DEL MAR — She tried.
Margie Engle gritted her teeth Friday and pushed away her fear.
She climbed on a 1,400-pound horse and flew around the 13-jump Olympics show jumping trial course at the Del Mar Arena. Hidden Creek's Perin, with Engle sitting lightly on his back, finished a perfect tour with not a bar wiggling or a block teetering. Clean.
Engle, 46, was riding essentially one-legged. Her left hip had been broken Friday, Feb. 13, and against doctor's advice but because she trusted Perin to help her, Engle rode in the first of six rounds of the trials.
She was hoping that her willingness to ignore the pain for 90 seconds, and Perin's demonstration that he is in fine fettle and raring to go, would be enough proof to the U.S. Equestrian Federation's Olympic selection committee that she and Perin deserve to be in Athens.
But it wasn't. At least not yet.
Engle, a 2000 Olympian from Wellington, Fla., and member of last year's U.S. gold medal-winning Pan American Games show jumping team, finally listened to her doctor and withdrew from the trials Saturday. She has put her Olympic hopes in the hands of a three-person committee.
The federation is looking to pick four horse-and-rider teams plus one alternate for the August Olympics. The procedure is that the first- and second-place teams after the Olympic trials end next Sunday in San Juan Capistrano are automatic qualifiers. But the selection committee has the option of picking either the third- and fourth-place finishers or other teams it feels are worthy.
And one of those discretionary picks has been used.
Last month it was announced that Chris Kappler, the federation's 2003 equestrian of the year, and his mount Royal Kaliber did not need to fly across the country to qualify. Kappler was given one of the discretionary places.
Ray Texel, who is on the selection committee with Mike Endicott and Lisa Jacquin, said that while Engle meets the criteria for selection because of her injury, "I think the committee wants to see how the trials play out a little longer before we'd make a decision about Margie.
"There's no question about Margie's heart or about her horse," Texel said, "but we also need to be fair to everyone."
Engle's memory of her accident is vivid.
Her horse, not Perin, bent over to scratch his leg, thought the 5-foot, 100-pound Engle. But the horse collapsed, stricken with a colon infection. When the animal tumbled, so did Engle. The weight of the horse settled on Engle's left hip. As her leg was ground into the dirt, Engle heard her bones crunch.
"It was loud," Engle said, "and it hurt. The bones split like a wishbone."
Doctors told Engle they hadn't seen many worse injuries. For 18 months Engle will have all sorts of hardware -- plates and pins, lots of metal -- holding her hip in place.
Her doctors also asked, begged even, that Engle stay away from show jumping for a minimum of four months.
But the trials began Friday night, three months after the accident. They continued with two rounds Saturday and will last through three more rounds next Saturday and Sunday in San Juan Capistrano.
Engle and Perin were one of 11 teams that completed the 13-jump course cleanly and with no time penalties in the first round. Engle had limped around the course Friday afternoon, pacing off distances and checking for any nuances of the ground or the obstacles.
She had to be lifted on her horse. Her husband, Steve, demanded that someone carry his wife from the barn area to the course area.
Two weeks ago Engle gingerly climbed aboard Perin for the first time since her accident. She jogged slowly and took some easy jumps but until Friday night, Engle hadn't dared test her hip on a true course.
"Was I scared?" Engle said. "I guess until I started towards the first jump. Once you're out there, you can't be scared any more."
Engle felt the muscles and ligaments pull apart every time Perin landed a jump Friday and after the ride, gaunt, hurting and exhausted, Engle said she wasn't confident she could finish all six rounds of the trials.
Saturday morning doctors told Engle she was risking more serious damage if she continued competing this week.
Engle is the only American Grandprix Assn. eight-time rider of the year. By her performance at last year's Pan Am Games -- she was part of the gold-medal winning team and she and Perin won the individual bronze medal -- she helped earn the U.S. a spot in the Olympics.
"Perin is one of the best horses in the world," Engle said Saturday.
"I'm hopefully optimistic the committee will see that. Now I just wait."