The USEA is pleased to present a series of stories that chronicles Eventing in the U.S. from 2000-2010, written by Joe Verga.
The 2000-2010 decade was, in many ways, a renaissance for Eventing. It was filled with great moments and incredible accomplishments featuring some of the greatest riders the sport has ever known. Some events would capture our imagination because of the magnitude of the accomplishment while others will never be forgotten despite the fact that the story didn’t end with a blue ribbon. With that, I present the biggest stories in U.S. Eventing from 2000-2010.
Most horse and rider pairs feel lucky to put together one or two seasons where they can strongly compete at the International level. Kim Severson and Winsome Adante (Dan) did it for seven. From 2000 to 2007, this dynamic duo dominated Eventing in a way that had never been seen before.
Despite all of their accomplishments, Kim remains modest.
“I lucked into the 2002 (Rolex) win,” she said. “A lot of riders had to scratch from the afternoon cross-country because of torrential rain. Fortunately we had a morning run but my other ride had to be scratched that afternoon.”
When asked whether it was simply lucky to win Rolex a total of three times in four years (and four times in seven years if you count her 1999 Rolex win aboard Over The Limit), Kim simply smiled.
The marriage of this horse and rider combination was successful almost from day one as Kim and Dan won the Radnor CCI** in 2000 and then followed it up in 2001 with a 2nd place finish at Foxhall CCI*** and a win at Blenheim CCI***.
“You never know when they do their first four star if they are really ready,” she said. “Dan had a good record going into Rolex in 2002 but still you don’t know.”
Kim might not have known but Eventing legend Jimmy Wofford must have seen something special when he wrote his prediction for the 2002 Rolex field in The Chronicle of the Horse: “But there will be no surprises in the top four. I predict that the O'Connors, Phillip Dutton and Vinoski (Kim’s maiden name) will be the last four riders into the ring Sunday afternoon. When the dust settles, Kim Vinoski will be standing at the winner's podium…”
After their victory at Rolex the pair grabbed Team Gold at the 2002 World Equestrian Games (coming in 6th individually) and won the Over the Walls Horse Trials. Fostering great expectations, the duo entered the 2003 season only to see it completely washed down the drain. First, Kim broke her fibula two weeks before Rolex at Plantation Field Horse Trials on another horse, necessitating scratching from their title defense at Rolex. Later in the year a now healthy Kim headed off to England for the Burghley CCI**** only to see Winsome Adante colic a week before the competition was to begin. 2003 might have been lost from a competition point of view, but that didn’t mean it was a total loss.
“Strangely enough I feel like our bond, our relationship, had become stronger than before. We were closer than ever.”
As with most elite riders, every four years their attention turns toward the Olympics. Going into the 2004 season, Kim was qualified for the U.S. team on four of her other horses, but not Winsome Adante and Rolex served as the last chance for the pair if they hoped to compete for a spot on the team. Oddly enough, this pair’s historical second victory at Rolex (no other horse/rider combo has ever won more than once) did little to silence some critics.
“(At the 2004 Rolex CCI****) I remember after we jumped our clean stadium round that someone came up to me as we were walking out of the stadium and said quite seriously, ‘Well, that will be the last time that happens.’”
Well, that cynic would prove to be wrong as Kim Severson and Winsome Adante not only made the team but captured individual silver and team bronze at the 2004 Athens games. As an encore they took home the 2005 Rolex title as well, beating second place finisher Phillip Dutton by a whopping 17 points.
Winsome Adante would finish out his incredible career with a third place finish at Badminton CCI**** in 2007. Along the way Kim garnished two USEA Lady Rider of the Year awards (2004, 2005), was named the top Eventing rider in the world for 2004, and took another trip to the World Equestrian Games in 2006. Winsome Adante also grabbed his fair share of accolades, garnishing three USEA Horse of the Year awards (2001, 2002, 2004) as well as retiring in 2008 atop of the all-time USEA Leaderboard with 1,184 career points.
“Dan’s strongest trait was his heart. He didn’t give away points. He wasn’t an amazing mover. He wasn’t the greatest at cross country. He wasn’t a brilliant stadium jumper. But I never had to worry about him doing his job,” said Severson.
“He taught me to have confidence in myself because I could count on him. He taught me how to ride a completely accurate dressage test because I had to. He taught me to be a better show jumper because he wasn’t the cleanest of jumpers. He taught me to believe in myself, knowing that we could get it done. The whole journey was amazing. I felt as though we had a chance to win every event we competed together.”