The past two days have been a mixture. August 1 was a day off but we were able to meet with both the U.S. Show Jumping and Dressage teams for a press conference. Then August 2nd was the first half of the Grand Prix Dressage and also both the Canadians and the Swedes had a press conference. I attended all of the press conferences because I wanted to get pictures of the various teams but also to get to know what their game plans are and also to learn a bit about the riders and their horses. George Morris was at the show jumping press conference along with two-time Olympic Gold Medalists McLain Ward and Beezie Madden. Teammates Rich Fellers and Reed Kessler were there along with alternate rider Charlie Jayne.
McLain made a comment that has been a real eye opener for me. McLain commented, “Great Britain is an equestrian country.” Of course I knew that but it’s one thing to “know” it and another to “feel” it. The support of the Britains for their equestrians is heartwarming. Every time a British rider enters the arena the stadium explodes with enthusiasm and every time any rider finishes a ride the applause is deafening.
Beezie said the same thing but used different words. “The heritage here with equestrian sport being so popular,” is what Beezie had to say. Her meaning needed no explanation.[
Then George Morris made a comment that was echoed by others. “Before Los Angeles it was a different sport,” he commented. “Course building back then was very different but now it is a one world sport.”
George and others spoke about such things as the quality of the horses, the change in the courses, the style of riding and the way the horses go in these high level competitions.
There were other comments that hit home to me. Another one also came from George when he said to the show jumping riders, “Don’t think of the first day. Think of the second, third and fourth day. The winner will not necessarily be the best rider but the best horse manager.”
I’m going to jump around a bit here because this column is about the special comments I heard. This one comes from Steffen Peters, who along with Tina Konyot, Jan Ebeling and Adrienne Lyle were part of the U.S. Dressage press conference.
When talking about the team Peters used words he heard from someone else. He noted that he told his teammates, “Just give me a really good lead so that I can bring it in at the end. Jan was the first to go on day one and he put in a really solid ride and scored 70.243.
One other comment Steffen made was that the U.S. riders are known for being kind to their horses and that is important. “There is an expectation and standard that can easily interfere when you train every day,” he commented. “The American team is known for true kindness to the horse. Being competitive and hearing those compliments means the world to us.”
Jan is riding Anne Romney’s horse Rafalca and because of the Romney for President campaign they’ve gotten some added coverage. Jan is thrilled even though it can sometimes be a distraction.
“We are getting a lot of extra media coverage,” he noted, “especially main stream media which is giving our sport some great exposure. I welcome the attention to the sport as I think it has given us a fantastic opportunity to show what our sport is really about and that it is an Olympic discipline and how much we work to get there.”
Jan also spoke about the sport of Dressage saying, “It’s a wonderful sport. It teaches kids to work hard and to be humble. Things in Dressage take time to get better and improve. I think you learn you have to work hard to get there. You don’t have to be a millionaire but you do have to work hard".
In the Canadian press conference it was 10-time Olympian Ian Millar that captured a lot of the attention. Ian echoed George Morris when he commented. “What I notice most is the evolution of the sport. It is really not the same thing at all as it was in 1972. Then it was a different type of horse and the style of riding has evolved.
Back in the early days the Germans dominated the sport but nowadays it seems more and more countries are sharing the wealth. In the words of George Morris, “there are probably five or six teams that can win on any individual day.”
Friday finishes up the Dressage Grand Prix and then Saturday moves to Show Jumping. Feel free to email me with your questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.