Rain Did Dampen the Grounds But Not The Spirit of the Kentucky Horse Park

The Show Jumping Test Event was a test of the grounds but not the spirit of the Kentucky Horse Park.  There were supposed to be two jumping test events but rain and the threat of a tornado cancelled Saturday’s Grand Prix.  It was then moved to Sunday night to replace the speed competition.   

Since the Saturday night grand prix course was already set and the three-day show jumping was going to take place Sunday midday before the Show Jumping, rather than rebuild the course, designers Richard Jeffrey and Conrad Homfeld switched courses.  Three-Day course designer Jeffrey said he made a few minor changes to Conrad’s course, eliminating one of the combinations, changing some of the distances and lowering the fences.  

That night Conrad did his tweaking to Jeffrey’s course and in the end they both suited the riders, the horses and the arena.

Sunday started out rainy but the sun came out for the final day of the Rolex Four-Star where William Fox-Pitt and Cool Mountain (left) won their first Rolex.  However when it came to the start of the show jumping Mother Nature decided to continue her rain streak and again we were out there raincoats on cameras and on us as we shot between the raindrops.  

A field of 15 horses and riders braved the weather and included members from past Olympic Teams, including Beezie Madden on both Danny Boy and Mademoiselle and Lauren Hough on Casadora.  You can read the full report on this site so no need for me to repeat the unfolding of Beezie’s win on Danny Boy.  Instead I thought I’d talk a bit about the facility they are testing and the overall atmosphere of the Kentucky Horse Park.

It’s been clear from the riders competing dressage, show jumping and eventing this week that they have given their stamp of approval to the Kentucky Horse Park for an outstanding facility.  Sunday, after an incredible downpour the night before we stood in the main arena on a course walk with Jeffrey in an arena that barely looked like it had been flooded.  Richard made a point of emphasizing how incredible the footing is in the arena and explained about the fact that there are rubber mats with holes that allow the water to drain but also cups that retain some of the water so that as the footing dries the water in the cups can be absorbed back into the footing to help keep it moist.

Footing is everything to these riders and although there is a variation of what each discipline needs the beauty of this footing is that it seems to adapt well to the different disciplines.

Yet it wasn’t just the footing that the riders praised but also the overall facility and atmosphere.  The dressage riders were pleased with the fact that the horses seem to feel comfortable and not spooky in the main arena.  That tends to be more important to the dressage riders, especially those with vivid memories of the spookiness of the Olympic arena in Hong Kong.  Here we saw very little spooking.

Reflections Of a Good Week
As I think back on this week and the final show jumping event one of the things that impressed me was the turnout.  The grandstands were more than ¾ full for the eventing show jumping, over 2000 people came out for the dressage and even with the rain there was a nice crowd who stayed for the show jumping test event.  That speaks well of what the turnout could be for WEG.  

In the press conference following the show jumping the riders applauded the facility that some have ridden in before.  When the question about the rain came up Beezie noted that riders are used to competing in the rain and she applauded the footing.

Beezie is one of the riders we’ll see back here for the World Equestrian Games along with McLain Ward.  The other two spots are an unknown but if tonight’s class was any indication of what the show jumping will be, we are all in for a treat, even if it does rain.

After the event was over I packed up my gear and headed out to my car.  I was feeling pretty rain drenched after a few days of rainy weather.  As a photographer it’s no fun trying to keep you cameras dry when it rains.  But what surprised me most on that walk out to my car was how beautiful the Kentucky Horse Park was despite the rain.  Sure there was some mud but it weathered the storm like a real trooper.

As I was heading out the endless assortment of fast food vendors and trade fair vendors were still going through the process of breaking down their booths.  I never realized just how many booths this show has until this year because they had moved our press room to the indoor arena which houses the extra vendors.  It provides an indoor setting for those who don’t want to chance the weather but a longer hike from the competition sites.  It also offers spectators a lot more variety to choose from.

It’s because I stayed for the show jumping that I was able to witness show jumping in rain, vendors packing up, and a pack of ducks being cornered by the lead duck who was trying to get them to all go in the same direction.  I think they too were affected by the weather – all that water was just too enticing and rather than follow the pack they wanted to play in wet grass.

I had to pull out my camera and get a picture of those ducks and another picture of a stuffed toy on a truck because it made me think that this is what the Kentucky Horse Park is all about.  This week the eventers, dressage riders and show jumpers all had a chance to witness what a great facility this is and what a wonderful event we all have to look forward to.  And as gorgeous as the Park is now, they are still building, refining and prepping for when they can say, “Let the Games Begin!”  And when that day comes I’m sure those ducks will also be having a good time along with the rest of us – rain or shine!