- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 30, 2008

An injury has opened the door for Karen O’Connor of The Plains, Va., to make her fourth Olympic appearance.

Previously an alternate with her horse Mandiba, O’Connor was elevated to the main squad Tuesday when Heidi White withdrew her mount Northern Spy for veterinary reasons.

The American team has trained in England for two weeks and will fly to the Olympian equestrian venue in Hong Kong today. O’Connor was not available for comment.

O’Connor and Mandiba will compete in eventing Aug. 10-12. Eventing is an equestrian triathlon - dressage, cross country and jumping. O’Connor, who has won silver and bronze medals in the team event, joins Phillip Dutton, Becky Holder and Gina Miles on the team.

Earlier this summer, O’Connor, 50, figured to be a lock for the team with Theodore O’Connor. But the pony was euthanized after a barn-area accident.

Mandiba, 9, is the youngest horse on the team by three years.

“It’s young for an Olympic-level competitor,” O’Connor said last month. “He’s just at the edge of going to this level of competition, yet he’s a remarkable horse. He’s very talented, and if there is a horse that could step up and fill a big set of shoes, he could do that for the U.S.”

Said David O’Connor, Karen’s husband and a former equestrian gold medalist: “He’s one of the most talented horses in the United States. He has a tremendous future in front of him. He has all three phases, and he’s a very good mover and very good jumper. He’s the No. 1 draft pick-type of horse, but he’s still at the rookie level.”

O’Connor and her staff have trained Mandiba since he first wore a saddle four years ago.

“We bought him unbroken at age 4, which is unusual,” O’Connor said. “The good thing is that you let the horse’s body finish growing before you ask them to do things. That’s one of his biggest assets - he was allowed time to grow.”

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