Dressage Horses Shown in Hand - Horse Inspection for the World Equestrian Games

Charlene Strickland text and photos 'On the Scene' for HorsesDaily.com

You rarely get to study dressage superstars close up, so Monday's dressage inspection was a unique opportunity to eyeball conformation and way of going. A draw established the order of go for the 33 nations, with 19 teams and 14 individuals.

Within the stable area is an inspection lane, surrounded on both sides by spectator stands. Officials looked at each horse presented in hand, and watched the rider lead the horse back and forth at walk and trot.

The U.S. horses went first: Brentina was the first horse to go. Her owners, Parry and Peggy Thomas, were on hand to watch her trot.

So how does Brentina feel back to compete in her second WEG? According to Parry Thomas, “She is happy to be back in Germany.” (The 15-year-old mare was foaled in Hannover, the German state north of Aachen.)

After “Ladies first” for Brentina, Tip Top, Floriano, and Aragon followed. All U.S. horses passed on the first trot.

For the 100 spectators at trackside during dressage horse inspection, the primary benefit was seeing the superstars “naked.” You could see their true conformation, and the wear and tear of a life of training reflected in minor blemishes. White marks from the saddle showed up, along with closeups of shoeing variations. The afternoon spotlighted the quality of horse care, mirrored in a 2-minute presentation.

Charlene Strickland 'On the Scene' for HorsesDaily.com

For the next two and a half hours, officials tested the other 82 entries, ending with the horses from Denmark. Watching horses go were several U.S. dressage riders, including Karen Offield, George Williams, Jane Thomas, and Kathy Pavlich.

Horses that didn't show satisfactory trot had to take the track a second time, or be sent to the “hold box” for a re-presentation. The jury did require seven horses to re-present during this afternoon. Of those, they instructed five to return for re-inspection on 22 August, at 7 AM. The competition begins at 8 AM.

Seven out of 90 may not seem like a large number, but that amount does cast doubt on the management practices governing those animals. With equine welfare as Job 1, you wonder why a team would present a horse of questionable soundness?

All the definite entries (names declared at WEG) in endurance passed inspection. The less positive track record in dressage seems to question conditions of training and showing. Isn't it odd that this WEG's endurance horses handle the extreme demands of their sport at 100 percent, compared to dressage at 92 percent?

And horses also demonstrated their training. Yes, they're peaked for WEG, but wouldn't you think that a Grand Prix horse is obedient and supple in hand?

Many horses played on the line. That buck you can ride through is dangerous on the ground. A few horses were downright rank, endangering their riders and even the jury. One stallion broke loose—fortunately a very courageous gentleman snatched his reins before the horse could tear through the stables.

HorsesDaily.com On the Scene at the World Equestrian Games - Aachen 2006