Today started early because it was cross country day. And even though the first horse didn't start out until 10:00 a.m. I was already on my way on the 6:30 a.m. shuttle to the Media Center. By 8:00 a.m. we joined the already growing crowd of people that surrounded the water jump, which was referred to as Land Between the Lakes.
While I like to wander the course, I decided to plant myself at this one jump today. I didn't have enough time to review the course and get a sense of how to get to the different jumps. So, rather than take a chance of missing someone, I opted to just stay put.
Spectators were reserving their spots by 6:45 a.m. and it made the event feel even more special knowing that for many people getting a good spot was important enough for them to arrive hours ahead of the start time. They were smart; because by the time I arrived it seemed that every spot was ten feet deep with people. People sitting in the main grandstands in hopes of being able to see the nation's finest Eventers negotiate the course also had the added view from the jumbotron.
Even the photographer’s pen was packed with others who had the same plan as me, some even putting out remotes so that they had the option of getting more than one angle of the fence. From what I've seen, this event has received more media attention than most. Seeing so many people and so much enthusiasm was certainly refreshing.
As journalists we get orders of go so that we have a sense of who is going when. Some photographers shoot everyone (like me) and others just shoot competitors from their own country or specific other countries, depending who has requested photos from them.
I've been shooting all the competitors in all the disciplines in order to give you a sense of all that is happening. I hope you are enjoying the photos you've seen here, but also feel free to enjoy the numerous photos that I put up at this link from events throughout the week.
(http://presslinkpr.com/gallery2/main.php?_itemId=200813). Not everything is up because there never seems like there is enough time to keep up but there is a nice assortment and every day more will go up.
The one danger of shooting a fence later in the course is that sometimes riders don't make it around to you. The water jump I was at had two elements - 17 abc and 18 abc. By the time the first eight went we saw only four riders. By that time Our Vintage and Constantinvan Rijckevorsel (BEL) had two refusals for 20 penalty points each. Stand By Me ridden by Linda Algotsson (SWE) was eliminated after 3 refusals. Inonothing and Paul Tapner (AUS) retired and although Gandalf The Grey and Marco Biasia (ITA) did make it to the water they eventually retired.
After that the riders started to keep coming with U.S. rider Martin Boyd putting in a clear go. By the time our second ride came through a few more had been lost by this testing course that seemed to eliminate them without injury. Buck had a refusal at one fence and so he took care around the remainder of the course as a second refusal would have eliminated him and as a member of the team, he couldn't take that chance.
We watched a number of shoes and a bell boot go flying as riders negotiated the water jump. It was almost as if the water sucked them off.
Overall most of the riders did a good job there but there were some dramatic moments. One rider almost fell off but somehow managed to right herself. One of the Japanese riders was not as lucky and went flying like an arrow head first into the water. He had one of the special vests on that expands in situations like this and in fact it did and probably spared him any major injuries as he walked away from this fall, as did his horse.
When a rider continued around the course they would be separated by 4 minutes and so we had 4 minutes between jumps to relax, or write down what was happening as I am doing now.
When the horse is ready to approach the fence a whistle is heard loud and clear and when we hear that we jump up and position our cameras because generally we have less than a minute or two before the horse negotiates the series of jumps.
In my case the direct route started over a brush jump with a gallop through the water up over a bank and then the big goose for the three parts of 17. For 18 they came down over a birch and then into the water and up onto the island in the middle of the pond and down a pretty steep drop with a gallop out and often a cheer and sometimes a wave when negotiated well.
Land Rover had sponsored box lunches for us and so many opened those at some point during the six hours that we sat shooting the riders. A huge thank you to them for this kind gesture. It was much appreciated.
The weather was mixed. In the morning it was a little chilly but as the day progressed the sun at some times was so strong I felt like I was being grilled and at other times a cloud would hide it and give us nice even lighting. Photographers love overcast days because of that.
The crowd stayed right there with us continuing to be supportive and enthusiastic as each of the riders came through. We were safely enclosed in a fenced in area, which was truly a life saver and what allowed us to get great pictures.
In between riders the jump crew would pour sand around the jumps and step around on the footing to make sure it was as flat as possible. When a shoe was lost you would see them digging with their hands through the water until they retrieved the shoe for fear that a horse might step on it. Everything was done for the welfare of both the horse and rider.
And talking about the rider, there are medical attendants right at the jump and when the Japanese guy fell they were right there to check him out to ensure he was okay. A fall eliminates so he was undoubtedly discouraged but he's in good shape to go another day.
As I write this part of my article, Karen O'Connor and Mandiba just galloped through the water jump and did a beautiful go. I wish you all could hear the cheer that erupted from the crowd as she neatly jumped the last part of fence #18 as it was truly heartening to see how much the crowd was getting into our sport. What a great chance for us to be showcased to the world.
When Karen finished her ride (or for that matter all the riders) the announcer would let us know what was happening for each rider around the course. So, when Karen completed with only .8 time penalties we knew about it immediately and the crowd showed their support.
So many teams had been lost throughout the day that this was good news for the U.S. and as the day drew to a close we stood in the second place position going into the show jumping final phase of the four star. Our next rider to go, Becky Holder aboard Courageous Comet, had such a good go that by the time the day was over they stood in third place behind Michael Jung on La Biosthetique-Sam FBW and William Fox Pitt riding Cool Mountain.
One of the photographers sat with his computer in the ready as he took the photos, then downloaded them to his computer and with the use of his air card was able to send the pictures immediately after each ride. For sure he was one of the first to get images out there. It's amazing how quickly things can happen these days.
There was one horse and rider combination whose fall on course demanded the attention of the medical staff and once checked out on course the horse was taken to Rood & Riddle veterinarian clinic while the rider went to the hospital to be checked out. Later we heard that the horse suffered a laceration but would heal and the rider was doing okay as well.
Overall it was a good day and in the press conference the riders talked about a course that looked easier than it rode and how from the beginning to the end you could never let up on the course. It required your full attention.
Now the riders are preparing for tomorrow. Some are having a nice dinner, others are attending to their horses and still others are calling it a night rather early but few will get as much sleep as they'd like. So much can change with the downing of each rail that these riders want to do their very best for the final test of the three phases of the event at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
On another note, Vaulting discipline director Kersten Klophaus is doing a great job of keeping me udated. Below are his latest comments.
VAULTING UPDATE: Our wonderful Flower Team finished the decoration in the arena. Great, really great. We are still working on the footing in barn 23, one of our warm ups.
Yesterday the first Vaulting volunteers arrived and were welcomed. Today they had to set up fences, barrels, gym mats, etc. First horses walked on the competition circle. Training in the indoor started at 3pm. This morning we got the definite entries: 12 teams, 33 female, 21 male.
Gaby Benz, our Technical Delegate, and I made a walk through main circle, warm ups, barns, offices etc. Nothing to discuss, all is perfect.
Later we "create" a draft for the order of go for broadcast.
Today is a busy day: Set up field of play, decorations, welcome of TD, questions, questions, questions from atheles, grooms, medical service, broadcast, volunteers, etc.
This is what I like!! Means: we start with the competition soon.
Beste Gruesse, Kersten