Olympic Eventing Team Sails Through Final Outing

U.S. Eventing Team members Coleman, Martin and Pamukcu compete in their final mandatory outing at Stable View H.T. before heading Paris.

After fiercely competing against each other leading up to the 2024 Olympics, Will Coleman, Boyd Martin and Caroline Pamukcu now shift their focus toward team collaboration as they prepare to represent the U.S. Eventing Team at the Paris Games in just a few short weeks. This weekend, the trio competed aboard their Olympic mounts in their final mandatory outing at the Stable View USEF/USEA Summer Horse Trials in Aiken, South Carolina, before heading to Paris.

“All the riders on this squad have probably butted heads before in the past. Every weekend we’re out there at each other, trying to beat and outdo one another,” Martin said at the mandatory outing. “But with the Olympics, this amazing thing happens where we put all that behind us. Everyone puts their differences aside and comes together for this one amazing competition. It’s a wonderful feeling.”

U.S. Olympic Eventing Team members Boyd Martin and KWPN gelding Fedarman B competed in the Stable View H.T. this weekend, completing their last mandatory outing before Paris. © Alana Harrison/Practical Horseman

Mandatory Outing Purpose

Martin and 14-year-old KWPN gelding Fedarman B, Coleman and 15-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Off The Record and Pamukcu and 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse HSH Blake were selected as the three athlete-and-horse combinations for the U.S. Olympic Eventing Team. Liz Halliday and 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse Cooley Nutcracker were named the traveling reserve combination. This weekend at the mandatory outing, Coleman also competed on Holsteiner gelding Diabolo, who is a direct reserve for the Games. Martin additionally piloted his direct reserve, Holsteiner gelding Commando 3.

The primary purpose of the final mandatory outing before Paris, chef d’equipe and technical advisor Bobby Costello explained, is to demonstrate the horses’ soundness and fitness—and to provide the equine athletes with a solid, confident ride before they face the ultimate competition stage of their careers.

“Our goal coming out of this weekend was to have happy, sound, fit horses. And we definitely accomplished that,” Costello said. “I also think everyone gave their horses strong, positive rides in all three phases, which will help both the horses and riders feel more confident going into Paris.”

Versatility is Key

To be successful in eventing on the world stage, Costello said the horse-and-rider teams must be extremely versatile, all-around athletes, who can seamlessly adjust their technique accordingly to tackle each phase of the sport.

“Especially in the Olympics, the days of having a fantastic cross-country horse who can climb the ranks even if they’re down after dressage have passed,” Costello noted. “You really need a horse who excels in all three phases to be successful. Ideally, we want a horse who can score a sub 30 in dressage, go clear within the optimum time on cross country, and they have to be very good, careful show jumpers. Everyone selected for Paris has these versatile, all-around attributes. They are super competitive and really good in all three phases.”

U.S. Olympic Eventing Team members Will Coleman and Off The Record warm up for the 2024 Paris Games at the Stable View H.T. in Aiken, South Carolina. © Alana Harrison/Practical Horseman

Coleman’s seasoned eventing mount Off The Record gained invaluable experience as a team horse during the 2022 FEI World Championships in Pratoni, Italy, where the team won a silver medal. And Martin’s veteran Fedarman B is well prepared after competing in two five stars this past year. Pamukcu’s HSH Blake is the youngest. He won individual gold and team silver medals at Pan Am last year.

“He might be young, but that horse is on the rise and hasn’t put a foot wrong yet. This will also be Caroline’s first Olympics,” Costello said. “She and Blake have the least amount of experience, but Caroline has certainly been in the game awhile. She’s been on Nations Cup teams all over the world and has shown such poise and mental toughness that I have all the confidence in her.”

Mandatory Outing: Working Out the Kinks

While the final results of the Stable View H.T. aren’t as significant as other competitions, Costello expected team members to give their mounts quality rides with plenty of challenging questions. But he equally stressed the importance of not over-taxing the horses’ bodies or minds before the Games. He also noted that world-renowned dressage judge Jane Hamlin was specifically hired for the event to provide team members with real-time feedback on their tests.

“This was a strategic decision to help the team pick up additional points in dressage at the Games this summer. Stable View also provided riders with the opportunity to work out any final kinks,” Costello said. “Our athletes were on the top of their game this weekend. They looked fabulous, and I couldn’t be happier with their performances.”

Finding Their Groove at Stable View

Coleman said Stable View provided the team with a last outing to school and prepare the horses ahead of the Olympics. Even though Off The Record is a tested eventer with a lengthy riding resume, the Olympic venue’s fanfare can be taxing on even the most experienced mount.

Coleman and Off The Record received feedback from world-renowned dressage judge Jane Hamlin following their test at the Stable View manatory outing to help the pair pick up dressage points in Paris. © Alana Harrison/Practical Horseman

“He’s an incredible horse—just his grit and determination and tenacity. He’s more like a fullback than a ballerina out there, but he makes up for it by giving you 100 percent every time, and I really respect him for that,” Coleman said. “I was really happy with how he ran today and with his performance in show jumping yesterday. His dressage was a little rusty, but it was really good to get in the ring. I also got some great feedback from Jane Hamlin that I think will serve me well going into the Games.”

Martin, who described Fedarman B as somewhat eccentric, was equally pleased with the bay gelding’s performance at Stable View this weekend.

“He’s a quirky horse. He can be hard to get on and catch sometimes. But once you’re on his back, he’s just a laid-back, quiet, good guy all around. Usually, the top horses are lunatics. But this guy’s got a great, calm mind,” Martin said. “I feel like he’s in great shape and peaking at the right time. We’ve still got to work on a few things and get a little more fitness into him. But everything’s going smoothly as we head into Paris.”

Final Push Before Paris

After spending the past month in Europe competing on a Nations Cup tour with the U.S. Eventing Team’s development coach Leslie Law, as well as competing in 12 Nations Cups over the course of her career, the team-competition mindset comes naturally for Pamukcu. The young horsewoman gave HSH Blake time off after competing with him at the Tryon International CCI4*-L in Mill Spring, North Carolina, this past May.

First-time Olympic contenders Caroline Pamukcu and HSH Blake are putting their all into Team USA after competing in their last mandatory outing at the Stable View H.T. © Alana Harrison/Practical Horseman

“I wanted to give him a break before building him back up. That way, he’ll be where he needs to be for Paris. We still have about five weeks before the Olympics and that’s when and where he needs to peak,” she said. “I plan to follow the momentum the same way I prepare for most championships by buckling down to make sure Blake and I are as fit as possible. We’re going to put everything we can into it, so we can do the best job for Team USA.”

Team Spirit

Following Stable View, Costello said team members will return home to work on their own programs and make any necessary improvements, but from the moment they convene in Paris, it’s all about teamwork.

“It’s my job to help everybody shift their mindset to focus on our efforts as a team. The last few trips together have been great. Everyone has shown that they can really work together as a unit. And that’s essential to be successful,” Costello said. “Until one of these riders makes the individual final on the last day of the competition, it has to be 100-percent consideration for the team. We’re going to Paris to do a job for the team first. Individual glory comes after.”

Eventing is the first equestrian discipline on the Paris 2024 schedule. The equestrian events will be held in Versailles, beginning on Saturday, July 27, and ending on Monday, July 29.

Thanks to Zoetis for our coverage of the 2024 Paris Olympics, including rider interviews, competition reports, horse spotlights, photos, videos and more.

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