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Riding in Style A land of few horses shows off a plush new equine facility

Sept. 14, 1988
Sept. 14, 1988

Table of Contents
Sept. 14, 1988

Contents
Fencing
Medal Picks

Riding in Style A land of few horses shows off a plush new equine facility

''EVERYBODY'S A BIT CONCERNED about sending horses to a country
that doesn't have many,'' says Fiona Baan, director of dressage for
the U.S. Equestrian Team. And with few horses of its own, South Korea
is short of hay. Not to worry. Feed will be imported from England,
and a lavish $83-million equestrian park seating 30,000 spectators --
the most expensive of all the Olympic venues -- awaits competitors.
The U.S. won the team gold medals in the jumping and three-day
events at the 1984 Games, and West Germany took the dressage team
gold. Joe Fargis of the U.S. won the individual-jumping gold in '84
with his small bay mare Touch of Class, and if they triumph again in
Seoul, it will be the first time in Olympic history a horse has
jumped to two individual gold medals. But the 40- year-old Fargis
also qualified on another horse, Mill Pearl, and he will decide
shortly before the event which to ride. And either way, he will have
to beat Canada's Ian Millar on Big Ben, the winners of the 1988
World Cup. Big Ben stands almost 18 hands, or 5 ft. 11 in. at the
withers, and his rider is three inches taller. In spite of their
formidable size, horse and rider are exceptionally agile. Fargis's
teammate Greg Best, 24, the American Grand Prix rookie of the year in
1987, could be a surprise on the beautiful gray, Gem Twist.
The three-day event -- a day of dressage, a day of endurance tests
and a day of jumping -- looks wide open. Virginia Leng and Ian Stark
of Great Britain, ranked first and fourth, respectively, in the world
last year, figure to be strong, as do No. 2-ranked Mark Todd of New
Zealand, a former dairy farmer and the '84 Olympic individual gold
medalist, and No. 3-ranked Bruce Davidson of the U.S. The 38-year-old
Davidson, a three-time Olympian, fractured several ribs in a fall on
the second day of the U.S. trials in Lexington, Ky., but still won
the competition. Karen Lende, 30, also of the U.S., could be a factor
on her horse, The Optimist.
Another '84 winner who will be in Seoul is Dr. Reiner Klimke, a
52-year-old West German lawyer who won the individual dressage and a
team gold in L.A. and, like Danish sailor Paul Elvstrom (page 206),
will be seeking gold in a fifth Olympics. Klimke will compete once
again on Ahlerich, now an elderly 17; recent performances suggest
they're still a potent team. A West German compatriot, Nicole Uphoff,
and three other women, Christine Stuckelberger of Switzerland, Margit
Otto-Crepin of France and Kyra Kyrklund of Finland will also ride for
the gold. Stuckelberger, 41, who was the '76 Olympic individual gold
medalist, won last year's European championships with her mount,
Gaugin de Lully, and her Swiss team narrowly missed beating the West
Germans, who have won every European team title since 1965 and who
will be favored in Seoul.
Like compulsory figures in figure skating, the dressage event
calls for a series of precise movements that take horse and rider
years to perfect. The U.S. hasn't won an individual medal in the
event since 1932, and Baan allows that ''Americans have not had the
discipline for dressage in the past.'' But the U.S. has a potential
medalist in 32-year-old Robert Dover and his bay gelding Federleicht,
who placed a surprising fourth in this year's World Cup.

This is an article from the Sept. 14, 1988 issue