but he put that behind him and went onto finish sixth at 2015 Pau CCI4*. Germany has a strong contingent of riders but a consistent spring season and another top four-star result could earn this 20-year-old an Olympic team spot and team gold medal. (Germany team gold is very likely.)
Emily King (GBR) – Eventing talent obviously runs in the family and Emily is following in her mother, Mary King’s hoofsteps. Riding Brookleigh, Emily placed fourth at her first four-star at 2015 Pau. She is a force to be reckoned with. With a string of six impressive FEI horses, at only 19-years-old, her career is just ramping up. The four-star leaderboards have a new member – “Emily King” and she could be on the 2016 Olympic leaderboard as well (likely near the top!).
Christopher Burton (AUS) – Cementing his star status as number two on the 2015 FEI World Eventing Rankings, Chris was nipping at the legendary Michael Jung’s heels. He is one of the fastest cross-country riders to grace the planet – finishing inside the time at Badminton (with a stop), Burghley and Luhmuhlen last year. Three times, he also rode to the top five at four-stars on three different horses (Haruzac, TS Jamiamo, Graf Liberty). He was second at the 2015 Blenheim CCI3* on Nobilis 18. With four horses qualified so far, follow this man on his road to the top of the Rio podium.
Astier Nicolas (FRA) – He is still several years away from his 30th birthday but he has already won a CCI4* – 2015 Pau on Piaf de b’Neville. This guy is a force on cross-country; he has not had a stop since 2013 and can make time when it counts. He was a member of the bronze medal-winning French team at the 2013 Malmo European Championships on Piaf de b’Neville. After Pau, this guy likely secured his spot on France’s Olympic team and he has the potential for an individual medal.
Cathal Daniels (IRL) – Flying around cross-country double clear at the 2015 Boekelo CCI3* Nations Cup Final, at only 19-years-old, Cathal riding Rioghan Rua, was part of history when Ireland won their first ever Nations Cup. Despite his young age, he has loads of international team experience; winning numerous FEI medals at European Pony, Junior and Young Rider Championships. This young rider is a solid contender for Ireland’s Olympic team.
Ingrid Klimke (GER) – It was all eyes on Ingrid at the 2015 Aachen Nations Cup CIC3*, when she finished 1st and 2nd on FRH Escada JS and Horseware Hale Bob, respectively. Both these horses have won a four-star; FRH Escada JS won 2015 Luhmuhlen and Horseware Hale Bob won 2014 Pau. This woman is one of the best riders that the world has seen and the only question about her 2016 Olympic selection is: Which horse will she be riding? Perhaps the selectors will have to flip a coin!