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Steamy Weather Greets Olympians
Many of the 200 horses and riders from 41 nations — including New Milford's Courtney King-Dye and her horse Harmony's Mythilus — that will compete in the Olympics arrived in steamy Hong Kong yesterday.
Hong Kong was chosen, rather than Beijing, because there's a large racing industry in the city, so there were quarantine measures already in place, as well as available stabling for the horses. But racing in Hong Kong is suspended during the hot, humid summer months, where the average temperature is 83 degrees, with 82 percent humidity. The combination of heat and high humidity prompted concern for the Olympic horses' well-being from some corners. Swiss dressage star Sylvia Ikle refused to bring her horses to Hong Kong, prompting the Swiss to withdraw from the games, believing they had little chance to medal without Ikle.
The Chinese have taken measures to ease competitors' concerns. According to the website China View, Hong Kong officials spent $147 million to upgrade the equestrian facilities. The stables, which can house 228 horses, will be air-conditioned, as will an indoor training arena. Misting fans will be placed under tents at the two equestrian venues — the Sha Tin Racecourse, which includes a stadium with seating for 18,000, and the Beas River Country Club, site of the cross-country course, which has been designed with an alternate, shorter route if the weather is too hot. The show-jumping competition will be held at night.
This year's U.S. show jumping team includes Beezie Madden, 45, of New York, on the 13-year-old Dutch warmblood gelding Authentic; McLain Ward, 33, of New York and his 13-year-old Belgian warmblood mare Sapphire; Will Simpson, 49, of California on the 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding EI Campeon's Carlsson vom Dach; and Laura Kraut, 43, of Florida on the 10-year-old Dutch warmblood gelding Cedric.
The U.S. eventing team includes Phillip Dutton, 44, of Pennyslvania, on the 15-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Connaught; Becky Holder, 39, of Minnesota on her 12-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Courageous Comet; Gina Miles, 34, of California and her 14-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding McKinlaigh; Amy Tryon, 38, of Washington, on her 16-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Poggio II; and Heidi White, 42, of South Carolina and her 15-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Northern Spy.
On the U.S. dressage team are Steffen Peters, 44, of California, on the 10-year-old Dutch warmblood gelding Ravel; Debbie McDonald, 54, of Idaho, on the 17-year-old Hanoverian mare Brentina; and King-Dye of Connecticuton the 14-year-old Dutch warmblood gelding Harmony's Mythilus.
The equestrian events kick off Aug. 9. NBC affiliates the USA, MSNBC and OXYGEN networks will be airing most of the Olympic coverage. For a tentative schedule, go to www.regardinghorses.com, or nbc.com.
Besides being an equestrian, Bonnie Phillips is the Middletown/Shoreline Region news bureau chief. Her horse is named Annie.