GLADSTONE, NJ - September 11, 2008 - Signe Ostby and her husband Scott Cook, parents of successful junior/young rider show jumping athletes Karl and Annie Laurie Cook, graciously hosted approximately 50 guests at their Northern California home on September 9 to hear about the USET Foundation's role in helping this country's high performance programs and to celebrate the success of the United States equestrian team at the 2008 Olympic Games.
Upon entering the beautiful Woodside, CA, home, guests stopped along the winding hallway to the terrace to take in the stunning Olympic photography displayed with honor. At the end of this virtual Olympic journey, surrounded by vineyards, gardens, and stables, West Coast owners, riders, breeders, and equestrian supporters gathered on the stone terrace with USET Foundation President and CEO Jane Forbes Clark, USET Foundation Executive Director Bonnie Jenkins, and five Olympic stars - Beezie Madden, Gina Miles, George Morris, Steffen Peters, and Will Simpson. The spectacular mountain views were a fitting backdrop for the Gold, Silver and Bronze Medals inlaid with jade that the athletes proudly shared with each of the guests. The patriotism quotient was high.
Ostby welcomed the guests and noted how proud everyone was of the athletes' for delivering outstanding performances and for bringing home Team Gold and Individual Silver and Bronze Medals.
Ostby pointed out that three of the Olympians had close ties to California - Gina Miles, Silver Medalist in Three Day Eventing, trains, shows and coaches Pony Clubbers at the Horse Park in Woodside; Steffen Peters, who placed fourth individually in Dressage, did so aboard Ravel owned by Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang of Woodside; and Will Simpson, a member of the show jumping Gold Medal Team, is also a California resident.
Ostby praised the leadership of Show Jumping Chef d' Equipe George H. Morris, who has been on quite a roll lately, with the U.S. Olympic Show Jumping Team Gold and the recent Nations' Cup win at Spruce Meadows.
Guests then made their way out to the courtyard and were seated at tables draped in gold damask and identified with Olympic equine partners' names on the placards - Authentic, Carlsson Vom Dach, Ravel, McKinlaigh and Sinjon. With an Olympic athlete and a member of the USET Foundation seated at each table, the intimate setting was an opportunity for guests to engage in conversations that will not soon be forgotten.
As the evening fog rolled in over the mountains, Jane Forbes Clark took to the podium to address the gathering. Clark recognized the stars present from Hong Kong - Madden, Simpson, Peters, Miles and Morris, and their contributions as "incredible athletes, and amazing ambassadors." Clark went on to say, "watching them ride, watching them coach, reminds all of us why we are here tonight, why we support the Foundation, and why the United States Equestrian Team is a force in the international equestrian world." Â
Clark thanked guests Lou and Eva Gonda, owners of Will Simpson's Olympic mount Carlsson vom Dach, and Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang, owners of Steffen Peter's mount Ravel, noting, "Without the owners of these horses, the medals would not be possible."
Clark explained the role of the USET Foundation in supporting the competition, the training, the coaching, and the travel of America's elite and developing international high performance horses and athletes in conjunction with the United States Equestrian Federation. Clark pointed out that each year the Foundation provides the Federation with a grant that covers approximately 60% of all high performance program support. Unlike many other countries, the United States Equestrian Team does not receive any government funding. Funding for the athletes to be competitive and stay at the top level comes primarily from individuals.
Chef d'Equipe George Morris passionately shared with the group that "there is nothing like when our flag goes up." He emphasized the qualities that determine success, naming, "Ambition, emotion, management, selection and talent." Morris added that if the United States is to win, then "we must be overachievers." Morris emphasized that the U.S. must start building for the next quadrennial now in preparation for the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Lexington, the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, and the 2012 Olympic Games in London. "We don't wait," said Morris. "We have to start building right now, both in our training and in our funding, because it is very important. We have after Hong Kong, a lot riding on our coat tails, and I don't like losing!"
The evening culminated with the athletes speaking at the podium, giving their own versions of what the Olympic experience had meant to them.
Madden expressed that it was a fantastic feeling to stand at the top of the podium with her Olympic teammates and offered her thanks and praise to her entire support system - owner Abigail Wexner, the veterinarians, farriers, grooms, team managers, and George Morris.
Miles talked about what it was like being at her first Olympic Games, noting that it was an honor to be in Hong Kong representing the U.S. and California. She thanked everyone for helping her achieve her dream.
Peters recalled that after his ride and a press conference, he was signing official documents when he saw a paper that had the scores listed and realized he was standing in third place at that time. "Sitting there for a moment. I said 'Boy, this is really, really close," Peters said. "I was just so proud of Ravel." Peters offered his gratitude saying, "Thanks especially to Jerry and Akiko and the supporters of the USET Foundation. We couldn't do it without you."
Simpson made a special point of thanking everyone from the West Coast "for their support - from the trials to the Olympic Games. It was fantastic and especially to Lou and Eva, the Gonda family, for seeing me all the way through the amazing experience." Simpson proudly added, "To ride with Beezie and McLain - these two are machines! They just go clear! Then Laura with her determination on that little horse, that green horse, she just said, 'You know something? I'm gonna go clear!' I'm thrilled to ride with these riders. There are no words that I can use to describe our leader George Morris."
John Madden summed it up when he told the guests, "I want you to do me a favor. I want you to see all these athletes' medals. I want you to hold them for as long as you want to. Every one of you owns a piece of them. I can't tell you how much we feel that, and we want you all to know that."
The non-profit United States Equestrian Team Foundation supports the competition, training, coaching, travel and educational needs of America's elite and developing international, high-performance athletes and horses in partnership with the United States Equestrian Federation.Â For more information about the USET Foundation or to make a donation, please call (908) 234-1251 or visit the USET Foundation website at http://www.uset.org
PHOTO CAPTION: (l-r) Beezie Madden, Steffen Peters, Will Simpson, and Gina Miles. PHOTO CREDIT: Kathy Hobstetter.
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<a href="http://www.equestrianmag.com/article/uset-olympic-california-sigme-ostby-scott-cook-09-08.html">USET Foundation Celebrates Olympic Success at California Party Hosted by Signe Ostby and Scott Cook</a> ~ EquestrianMag.com