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Courtney King and Four FEI Mounts Return to U.S. after Two Months Training with U.S. Chef d'Equipe Klaus Balkenhol

WELLINGTON, FL - January 21, 2008 - Courtney King spent two months this fall with U.S. Dressage Chef d'Equipe Klaus Balkenhol training four of her FEI mounts - Harmony's Mythilus, Harmony's Wyoming, Idocus, and Rendezvous 3. King and her mounts returned to the U.S. in December and are currently stabled in Loxahatchee, Florida, preparing for the upcoming Florida winter show season. Joining them are King's additional mounts and client horses, totaling 15 horses in her training in Florida.

While in Europe, as preparation for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games Selection Trials, King showed her two primary Olympic candidates, Harmony's Mythilus and Idocus, in three European CDIs.

Idocus is a 17-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion owned by Christine McCarthy. Harmony's Mythilus is a 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Harmony Sporthorses. U.S. Dressage Chef d'Equipe Klaus Balkenhol accompanied King as her coach at all three CDIs.

Stuttgart German Masters CDI

King started off her European show tour at the Stuttgart German Masters CDI in Stuttgart, Germany, on November 15-17. King was the sole U.S. Grand Prix dressage rider competing at the show. She rode in all four international Grand Prix classes offered, finishing in the placings and prize money in three of the competitions. All of the dressage judges presiding at Stuttgart were FEI Olympic (O) judges.

King rode Idocus in the qualifying Grand Prix for the Grand Prix Freestyle. With a starting roster comprised of 12 topnotch competitors from Germany, Russia, Great Britain, Switzerland, Portugal and Austria, King and Idocus placed 8th with a score of 66.542%. The score qualified King and Idocus to be among the 10 horses on the roster for the Grand Prix Freestyle. King and Idocus finished in 8th place in the Freestyle, earning an impressive score of 70.20%.

King rode Harmony's Mythilus in the qualifying Grand Prix for the Grand Prix Special. An international field of 15 horses contested the class, with King and Harmony's Mythilus finishing in 9th place, earning 69.167%. The score was high enough to qualify the duo as one of the 12 competitors in the Grand Prix Special. King rode Harmony's Mythilus to 12th place in the Special, earning 65.08%.

"I was extremely happy with both of my Grand Prix tests," said King. "I thought that Idocus's test was smooth and free of any major faults. I honestly had hoped the score would be higher, but I was very pleased and proud of 'Idy'. And Myth's test and score just put me on top of the world. He had never been in an environment anything like that - a big, electric indoor with tons of spectators. He was 100% with me. He had no mistakes, and that was a huge achievement with him. When I finished I thought, 'Now I can go for it next time!'

"So my second day was a little bit disappointing," King continued. "Idocus warmed up wonderfully, but as soon as the music came on he just clamped down on the bit and really wasn't happy in the test. Myth also felt great in the warm-up and I came in with a huge smile ready to put it all out on the line. Unfortunately they had placed new banners on the insides of the dressage arena itself, and Myth was very concerned about those and had many little spooks in the passage, extended work and trot half passes. His canter work was still very good and mistake-free, but the trot and piaffe/passage tour brought our score down a great deal."

Hippisch Hengelo National Dressage

Next on King's tour was Hippisch Hengelo National Dressage in The Netherlands on November 29. At this show, Idocus and Harmony's Mythilus competed in the same Grand Prix class. Harmony's Mythilus placed 2nd with 71.77% while Idocus earned 4th place with 67.4%.

"For Hengelo I brought the mentality of really going for it from Stuttgart, and it was awesome," King related. "On Myth I did have some mistakes, but I was able to increase the quality and the expression so much that it made up the points by far. It was so much fun! I also brought a lot more expression into Idy's test, and he was good, but I made a mistake in preparing him, and the test started out a little bit rocky. I was happy with that opportunity to take chances, make changes, and learn for next time!"

Frankfurt CDI-W

King wrapped up her European show tour at the Frankfurt CDI-W in Germany on December 15-16. She showed Harmony's Mythilus in the Grand Prix CDI, earning 66.958% for 7th place. King and 'Myth' also rode their first Grand Prix kur together, competing in the Grand Prix Freestyle CDI where they earned 71.4% for 7th place.

"In Frankfurt I learned another, and more expensive lesson," King shared. "Warming up for this show, Myth felt his best ever and very honest and with me. But every show I always get comments on his neck being short, because his neck is short by nature and then because he can be strong I sometimes over-control him, so I really wanted to make a goal to not get that comment. He felt so good I thought I would make it work, but I made such a change from how I was warming him up to how I rode him in the ring that it changed his balance too much and we had several mistakes and just had an overall lack of balance, in my opinion. I was very disappointed in myself for attempting such a change right as I went in the ring. But again, at that stage in my relationship with 'Myth' and bringing him along, learning that sort of information is everything. I won't do that again!"

King commented on her Freestyle with Myth, which earned the duo 71.40%, saying, "Myth does not have a freestyle yet, so I just winged it with Idocus's music, which does not suit him and the choreography is still too hard for him. Honestly, it wasn't a great ride, but it was the best I could have expected. I was so happy with Myth because he was so willing to do all these weird things that he had never done before! Certainly this European tour made our relationship and understanding one another much stronger."

European Training and Showing Experience

"I had such a fabulous experience in Germany," King said, summing up her two months of training and showing abroad. "I had four horses and very clear goals that I hoped to get Klaus's help with, and he absolutely helped work toward each of those goals. I was very lucky to overlap a brief period of time with Debbie McDonald, Sue Blinks, and Jan Ebling. It was fantastic to get to see them work with Klaus as well."

King noted that it is a financial hardship for Americans to compete in Europe and that she was grateful to the USEF and sponsors for their support. "It is very hard for Americans to be able to go to train and show in Europe," King stated. "It is extremely expensive, plus we lose the income of working at home. There is no way that I could have done it without the grant from the USEF for $25,000 toward Myth's expenses, the immense support of Francine Walker, (Rendezvous 3's owner), Richard Malloch (Myth's previous owner), as well as people all over the country and particularly in my hometown who rallied in fundraisers and joined my ongoing journal mailing list. People even did fundraisers in distant states to help support my trip to Germany as well as the upcoming travel. I can't thank these people enough for their support."

The Europe experience is essential for American riders aiming to compete against the world's top riders, King acknowledged. "I do believe that the training and showing trips to Europe are necessary for any American rider to really reach the top," King averred. "It is certainly a different world of competition over there. They still have so much more depth of classical knowledge and training skills than we do here."



PHOTO CAPTION: Courtney King and Idocus winning the 2007 Washington International Horse Show Dressage Invitational before European fall tour. PHOTO CREDIT: Alex Thomas. This photo may be used only in relation to this press release.

 

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