A Warm Welcome Home for U.S. Olympic Show Jumping Coach Robert Ridland
San Juan Capistrano, CA
- Fresh off the plane from Rio de Janeiro, where the U.S. Show Jumping Team won a Team Silver Medal, U.S. Coach Robert Ridland returned from the 2016 Summer Olympic Games to a warm greeting from his family, friends and the San Juan Capistrano community. In a special congratulatory ceremony on the pristine Oaks International Field at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park at San Juan Capistrano, Ridland, surrounded by his peers and a group of city dignitaries, spoke of the Brazilian experience with pride and true respect for the ups and downs of the sport of show jumping.
Noting that Beezie Madden's horse Cortes C had sustained a minor tendon injury, he further explained. "On the final day, we were left with just three riders - all three scores had to count, meaning no discard score which is a fundamental disadvantage in our sport. No one can find in the records anywhere in this century or any century a team who won a medal with just three riders."
He was then congratulated by several for his role in earning this admirable honor for his country, for California and, of course, for the city of San Juan Capistrano, where he is President of Blenheim Facility Management and Blenheim EquiSports, both based at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park at San Juan Capistrano.
Councilman Derek Reeve put the magnitude of this win in perspective. "You know many Americans never have the opportunity to participate in athletic events, let alone at the elite level of the Olympics. I just wanted you to know that you have 35,000 residents of San Juan Capistrano cheering all of you on and living vicariously through you. We are so proud that you are a part of our community. Thank you and congratulations."
Trails and Equestrian Commission Chair Renee Ritchie prepared a speech that spoke to every aspect of the victory. "We congratulate you on your dedicated leadership in creating a team that brought home the silver medal. This accomplishment by you and your team highlights all of our riders. All of these equestrian venues would be nothing without these amazing athletes - the horse. Those of us who are lucky enough to at least own one... know of their huge hearts. No matter the venue we choose they bring us all together.
"So Robert, your heart and soul were poured into helping make the U.S. Olympic Team successful. It was never about you, as you've always said, it was about the men, women and the horses. This speaks volumes for your character. We thank you and your team so very, very much."
Robert Ridland signing autographs after the ceremony
Following up, San Juan Capistrano's Mayor pro tem Kerry Ferguson expressed how much work it takes to have it all come together - and in this case it's truly four teams of two. "I know that it's taken many years, that these things don't happen overnight. It's not just one athlete involved in this feat - it's two - and one of them weighs 1,400 pounds or so - and both are equally important. To bring them together at that strategic moment and to have them both perform at the top of their game is a really fantastic feat. I know you've had a tremendous amount to do with that... San Juan thanks you."
Ridland credits the horses and riders who competed in Rio for their incredible efforts. He spoke highly of each effort, but particularly Californian Lucy Davis riding Old Oak Farm's twelve-year-old Belgian gelding, Barron.
Ridland commended Davis for her efforts in the Games, how she held it together when her horse spooked and went left as she was galloping up to the triple combination during Wednesday's Team competition. Through her skill under pressure, she managed to have only four faults when, as Ridland explained, the situation could have easily been a refusal and knocked the U.S. out of contention for a medal.
2016 Olympic medalist Lucy Davis and Barron competing in a Blenheim EquiSports grand prix held at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park at San Juan Capistrano
Not only is U.S. Coach Ridland and his team significant in bringing home this honor, but the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park's Oaks International Field in San Juan Capistrano also plays an important role.
Councilman Sam Allevato noted, "As the only current Council Member that was involved in the purchase of this beautiful park for the residents of San Juan Capistrano, I just want to thank you for again highlighting the quality, the utility and the beauty of this site to the world stage."
As an example of riders who aspire to greatness on this field, Davis competed at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park at San Juan Capistrano for over a decade. She essentially grew up showing horses at this facility, earning a list of top honors including her first grand prix win as a teenager.
Laura Freese, co-founder of the Heritage and Tourism Association and former Councilwoman, summed it up from the city's viewpoint. "San Juan Capistrano is known for having the swallows and the Mission, but now we are also known for having you."
Ridland, pictured at right with his wife Hillary (right) and Melissa Brandes, was humbled by the reception. "As you've all said, it is where we are, the community that we are in, it is the sporting community and, of course, it is the horse."
As a parting thought, he asked, "Why don't we do this again in four years when we come back from Tokyo?"
The equestrian-oriented community of San Juan Capistrano is an ideal spot to have Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park with this level of devotion to the horse. As a part of thousands of horses and riders competition schedule, Blenheim EquiSports hosts eleven weeks of horse shows throughout the spring, summer and fall. The grounds are open to the public, with free parking and free admission to all equestrian events. During the shows, there is food available for purchase and a collection of vendors with equestrian clothing, gifts, jewelry and much more.
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Photos: CapturedMomentPhoto.com, Blenheim EquiSports, McCool Photography