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Engle and Hough Still Neck-in-Neck after Trial #3 at the World Equestrian Games Selection Trials in Wellington, FL

The order of finish from day-to-day at the World Equestrian Games Selection Trials changes about as quickly as the weather has through the three trials, yet one thing remains the same…Margie Engle continues to shine. Currently Engle and Lauren Hough are tied for first place with five total faults while Engle is also a close second place with nine total faults on her second mount, Hidden Creek’s Wapino. Engle took home top prize money again today, having the fastest no-fault round on her second mount, Wapino, at 79.94 seconds.

“He [Wapino] felt fantastic yesterday, and he honestly felt even better today,” said Engle. “He’s getting more and more relaxed in the ring and where I maybe got a little soft with him on that oxer yesterday, I just squeezed a little more and he just skyed it today. He felt fantastic. His ridability was nice, he felt relaxed in the ring. He honestly has felt like he’s gotten better each day. The first day when he was slipping a bit he was a little more worried, and yesterday he felt great and he felt really good again today.”

Day three of the trials started with a diminished field as three horse and rider combinations withdrew leaving just 21 entries. Following the Nation’s Cup format, the riders rode the same Leopoldo Palacios-designed course as yesterday, with the same time allowed of 86 seconds. The 16 jumping efforts today brought five clean rounds and only one rider with a time fault. Ironically, none of the five that were clean today were the same horse and rider combinations that were clean yesterday.

“I take it day by day,” said Engle. “There are still two rounds left, anything can happen. I am very please with the way the horses are going. I am mad at myself for the second horse. He [Quervo Gold] wanted to be clean, and I got too careful thinking about the out. He was jumping beautifully, and it was my fault in the triple. I started to think about steadying for the tight one coming out, before he had really finished across the oxer. He should’ve been clean, and that was really all my fault, but I am thrilled with the way both horses have been going. They handled the heat and going three days in a row much better than I had hoped. Neither one really felt that tired today.”

The 21 remaining horse-and-rider combinations are vying for one of the 10 spots on the short list for a chance to represent the United States at the FEI World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany, this August and the Samsung Super League in Europe this summer.

Today’s five clear rounds, all within the allowed time, included Margie Engle of Wellington, FL, on Hidden Creek’s Wapino, an 11-year-old Westphalian gelding owned by Hidden Creek Farm; Laura Kraut of Oconomowoc, WI, on Miss Independent, a nine-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare owned by the Miss Independent Group; Lauren Hough of Wellington, FL, on Clasiko, a 15-year-old Holsteiner gelding owned by the Clasiko Group; Candice King of Wellington, FL, on Tarco, a 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding owned by Joan Kalman; and Georgina Bloomberg of North Salem, NY, on Cim Christo, an 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding owned by Gotham Enterprizes.

Kraut had nothing but praise for her forgiving and agreeable mare. “I basically spent the entire winter gearing her to this; I hardly showed her. I just did a few classes…and that’s all she’s done. She’s a reliable horse. She’s not spooky. She walks in any venue in the world and is confident…The nice thing about her is she’s a really lazy horse until she arrives at the ring, and then she’s really just full of energy and blood, so I think if I just let her conserve a little bit she should have hopefully enough to carry her through two rounds, and I have to try and not mess her up.”

Engle and Hough are currently tied for first with five faults each. Engle is also currently in second place with nine faults on Wapino. Kraut and Miss Independent are in fourth place with 13 faults. Nona Garson on Languster and Jeffery Welles on Armani are tied for fifth place with 14 total faults. Six combinations from these trials will be placed on the short list, and they will be those with the fewest number of faults over the five trials. Four horse-and-rider combinations are chosen subjectively, two of the four have been selected, Beezie Madden of Cazenovia, NY and McLain Ward of Brewster, NY.

“I think we’ve got a really good shot,” said Kraut, “not knowing who the team is but knowing that you’ve got Beezie and McLain with those two horses, those are a solid two. Margie is looking quite good right now, and Margie is always the best teammate. Lauren is looking great, I’ve been on a lot of teams with Lauren, she’s solid so if that were the team I think it would be really strong. I’d like to be on it but I don’t know…but I think we look good.”

Kraut summed it up best as most of the riders are echoing the same sentiment, “Saturday, everything can change. So there’s no sense in being confident yet.”

Friday is a rest day for the competitors, and the competition will resume on Saturday with both trial #4 and trial #5. At the conclusion of the trials the selectors will name the 10 horse and rider combinations on the short list, the top six according to their final ranking after the trials plus four wild cards (two have already been chosen) subject to approval by the USEF executive committee or subcommittee thereof.