Local equestrian off to the Olympics
King Dye, 30, won her place based on her performance at the U.S. Equestrian Federation National Grand Prix Dressage Championship and Olympic trials held the past two weekends in San Juan Capistrano, Calif.
"It's a fantastic feeling," King Dye said Wednesday in a telephone interview from California. "The best part was the morning after, when the other team members, Steffen and Debbie, greeted me.
"It's good having teammates. In the equestrian discipline, you're not usually part of a team."
King Dye finished in third place on Harmony's Mythilus, a 13-year-old Dutch gelding, and in fourth position on her horse, Idocus, a 17-year-old Dutch warmblood stallion.
This secured her a spot on the team with "Myth." Idocus earned a place as her reserve horse.
The team of King Dye, Steffen Peters , Debbie McDonald and alternate Leslie Morris will leave for Aachen, Germany, on July 10. They will continue training with U.S. Olympic dressage coach Klaus Balkenhol . The equestrian Olympic events will be held in Hong Kong in August.
She said she gave her two horses three days off and will begin building them up again lightly in California before they go to Germany.
King Dye, a native of Michigan, started riding when she was 9 years old. At 15 she became a working student for Lendon Gray , who rode on U.S. Olympic dressage teams in 1980 and 1988.
At age 20, King Dye competed in the 1998 North American Young Riders Championships, and by 1999 one announcer dubbed her "the Tiger Woods of dressage" because of the number of competitions she'd won.
King Dye, a 2004 graduate of Columbia University with a degree in English literature, is now married and devotes herself to riding and training at Gray's Sunnyfield Farms in Bedford, N.Y. She considers Gray a role model.
"I'm definitely hoping to follow in her footsteps," King Dye said.
Gray has enjoyed watching her student grow.
"I can give directions and I helped her with technique," she said, "but it can only work well if your rider puts in the time and is determined and has grit and some God-given talent."
King Dye is the youngest member of the new team and the one with the least international experience, Gray said, and she couldn't have predicted this outcome at the beginning of the year.
Both Peters and McDonald have represented the U.S. in the Olympics. King Dye represented the U.S. at the 2008 Dressage World Cup.
The three riders named to the dressage team each brought two horses to the California competition and both of Peters' and King Dye's horses qualified to go to the Olympics, which is quite unusual.
On June 29, in the Olympic trials' Grand Prix Freestyle event, King Dye rode Harmony's Mythilus to music based on Cat Stevens ' "Sad Lisa." Aboard Idocus, King Dye rode to Broadway show tunes.
Jennifer Marchand, who works under King Dye as an assistant trainer in Bedford, was thrilled for her boss.
"She's amazing," Marchand said. "She's ridden so many horses for many years, so she has a lot of background and many tools to help her."
Marchand said King Dye has amazing feel on a horse.
"She rides so well and is so in tune with the horse. She's not just technically correct, but she knows what the horse's needs are," she said. "She makes sure her horses feel well and then, when they go in the ring, they are willing to work."
"It's just been a fantastic year," Marchand said.
King Dye said she's been extremely busy preparing for the long trip with the horses, first to Germany and then to Hong Kong. "I haven't really had a chance to sit down and absorb this."
Contact Eileen FitzGerald
or at (203) 731-3333.