I must admit that I was really hoping for a miracle to happen so that McLain could take the victory ride in the 2009 FEI Rolex Show Jumping World Cup but the fact of the matter is that Meredith Michaels and Shutterfly are just too darn good.
I watched McLain Ward on Sapphire and Meredith for all four rounds of this World Cup Finals and they were both brilliant. In the end it all came down to one second in the first round and one second in the second round that kept Meredith in the lead and McLain second. There is nothing that either of them could have done differently to have changed what happened other than to not have ridden so well.
And so my hat is off to both these riders for one of the best World Cup finals in its 31 years of existence.
“Honestly there is really nothing I would have done differently,” commented McLain. “I am very proud of what my horse and I did this week. If I were to do it again I would do it the same way. Meredith was perfect and a touch faster and it cost me the final. I am proud of my team and my horse and we came up two seconds short. It’s a fine line in sport.”
That fine line is the difference between $122,488 for the win and $95,186. Third place finisher Albert Zoer aboard Oki Doki took home $61,364. And there is an added bonus to the World Cup in that the riders have no expenses – no travel, accommodations or entry fees. Once you qualify the organizer ships you and your horses to the event and provides all the accommodations. So even all the extra expenses you have at a normal event no longer exist at a World Cup Finals.
Watching The Final Three
I chose two different spots to shoot from on the final day where the riders and horses have to negotiate two rounds. As round after round of the 29 horses went over the course it was business as usual. That is until McLain entered the ring. I think my heart stopped for the whole time he went around the course. I really wanted them to go clear.
Watching McLain these days is a lesson learned. In the press conference he made a comment and I’m sure he was thinking about himself when he said, “When you get down to the gate you have done all your preparation and then you have to get control of your own head. You think about your plan and try to stay as focused as possible.”
I personally have seen McLain grow in that way. I’m sure it’s been a gradual growth but here it was very clear how in control he was when the pressure was one. Kudos to having a great horse like Sapphire but even great horses depend on their riders doing right by them and McLain did that in all three rounds.
Watching Meredith almost gave you the feeling of watching two dance partners that have been together forever. They become one in the way they maneuver. In this case their dance floor was the small indoor arena and then they had to gracefully maneuver in between, over and around fences. The beautiful partnership of Meredith and Shutterfly ending up in the winner’s circle these days is almost a given. Shutterfly never touches a fence. He always leaves room between him and the jump which gives them both that extra room for error but even then this week there never were any errors to leave room for. It certainly is a magical dance partnership.
Over the course of the three days the top three riders did not have even one rail down. And even though they knew that Meredith would be all but impossible to beat they did their best to keep her on her toes.
“This was the hardest win I have ever had. McLain left me no room for error,” commented Meredith.
Even though this was her third World Cup victory it was very special to Meredith. “I think this was my most perfect win. Winning all three days is something special. And doing that riding a once in a lifetime horse even the greatest horse ever adds to that. In addition, I lost my father four weeks ago and so this was a big win for him and for me.”
And so there you have it. Victory is always sweet and these World Cup Finals have been especially sweet for the U.S. In the dressage a German born American was the victor and in show jumping an American born German won it all.
Well, it’s time for me to say farewell. I want to say thank you to all of you who have written me with your very kind words. Some, like Diane Duacsek, just said they appreciated the coverage. “Very nice article. I couldn’t be there but having been around the Southern California Circuit a lot I appreciated the detail.”
And there were those of you who got specific. Susi Gordon, MD wrote, “Thank you so much for your excellent coverage. I especially appreciated the excellent questions you asked of the reiners. I hope that someone out there at USEF will read his comments. Also, you wrote so beautifully about Debbie and Brentina, I felt the emotion of the moment through your writing.”
We at horsesdaily.com really appreciate the feedback and the support you have shown us over the years. I’ll be back again writing and photographing some other major event in the future and I look forward to hearing from you all again.
I leave you with one final stay tuned. I had an interesting conversation about judging with Olympic veteran Robert Dover and so I plan to do one more report in a day or two. You’ll see this article up on the site once I’ve had time to sift through my notes and have outlined in Robert’s words a clear and concise outline of his thoughts on a look at the future of judging dressage horses. So, keep an eye out for that article as I’m sure you will find his suggestions something to think about.
This World Cup has been a wonderful journey for me. I can’t tell you the emotions that went through my body when I realized that Steffen Peters did what they said couldn’t be done but we knew could. He has opened a door that we feel others will walk, trot and cancer through. And while Meredith was representing Germany she’s really American made and thinks of herself as 50/50 and so in a way there were two American victories here this week. And if any of you were watching I am sure you were on the edge of your seats as I was each time McLain and Sapphire entered the arena. I know that I was screaming with appreciation after that pair jumped the last fence clean in both rounds. It made me so proud to be an American.
It’s still okay to write me with your comments or questions at email@example.com. As always I truly appreciate that you’ve taken yet another journey with me and horsesdaily. Until the next time keep loving your horses (and stayed tune to my chat with Robert Dover)!