Philadelphia, PA – Americans have had plenty of success in equestrian going into the 2012 Olympics, and this time they are counting on young and old talent to possibly clinch a third straight gold medal in the team show-jumping competition.
The age requirement for show jumping is at least 18 years old for the Olympics. Reed Kessler, 18 on July 9, is the youngest rider ever to make the U.S. team. She tied for first at the Olympic Trials in March and her horse Cylana will make an entry into the field.
In March, Kessler tied veteran Margie Engle for first place at the USEF National Show Jumping Championship.
Then there are the veteran riders who will be part of the American team: McLain Ward, Beezie Madden and Rich Fellers. Ward and Madden were part of the gold medal winning teams in 2004 2008.
The equestrian competition comprises three disciplines: dressage, eventing and jumping. Each discipline has team and individual categories with men and women competing against each other for a total of six gold medals. The equestrian events at the London Games will be held at Greenwich Park.
Dressage is scored by seven judges. Jumping, where riders have to navigate their horses through an obstacle-style course of parallel rails, triple bars, water jumps and simulated stone walls, is scored based on time and penalties. Eventing is sometimes referred to as the "three-day event" because it combines dressage, cross-country and a jumping finale.
Phillip Dutton, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who used to compete for Australia, will be making his fifth Olympic appearance and second for the U.S. in eventing. Dutton's 2008 Summer Games didn't go according to plan as he was disqualified from the individual event because his horse's boots were too heavy.
Germany's Hinrich Romeike won the eventing title four years ago, while that country also captured the team competition.
All eyes in eventing this time around will be on Great Britain's Zara Phillips, the granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth.
Dutchwoman Anky van Grunsven has won the gold medal in three straight Olympics. All told, she's earned eight Summer Games medals, including an individual dressage silver in 1996.
Despite van Grunsven's success, it's been the Germans who have dominated the team dressage, winning gold in seven straight Olympics (the first two as West Germany).
Attention will certainly be drawn to Ann Romney's horse Rafalca, which is entered in the field of dressage with trainer Jan Ebeling. Romney co-owns the horse with Ebeling, who at 53 will be in is first Olympics. Ebeling and Rafalca finished in third place at the U.S. Equestrian Federation National Dressage Championships to gain a spot in London.
The Romney family has massive ties to the Olympic Games. Her husband, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, was the CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Canadian Eric Lamaze overcame a four-year suspension earlier in his career after testing positive for cocaine and won the 2008 jumping individual gold medal, while helping his country capture the team silver. He was nominated to the Olympics again for 2012.