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THE SEOUL GAMES : THE RIDE STUFF : Equestrians Kursinski, Jacquin Still Have a Jump to Clear

Special to The Times

Two of the five members of the United States equestrian show jumping squad for the 1988 Olympics are West Coast natives, Anne Kursinski of Pasadena and Lisa Jacquin of Rancho Palos Verdes. That’s a bit of an upset, considering the many competitive international show jumping riders that America’s East Coast traditionally produces.

But Jacquin and Kursinski have one more step to climb before their participation in the events is guaranteed. They have to prove to the U.S. equestrian team selection committee that they and their horses are in peak form.

Of the five team members--three women and two men--four will be chosen next Thursday for the team show jumping competition Sept. 28 at Seoul Equestrian Park. Four, but not necessarily the same four, will also be chosen to ride in the individual show jumping, starting Sept. 26 in Olympic Stadium.

The opportunity to compete for individual medals has recently eluded both Californians. Kursinski was on the team at the 1984 Los Angeles Games but was not chosen to ride. And Jacquin, after a successful season in 1987, contributed to the U.S. team silver at the Pan American Games but was forced to drop out of contention for the individual medal when her thoroughbred, For the Moment, was injured.

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Kursinski and Jacquin are hoping for better things here. Kursinski, 28, began her riding career at the age of 4 at Flintridge Riding Club under one of the top trainers in the country, Jimmy Williams. Her success in Grand Prix show jumping won her a berth on the U.S. equestrian team in 1978, and in 1981 she went east to train and compete.

There, Kursinski’s coaches were two men who had a large part in putting the American show jumpers on the international map, Bertalan de Nemethy and George Morris.

She went on to compete for the United States in more than 15 Nations’ Cup events. In 1983, Kursinski contributed to the U.S. team gold medal at the Pan American Games, riding Livius, and also won the individual gold.

Kursinski’s disappointing experience at the 1984 Olympics was worse for her, since the competition was in her hometown.

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“Nineteen-eighty-four was certainly devastating,” she said. “It was like being under a magnifying glass, with the horse’s owners and everybody being from the L.A. area. There was a lot of pressure.”

Although she had thoughts of quitting after the disappointment in ’84, Kursinski persisted and is finding it easier this time.

“I’ve been through it before, the good and the bad part of it, winning at the Pan Am Games in ’83 and not riding at all in ’84,” she said. “It proved to me there’s life after the Olympics. This time I feel older and wiser, and much more relaxed.”

Kursinski’s Olympic mount, Starman, a 9-year-old Westphalian stallion owned by Meadow Grove Farm, has also given her reason to be confident. Starman showed his potential by contributing to three Nations’ Cup victories for the United States with Kursinski in 1987 and tying for first place with Joe Fargis’ Mill Pearl in Phase 2 of the mandatory Olympic selection trial at this summer’s Hampton Classic.

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Jacquin, 26, a political science major at USC, also moved east to gain experience. Originally with trainer Kaye Love in Arizona, Jacquin went east in 1978 to work with riders Joe Fargis, Conrad Homfeld, and Morris. She later rode and worked for three years with Leslie Burr Lenehan in Connecticut.

While riding with Lenehan, Jacquin came across a young former race horse for sale as a jumper prospect. For the Moment, got his name because Jacquin thought he would just be her horse for the moment, then later would be sold. He was nicknamed Fred around the barn, and started in on the Florida show circuit.

Jacquin and Fred moved back west in 1982 and made Rancho Palos Verdes their base.

With the help of trainer Judy Martin of the Seahorse Riding Club in Rolling Hills Estates, Jacquin and For the Moment shot up the Grand Prix ranks. Their 1987 season included winning the $100,000 American Invitational in Tampa, and placing third in the World Cup finals in Paris.

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Jacquin went east again in April for the Olympic trials, and for coaching from a successful U.S. rider, Michael Matz.

Jacquin’s 1987 Pan Am Games experience, in which For the Moment’s foot injury in the warmup arena knocked them out of the individual competition, hasn’t deterred her.

“Those things happen,” she said. “It comes with the sport. We really gave it our best shot. After he hurt himself, we stood him in ice and I tried to ride him. But he was limping, and to me that means it hurts. I didn’t feel it was worth risking my horse.”

Jacquin and Kursinski arrived here with the rest of the show jumping team--Joe Fargis, Katherine Burdsall and Greg Best--Sept. 11, the day after their horses had arrived.

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Starman and For the Moment were in the quarantine stables at Seoul Equestrian Park for 2 1/2 days, and show all indications of being fit and well after their trip.

Starman, who worried Kursinski by having some trouble coping with the hot East Coast summer toward the end of the trials, is healthy and has adjusted to his surroundings, Kursinski said. She doesn’t expect the Olympic spectators and commotion to be a problem for him.

“Starman rises to the occasion,” she said. “I think he likes the crowds. Actually, he gets into it a bit more.”

For the Moment, with his race track background, lit up as soon as he discovered that the facility he was at was designed for the races, a function that the Equestrian Park will take on after the Games. Jacquin is confident, though, that once he’s back in the show jumping arena, he’ll know why he’s there.

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