Six-time Olympian Robert Dover has been guiding the U.S. Olympic team in Europe since the beginning of May, both during training and at shows and observation events in France and the Netherlands. The team of Laura Graves (Verdades), Kasey Perry-Glass (Goerklintgaard's Dublet), Alison Brock (Rosevelt) and Steffen Peters (Legolas and direct reserve Rosamunde) as well as traveling reserve Shelly Francis (Doktor) is gearing up for Brazil in different ways. Steffen (Rosamunde) and Shelly are on the Nations' Cup team for Aachen this month, along with Tuny Page (Woodstock) and Katherine Bateson-Chandler (Alcazar). Graves and Brock aren't competing at Aachen, while Peters (Legolas) and Perry-Glass ride in the 4-star at the top-of-the-line German show.
Nancy Jaffer sought out Dover for some questions about how things are going before he started gearing up for Aachen.
Q: This selection process seemed so obvious and transparent to me. True?
A: This was a very clear-cut selection. Everybody did well, but the best shone and it was not hard at all, and that's always nice, when it's clear for everybody. Nobody feels like they got shortchanged and everyone feels very proud of the group that is going.
Q: In 2014, before the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games where the U.S. finished fourth, you said the next two years would be about building up greater depth of stars so Steffen didn't always have the weight of the whole team on his shoulders. Mission accomplished?
A: I love the fact that that's exactly what we've done. Not only does Steffen not feel like he has to hold up the team, he didn't even ride as our anchor rider in Rotterdam (the last observation event), where Laura was the anchor. I think it's just awesome in every possible way. We have four great riders on board great horses, three of whom are doing the Olympics for their first time ever, and Steffen, who's going on to his fourth. What could be more fun?
Q: What will Laura and Ali, who aren't competing at Aachen, do for their preparation before you head for South America?
A: There will be several dress rehearsals between now and Rio, such that we are dotting every I and crossing every T before we leave.
Q: Did you agree with Steffen's decision to compete at Aachen?
A: I never second-guess Steffen. He's been around so many years doing this thing that when he says, “I want to ride at Aachen and I'd like to ride Rosie in the Nations' Cup and put Legolas in the 4-star,” I was right on with him. His two horses still are evolving into better and better animals with more quality.
Q: What's Shelly doing at Aachen, besides the Nations' Cup?
A: She's going to be having a marathon in Aachen. Shelly is going to be riding all three of her horses. Doktor is in the Nations' Cup, Danilo is in the 4-star and Rubinio is in the Small Tour. I'm excited for her because as traveling reserve, it's not always the most fun position to be put in. Shelly has been a wonderful asset to our squad and our team.