Let the Games Begin!

It’s hard to express that feeling of knowing “it’s finally here.”  We’ve all put so many hours into preparing for these Games whether it was by writing stories, taking photos, traveling back and forth to Lexington, or doing research.  Before you know it the four years that seemed so far away has suddenly arrived.  I’ve done enough major press events to know that things are going to be disorganized the first day and so the key is to just take a deep breath and you’ll get through it.

While some things were still being worked out, there were lots of pluses to the day.  The fact that we have lockers at the main venue and auxiliary venue is truly a lifesaver.  Today was all about reining which is located in the indoor arena quite far from the press center and fortunately they did shuttle us back and forth.  As expected the reining was spectacular and the quality continues to improve from when it first was included in the World Equestrian Games.  

The day started pretty early for me.  I overslept but somehow managed to be ready in only 15 minutes which meant I was able to catch the 6:00 a.m. bus.  The shuttle buses are nice.  They are a middle size, not too large and not too small and the back part has a compartment where I can easily fit my traveling cases.  Today I had to bring all of my equipment and so that was tough.  Us photographers need a variety of lenses depending on a few factors including whether we have to walk around a lot or are stationary and how far away we are from the arena we are shooting the riders in.

Once onsite it was a bit of a hike to the press center and then to the indoor arena to photograph the Reining.  The press shuttles take the long route and while that means more time, this park is so pretty that it’s not that bad.  Along the way there is security always checking that you are legally on the grounds.  Oh and that security also checks all your bags before you can come onto the grounds.

The indoor venue where Reining and Vaulting are held is now called the Alltech Arena and without a doubt it is one of the best in the world.  The riders are quick to praise it.  They love the venue, the footing and the atmosphere.

In the morning somehow the photographers ended up at the wrong end of the arena.  In reining you want to face the reiner when he does his sliding stop because that is a move you definitely want to capture.  We were all perfectly positioned  to capture the action until we realized they were doing the famous slide on the other side of the arena running away from us.  It only took one horse for the photographers to realize we weren’t where we needed to be and so there was a mass exodus to any location we could find on the other end.  

Once we positioned ourselves correctly the competition proved to be spectacular by the quality of the photos we were getting.  Since the arena was only about half full it did benefit us in that we were able to shoot from the stands.

The morning reining was only about an hour and a half and so a break in the day allowed us to go back to the main press center and get some work done.  The press center is spacious and nice to work in.  The press conference and social areas are separate and the writers are separated from the photographers who have hard wiring so filing of our photos is easier.  Another plus for WEG.  

At 2:00 round two of the reiners began and the competition was equally good.  For those of us who have only seen Americans take the lead it was interesting to see that some of the other riders are moving up and forcing the winner to really earn that victory.  And in fact by the end of the first half of the group for the reining competition an Italian rider Stefano Massignan riding Yellow Jersey had the highest score (224) with USA rider Craig Schmersal on Mister Montana Nic only .5 points behind (223.5) and teammate Tim McQuay on Hollywoodstinseltown standing 3rd (220.5) tied with Germany’s Grischa Ludwig on Hot Smokin Chex.

Today’s focus for Reining was on the team competition with half the riders going on Saturday and the other half on Sunday when the team medalists will be announced.  Sunday also showcases Endurance, so doing both the Reining and Endurance will be a feat.

What made it even tougher is that the Opening Ceremonies also took place on the first day and by the time I got back to my hotel room it was nearly midnight.  With Endurance kicking off at 7:30 a.m., which means us catching a 5:30 a.m. bus, I’m going to finish today’s report here and tomorrow I’ll tell you all about the incredible Opening Day Ceremonies as well as a press conference I managed to squeeze in with the Show Jumping riders.

Feel free to contact me with your questions or comments (dderosa1@optonline.net).  These Games really have begun and if you aren’t able to be here in person be sure to keep an eye on Horsesdaily where we will keep you updated with a variety of reports as well as links to press releases that will cover the event.

While I won’t get into the amazing Opening Day Ceremonies I have to say it was a real thrill to see the stands packed, to hear the roar of the crowd over and over again during the night, to see Muhammad Ali, Wynonna Judd and William Shatner and so many others who took part in this great event, and I’ve got all the pictures to prove it.

So, stay tuned and make sure to come back every day to hear the latest about the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.

Article and Photos by Diana DeRosa.

Photos: Stefano Massignan riding Yellow Jersey, Indoor Areana, Craig Schmersal on Mister Montana Nic, Reining Press Conference,  reining fans and a sneak peak at Opening Ceremonies when Mohammed Ali enters.