We’re at the half-way mark, hump Wednesday, en route to the return of world-class eventing to Great Meadow, The Plains, Virginia, the spectacular setting for this weekend’s Great Meadow World Equestrian Games Prep Trial, July 26-27. Great Meadow’s brilliant showcase of 15 stellar horses and riders features the members of the Land Rover US 3-Day Team, selected to compete at WEG in France, Aug. 23 – Sept. 7, and the alternate riders and horses.
Come on out and cheer for these outstanding horses and riders! On Saturday, the schedule gives you plenty of time to check out the shopping at Great Meadow during the Prep Trial and the program will provide plenty of suggestions for restaurants, shopping and other afternoon diversions from the area towns from Warrenton (a few miles south of Great Meadow via Route 17 and north to Middleburg.
On Tuesday, July 22, 10 of these riders gathered at Great Meadow for a brief conference with Great Meadow Foundation president, Rob Banner, accompanied by a few words from David O’Connor, US 3-Day Chef, plus a chance for yours truly to ask a question or two of WEG team members Buck Davidson, Sinead Halpin, Boyd Martin, Kim Severson and Lynn Symansky – Phillip Dutton wasn’t there – and alternates Hannah Sue Burnett, Jan Byyny, Lauren Kieffer, Marilyn Little and Meghan O’Donoghue.
The first wave of the best of our 3-day riders showed up at Great Meadow on Tuesday, July 22, for a brief conference: front row: Kim Severson, Buck Davidson, Hannah Sue Burnett, Lynn Symansky; back row: Meghan O’Donohue, Lauren Bliss Kieffer, Jan Byyny, Marilyn Little, Sinead Halpin, Boyd Martin. They looked In great spirits and extremely fit-looking. They were also aware that this is a whole new showcase for American 3-day riders: an intimate competition, featuring the team and alternates, literally the best of the best. Their horses are magnificent and the partnerships between these equestrian triathletes are absolutely amazing, the result of time, energy, hard work, dedication and great passion for eventing. © Lauren R Giannini
The format of the Great Meadow WEG Prep Trial offers Dressage on Saturday morning, Show Jumping on Saturday evening, along with the opportunity to party around the arena, which is usually the stage for Twilight Polo every Saturday during the warm months into late September, but not on July 26. Sunday morning is the cross-country, contested across the Gold Cup course until the new course being built on the adjacent Fleming Farm is completed and the turf in good root and bloom. For those who like to prolong their Saturday night out, there will be dancing after the conclusion of the Bareback Puissance – high jumping on horseback without a saddle! – with a great DJ. During the GM Prep Trial there will be outstanding shopping with several local businesses, including Horse Country Saddlery, whose to-die-for store is located in nearby Warrenton.
“The plan all along has been to bring eventing back to Great Meadow in a special way – world-class 3-day eventing competition with the best horses and riders,” said Rob Banner, president of the Great Meadow Foundation. “When the adjacent Fleming Farm went on sale, at the beginning people were looking at it for wineries and I really coldn’t see an house being built up there. That’s when I went to work and started raising money to buy it. We’d been talking about world-class eventing at Great Meadow for a while, but we didn’t have enough land to do it without using the Gold Cup course, but with the acquisition of Fleming Farm we can go ahead and build this eventing and equestrian sports facility with spectators in mind, as well as the horses and riders, just like our Gold Cup course. The new arena will be a bullet-proof and all-weather ring for dressage and show jumping . The cross-country course will be protected and the footing maintained, reserved for special use like the Gold Cup course which we use twice a year – and that will be the standard for the cross-country course at Fleming. We will continue to card high performance competition. If the other side isn’t ready next summer – and it takes time to grow good turf, two to three years, we’ll put it on the Gold Cup race track and that footing is pretty doggone good.”
The Great Meadow WEG Prep Trial is totally unlike any previous upper level competitions. A small number of entries, the best of the best, Great Meadow features riders and horses who have developed partnership over years of training and competing. Several riders are Olympic medalists, others have competed and medaled in the Pan American Games. Some are just starting their international careers. They all have one trait in common – a passion for horses and for three-day eventing, known as the equestrian triathlon – dressage, show jumping and cross-country.
Whether the riders are longtime veterans in 3-day or some of the brightest and the best just starting their international careers, the “horse and rider” partnership will amaze you. Many riders, kids of all ages, dream of equestrian glory, but the group you will see at Great Meadow this weekend have dedicated their lives to horses and to competition, to representing the United States on the global stage of the FEI (International Equestrian Federation). The riders competing at Great Meadow this weekend are on intimate terms with “the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat” (legendary phrase in the opening credits of Wide World of Sports, 1961-1998). Setbacks, however, are an integral part of life with horses – after all, it is horse AND rider. it’s both horse and rider or nothing in the equestrian partnership.
“I think this is one of the first times we have done training for something this big in this country and I think that’s because of David,” said Jan Byyny, Pan Am Games team gold and individual bronze medaist, who runs Surefire Eventing just north of Middleburg. “It’s a great idea and I think it’s also the first time we have had the public so involved with this and we get so much support and it’s nice to be able to perform for them and have them part of our preparation. It’s just a great thing at Great Meadow.”
They all agreed with Buck Davidson who said, “It’s fantastic to have Great Meadow in the eventing world again, because it’s been here once before – such a great location right outside Washington DC and Middleburg is such a great horse area.”
Okay, yesterday we had a tough time with bronchial distress (wheezing from allergies) and missed a self-imposed deadline of Wednesday noon. It’s two days to the first dressage test Saturday morning and starting Friday it’s all-go, deadline- and work-wise, BUT we’ll try to post some pix from Dressage and Show Jumping on Saturday evening. Then, we have a deadline to meet by Monday, 11 a.m. – copy & pix about the USET Foundation Reception at Salamander Resort and the delusional optimistic plan is to post results and a few XC pix by Sunday evening.
Here is the list of RIDE TIMES for the Great Meadow WEG Prep Trial, July 26-27, at Great Meadow in The Plains, VA.
Hope to see you this weekend – it’s exciting and historic – when eventing returns to GREAT MEADOW!