Seventeen Year Old Reed Kessler Leads Second Round of Olympic Selection Trials

[Wellington, FL] With a step up in technicality and size, the field of Olympic hopefuls for the U.S. Show Jumping Team faced a challenging test today, and there’s still much more to come.

It was Reed Kessler who carried on her success from yesterday to become the story of the afternoon; she notched a beautiful clear round with Cylana today on her way to being the only rider to jump clean over the first two Trials. She added no faults to her overall score, pushing her to the top of a list of world-class riders.

Kessler and Cylana over fence 11. Photo ©Cheval Photos

At just 17 years old, Kessler is the youngest competitor in these Olympic Selection Trials, and currently stands the best chance of claiming the USEF National Championship of Show Jumping, which is being contested with the Trials.

Trial #3 takes place this evening at 8pm, and the fourth and final Trial will run on Saturday, March 24th at 7:00pm.

Following this afternoon’s class, Kessler was over the moon with joy while modestly admitting that her standing could very well be short lived.

“It’s only going to get harder, but I’m going to do the best that I can either way,” she said. “It’s a long shot but it’s all I want, and whether it’s this time or years from now, (the Olympics are) my goal so I’ll just keep working at it and take it day by day, jump by jump.”

It Kept On Coming
That was the plan of many riders, but with technical question after question, it was definitely harder to put a clean round together today. The challenging water jump came on early in the course, directly after fence three. After galloping to make it over, riders had to successfully navigate an airy double combination towards the ingate.

“I thought the water line rode a lot differently than it walked,” said Saer Coulter, who rode clean today with Springtime and is tied for second place on a total of four faults. “I thought when I walked it I’d have to wait for it and ride forward at the end, and the way it actually rode was you had to land and ride for it from the very first stride.”

The triple bar at fence 8 posed no issue for Coulter and Springtime. Photo ©Cheval Photos

A triple bar at fence 8 to a filled in green brush box under an oxer at 9, followed by an airy plank off a short turn at 10 kept the questions coming with hardly a moment for horses and riders to breathe.

Of the initial 35 starters, just six managed a clean round, and four riders pulled a single rail. Five have now dropped out of contention, leaving a field of 30 to continue on to this evening’s Trial. 

West Coast Love
After a rough beginning for the first half of the class that saw 16 riders fail to complete a clean round, Rich Fellers became the lucky 17 and pulled off the first clear round of the day with his veteran partner Flexible. Fellers now sits tied for second place with seven other riders who all have a total of four faults after the first two Trials.

Fellers and Flexible have a long history together, and the 17-year-old Irish bred stallion owned by Harry and Mollie Chapman has carried Fellers through two previous Olympic Trials.

When asked how he prepared for the challenge that today’s course was sure to bring, Fellers had a simple answer:

“I just took the advice from my daughter, she called me a couple of hours before the class,” he said. “She’s a high school senior and she was at home in Oregon playing in the snow because school was canceled today. She said, ‘just make sure Flexible knows you love him.’ And so that’s what I did.”

Fellers and Flexible are officially back on form! Photo ©Cheval Photos

“Flexible is starting to feel really, really super,” added Fellers. “I didn’t jump him much in California, I kind of gambled and jumped four classes and had one down in three out of the four classes but I didn’t want to overdo it, but now he feels like he’s coming into the zone.”

A Levelheaded Influence
If Fellers was the veteran of the top six, Quentin Judge was among the rookies. He’s only ridden at the grand prix level for one year, and he was pleasantly surprised to go clear over the biggest course he’s ever jumped.

“My mindset today was to go in and have a confident round and ride well,” said Judge. “My horse is a 10 year old gelding that I got in October, and we’ve come along and figured each other out and he’s been great for me.”

Judge rides under the banner of Double H Farm, and leant on the help of his wife, rider Cayce Harrison when walking the course today.

Judge and HH Carotino are in a solid position after Trial #2. Photo ©Cheval Photos

“She’s very very levelheaded in these situations and she knows just how to break a course down and ride it,” he explained.

The Olympic Selection Trials become a test of endurance this evening when Trial #3 kicks off under the lights in the International Arena. Course designer Alan Wade will lay out a different course for the riders, the first of which will ride at 8pm.

USEFnetwork.com is broadcasting the entirety of the Trials live and free online. Melanie Smith Taylor and Brian Lookabill commentating, viewers from around the country can feel like they are –almost- here in person. Be sure to follow ProEquest on Facebook for exclusive photos and on the ground updates during the remaining two Trials.  

Reed Kessler was all smiles after her round with Cylana today. Photo ©Catie Staszak

Kent Farrington and Uceko were brilliant over the final fence, but pulled an unlucky rail at fence 5b and picked up a single time fault this afternoon. Photo ©Catie Staszak

Thumbs up! Jayne happily exits the ring after his clear round. Photo ©Catie Staszak

Beezie Madden talks with husband John Madden at the ingate, just before her round with Cortes C. Photo ©Catie Staszak

Fellers, Jayne, Coulter, Kessler and Judge after the class. Photo ©Catie Staszak

"No other moment compares to this," said Kessler. Photo ©Catie Staszak

USEF Olympic Selection Trials – Round Two Results

Rider | Horse | Trial #1 Faults | Trial # 2 Faults | Total

Reed Kessler | Cylana | 0 | 0 | 0
Saer Coulter | Springtime | 4 | 0 | 4
Margie Engle | Indigo | 0 | 4 | 4
Rich Fellers | Flexible | 4 | 0 | 4
Charlie Jayne | Uraya | 4 | 0 | 4
Quentin Judge | HH Carotino | 4 | 0 | 4
Reed Kessler | Mika | 4 | 0 | 4
Laura Kraut | Tierra | 0 | 4 | 4
Christine McCrea | Romantovich Take One | 0 | 4 | 4
Kent Farrington | Uceko | 0 | 5 | 5
Lucy Davis | Nemo 119 | 1 | 5
Mario Deslauriers | Urico | 0 | 8 | 8
Kirsten Coe | Baronez | 0 | 9 | 9
Cara Raether | Saskie | 4 | 5 | 9
Charlie Jacobs | Leap of Joy | 4 | 8 | 12
Beezie Madden | Cortes ‘C’ | 8 | 4 | 12
Cara Raether | Lyonell | 4 | 9 | 13
Jimmy Torano | Wak About | 5 | 9 | 14
Lauren Hough | Blue Angel | 8 | 8 | 16
Katie Dinan | Nougat De Vallet | 10 | 8 | 18
Kisten Coe | Combina | 13 | 6 | 19
Karl Cook | Jonkheer Z | 8 | 12 | 20
Lauren Hough | Quick Study | 8 | 13 | 21
Nick Dello Joio | Scarface | 12 | 12 | 24
Brianne Goutal | Nice De Prissey | 4 | 20 | 24
Beezie Madden | Simon | 4 | 21 | 25
Ray Texel | Kismet 50 | 13 | 13 | 26
Charlie Jayne | Athena | 0 | 28 | 28
Jessica Springsteen | Vornado Van De Hoendrik | 16 | 12 | 28
Katie Dinan | Vancouver | 13 | 18 | 31
Alicia Jonsson-Foster | Tao Tao 3 | 18 | 22 | 40
Karl Cook | ASB Conquistador | 12 | 48 | 60

...And for a parting shot, look who we spotted during the coursewalk! It's Irish rider Cian O'Connor, sporting one very stylish hat!