Moonlighting at the Festival of Champions - Part 2: Grand Prix at The USEF National Dressage Championships

Zoey and Missy Sage with Biscuit, The Equine Nanny caught by the lens as they watch the competition at the 2012 Dressage Festival of Champions.
Photo: Tigger Montague
Zoey and Missy Sage with Biscuit, The Equine Nanny caught by the lens as they watch the competition at the 2012 Dressage Festival of Champions.
Photo: Tigger Montague

Our friend Tigger Montague brings us her perspective from Gladstone as she represented DressageDaily at the USEF National Dressage Championships. Thanks to Sue Stickle for sharing some of her awesome imagery as well. I missed you all this year, but the event was in good hands!
Confessions of a photo journalist wannabe
Gladstone, New Jersey Friday, June 14, 2012 - Watching the top grand prix horses in this country through the lens of a camera is quite a different perspective than spectating. Through a lens the less than perfect moments are accentuated, and some wonderful moments can look even more brilliant. I find myself saying things like “damn” when a rider makes a mistake, or “oops” when a line of tempis doesn’t go well, or “wow” when a movement is done incredibly well. None of the other photographers say a word.

USEF National Grand Prix Dressage Champion 2012, Steffen Peters and Legolas
Photo: Susan J. Stickle
USEF National Grand Prix Dressage Champion 2012, Steffen Peters and Legolas
Photo: Susan J. Stickle

The ranks of the press have doubled in twenty-four hours. I see some of equestrian sports’ great photographers: Terry Miller, and Susan Stickle, and others whose work I know but not their faces. Finding a spot slightly to left or right of M is a challenge because of the judges booths, the USET Gold Member tent, and then the spectator tent down the long side. On the opposite long side is the sponsor tent. Down at A, means shooting more towards the sun, and since I’m not a pro at this, I’m not sure what speed I would have to shoot to get decent shots.

Piere St Jacques and Lucky Tiger perform their personal beast at the 2012 USEF Dressage Festival of Champions.
Photo: Tigger Montague
Piere St Jacques and Lucky Tiger perform their personal beast at the 2012 USEF Dressage Festival of Champions.
Photo: Tigger Montague

When Calecto V and Tina came into the arena, it was as if they cast a spell. Their ride of   mastery that highlighted fluidity, harmony, balance, suppleness, and engagement was a breath-taking experience for everyone who saw it ringside The other ride that really stood out for me was that of Pierre St. Jacques and Lucky Tiger. The 17 year old gelding belied his age and showed everyone what a wonderful grand prix horse he is.

Jim Koford and Rhett put in a really solid test that brought very strong appreciation from the crowd. As Jim’s kur designer, it was very hard for me to resist breaking out into a WooWoo after his ride; but since I was a temporary member of the legion of media, I kept my enthusiasm to mere clapping.

The news of Sagacious being withdrawn was a heart-breaker; not only for Lauren, his groom Katie, and his owner Al Guden, but for his legions of fans. The arena at Gladstone just didn’t seem the same without Sagacious and Lauren there.

Heather Blitz doing a little shopping in the Vendor Village at the 2012 USEF Dressage Festival of Champions.
Photo: Tigger Montague
Heather Blitz doing a little shopping in the Vendor Village at the 2012 USEF Dressage Festival of Champions.
Photo: Tigger Montague

Legolas and Steffen are amazing, Todd and Otto remind me of two very good friends who are always there for each other. Jan and Ralfalca were really on and they were great to watch. Wizard and Adrienne are a very special pair. There are not many who can ride a horse with Wizard’s special character traits.  Paragon and Heather are simply beautiful to watch. This pair is just beginning what I hope will be a long grand prix career.

Following the grand prix, I head to the media tent to set up my laptop and start downloading photos. Everyone in the media tent appears to know one another; some are busy writing articles, others are studying their shots. There is a low hum of chit chat, and comaraderie. There are refreshments and coolers with lunch. From my chair back in table 3, I can catch some of the shots of the other photographers on their computer screens.  I am really feeling like a cub reporter. But I am also inspired by the images I see that the other photographers have taken; and I can hear myself whispering, wow.

Some in the media tent are on deadline, and are busy writing what the dressage world will read in a few hours. The ability to focus while there is so much activity around is impressive. I am not accustomed to writing in anything other than a quiet room or office. Make no mistake, it is not easy to write on deadline, and again my respect for what these photo journalists do increases.




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