Horsey set... To win some in Athens?
Charlottesville has an Olympian. His name is Winsome Adante, and he's 11 years old. He can jump four feet off the ground and can hit speeds of over 22 miles per hour, and thus has hoofed it to Athens to represent the pinnacle of American athletic ability. Amazingly, he's hasn't let it all go to his head.
Maybe that's because he's a horse. Owner Linda Wachtmeister, 54, a horsewoman of long experience, says she could tell right away that Winsome Adante– "Dan" for short, is– well– a rare breed.
"We've been buying and selling and competing a lot of horses since we got here," she says of her 12 years at Plain Dealing Farm near Scottsville, "but Dan is one of our best."
Groomer Lili Bennett, 27, agrees. "He's pretty much won everything he's done," she says. "He's proven himself to be an extraordinary horse." Proof of his excellence came in 2002, when Dan helped the U.S. Eventing Team win the gold medal at the prestigious World Equestrian Games.
"It's sort of like the triathlon of equestrian sports," explains Wachtmeister. "They do dressage, show jumping, and cross country jumping." Now, after qualifying for the Olympics by winning the Kentucky Rolex back in April and a mandatory second round in July, Dan is poised to lead another eventing team to victory in front of an international audience.
"Dan is ranked #2 in the world right now," Wachtmeister notes with pride. That's quite a track record, but Wachtmeister is also quick to sing the praises of bipedal co-champion Kim Severson, who will again be competing with Dan in Athens.
"Kim definitely has a chance of winning the gold," Wachtmeister says. "She treats the horses really well, and she gets them to do remarkable things."
Severson does remarkable things herself: Eventing is on the rise, in large part thanks to her. "It's a great sport at any age, any level," says Wachtmeister. "It's totally exploded in our area, and a lot of it has to do with Kim being here." Still, the sport hasn't yet received the attention Wachmeister believes it deserves.
"All of the officials involved with this sport would like it to become more popular," she says. "In England, everybody watches it." She hopes that NBC's planned multi-network coverage of the Games will afford enough time for eventing to pique the public's interest.
A gold medal certainly wouldn't hurt. "We both feel very lucky that we found each other," Wachtmeister says, reflecting on her years of friendship with Kim. They're hoping that luck continues through August.
Kim Severson and "Dan"
PHOTO BY DEAN GRAHAM