Yay, well rested so back to the blog. First the corrections from yesterday. The horse and rider I said was Totillas and Edward Gal was actually Steffen Peters and Ravel. Both pairs are spectacular of course, so I can be forgiven on the weakness of my exhausted stupor.
So we arrived at the park in our car (the shuttles were working just fine, but the cost difference was only slight ($20 parking, $30 for the two of us on the shuttle) and the walk from the car parking lot was only slightly longer. Besides, the parking attendants were a show in themselves. There was music playing outside our car through the absolutely crustal clear, static-free speakers with the WEG logo on them. Some of the parking attendants were incorporating the music into their communications to their subjects. The short video below shows a young man trying to communicate us to not follow the car in front of us and start a new line. He was hysterical. I wonder how long he was able to keep this up.
So after breakfast and a brush with the very kind George Williams, mentioned yesterday, it was back to the main stadium for some spectating. The weather varied from occasionally entirely overcast to sunnier as the day went on. The temperatures were in the upper 60s and low 70s with no wind. Very nice for both spectators and horses, and when the clouds passed over, I thought of my friend Derith, who, as a horse show photographer, has a much easier time of it when the clouds make the sun a non issue. There were, of course, some serious cameras in the media section and I’m sure they were glad for the overcast while it lasted too.
I have never spectated at an international team dressage competition before so I learned a few things watching the WEG. The first was that they draw order of teams and then each team chooses order of their riders. Usually, the best riders are chosen to go last for their country, so the final rotation is pretty much a bunch of ringers. Keep in mind though, that even the first rotation is pretty impressive.
In the third rotation, which was our first today since there were two yesterday, there were some very nice rides and some major disappointments. We were all stunned and very sad when Adelinde Cornelissen on Jerich Parzival was excused very early in her test. Her horse had some blood in his mouth and the FEI rules are very strict about horses having to be eliminated for that. Another horse was eliminated in the session for “irregularity of gait”, the dressage queen phrase for lame.
We also learned from the headset narration that dressage horses do not do anything nearly so mundane as poop, they “make manure”. What an elegant way of expressing it! As in, “Oh that lengthening was made more difficult for him since he was making manure during it.”
On a fashion note, the Italian rider Susanna Bardone on Dark Surprise cut quite the dashing figures as she wore her mounted police uniform. It was a refreshing change from the sea of white breeches.
The final rotation included the Netherland’s Moorlands Totilas (pronounced TOW ta las). He has set the world record for the highest score ever received in a Grand Prix Competition and came very close to matching that score again at the WEG. This horse has such charisma that he has people doing things usually reserved for NFL and NASCAR fans.
Of course, they are the Dutch, so they are to be given some latitude. They seem to have a very high fun factor. Their colors are orange, quite obviously, and they stand out in a crowd not only for that reason, but for their enthusiastic cheering for their country and general good-natured rowdiness. They’re a walking pep rally.
Totilas did not disappoint. The big black charismatic stallion came out and filled the arena with his effortlessness and joy in his work. Edward rode beautifully. Watching them was peaceful and powerful at the same time. He did his halt from passage at C so beautifully that the entire crowd, including me, exhaled in admiration. For a halt, mind you. The horse is 10 years old, a relative babe in dressage terms.
The judges agreed.
We actually felt sorry for the rider who had to follow that, and remarkably, our worries were unfounded. While not quite of Totilas’ quality, the horses following were still magnificent. Ashley Holzer of Canada, trains out of New York and is a national Purina Ambassador.
The nutritionists at Purina work closely with Ashley to manage Pop Art’s feeding program, and it shows. The sun had come out for his ride and his chestnut coat glistened like copper and he fairly crackled with healthy exuberance in his test.
Steffen Peters, riding Ravel, was the last ride of the day. When they entered the arena, it erupted in enthusiastic welcome. Ravel was gorgeous in his work and came within a few points of Totilas’ score. Steffen watched most of the dressage competition from a vantage point near us during the earlier rounds. Fans were constantly wishing him good luck and generally interrupting him, but with all the best intentions. He was gracious about it, despite the fact that the pressure must have been intense, since the U.S. team was so close to medaling.
I “Took at Good Look Around,” as Jimmy Wofford would say, at the crowd during the canter work in Seffen’s test. About half the crowd was very subtly rocking in their chairs or nodding their heads in time like they would do if they were riding the canter themselves. Very intense, very quiet and very supportive. It was charming.
The Netherlands earned gold, Great Britain silver and Germany bronze. The U.S. team was a very close fourth.
After Steffen and Ravel and before the medals ceremony, Anky Van Grunsven brought in her reining horse and did a fun demo. She did not do a full slide stop in the arena footing of the stadium since the footing required by reiners is entirely different. But there was enough galloping and flying lead changes and spins to keep people interested and clapping to the music.
Next, Jay and I went out to look at the other half of the xc course. That is continued in the next blog.