This report is going to be a mixed bag of tricks because with eight disciplines happening in 16 days there is often a lot of cross over. While the Reiners finished their final test, the Eventers are just beginning and the Vaulters are Preparing.
Wow, the Individual Reining Finals were electric. The Reiners have never seen such a large enthusiastic crowd and many of those watching were being exposed to Reining for the first time. Let me tell you, this crowd should show everyone how to act. There was hooting and hollering in support of their team or country. The crowd sighed when things went wrong, cheered when brilliance was demonstrated and applauded in support of each Reiner as they finished their pattern. For us it was exciting to watch and made our job a bit more fun.
It was fantastic for the Reiners as well. "The highlight for me was walking in that ring with everyone cheering. I asked my horse for 110% and he delivered," explained Silver Medalist Craig Schmersal. Craig was riding the 12 year old Mr. Montana Nic, who he's owned since he was a yearling. Managing this horse since then is what's made the horse so great. "You've got to maintain and manage those horses to make them last,” he explained.
For Shawn Flarida aboard RC Fancy Step, it wasn't as exciting. He was last to go in the leading position poised to win. However, as he set out on his run all seemed to be going well but then suddenly you could see he really wasn't trying. After his ride finished, Shawn dismounted and walked over to where his stirrup had fallen. The stirrup had broken during his ride and without a stirrup he wasn't able to allow his horse to do the full potential because all the moves require a lot of balance and the support from the stirrups is critical.
Had he had the chance to show off his best, it still would have been a fight because Gold Medal teammate Tom McCutcheon and Gunners Special Nite had put in the ride of their lives and finished with an incredible 228 and a wide margin of 5 points from Schmersal (223) and a bit more from Bronze Medalist and Canadian Duane Latimer (222.5).
"For me on a pattern like that if you can run in and hit that first stop it starts everything else right," explained Tom, who was referring to the fact that the riders entered the ring at a mad dash straight into a sliding stop. "Everything there he wanted to do. He got stronger and stronger,” added Tom.
The Alltech Indoor Arena was sold out and attendance in the Park overall hit a new high of 32,000+ for the day, many of them there to see the Reiners.
Eventing Takes A Bow
While the Reining was happening at the indoor, the Eventers were showing off their dressage moves outdoors. They had done their jog the day before and all were poised to do their best. While Eventing dressage can't be compared to Grand Prix Dressage, these Eventers have come a long way which is clear by the elegance, precision and harmony in many of the rides.
The Eventers enjoy the cross country part the best but this is a three day event and so dressage and show jumping show that their horses have what it takes to be well rounded and endure.
While the Eventers each took their turn the announcer made comments. When it was Mark Todd's turn he took a moment to talk about this brilliant Eventer. Mark took a sabbatical for a few years but has started up again and New Zealand is lucky to have him back.
While commenting about Todd the announcer remarked that Capt. Mark Phillips had once commented that Mark is the most gifted Eventing rider the world has ever seen. Fortunately I am one of those people that was witness to his incredible talent back when he won Gold on his famed mare Charisma in 1988 at the Seoul Olympic Games. That was his second Gold as he also won in 1984 in Los Angeles.
The dressage is split over two days and I'm sure you've read the reports here on HorsesDaily.com about the results after the first half but if not Simone Deitermann (GER) and Free Easy NRW are leading with penalty points of 36. Ingrid Klimke (GER) and FRH Butts Abraxxas are second with 41.30. In third is William Fox-Pitt (GBR) riding Cool Mountain (42).
The Eventers talked a bit about the course feeling that it was fair but also noting that fair also meant they had the option to take the longer route, but by doing so would incur penalty points.
Later in the day when we walked the course with the designer, Michael Etherington Smith, he also echoed those comments. As Michael explained he's got to design a course that will test the best Eventers in the world ensuring the right horse and rider combinations medal. At the same time he's got to create a course that will give those nations who don't have the same amount of mileage a chance to get around the course without being scared to death. It's the options that allow them to do that but in so doing Michael has to ensure that the time penalties they incur would prevent them from actually winning the event.
Vaulting Footing Gets Prepared
Vaulting Discipline Director Kersten Klophaus gave me an update.
The horses all arrived on Monday and the transport from Cincinnati "was well organized and run by professionals," he explained. The grooms and Chefs were very pleased with how everything was handled.
Everyone is also happy with the training ring. It takes place outside in what is called the Murphy Ring, which they will use until the Reiners are finished. That switch will take place on Saturday.
Now the plan is to work on the footing and so Kersten met with Christian Bauer from Otto-footing to work through changing the footing in one of the barns (#23), in the final warm-up and in the main arena. That change starts as of 8:00 p.m. on Thursday night and involves removal of dirt and putting in what are referred to as gum mats followed by Otto sand footing. The footing then needs to be graded and the arena set up, including changing some flags, setting up the judge's stands and the plant and flower decorations.
The setup is something that most people are unaware of. Each discipline needs a different type of footing or modification to the footing depending on what their needs are. The show jumpers land from high and need to have solid under them when they land but cushioned. The Vaulters have a horse that has to go around and around on pretty much the same circle. The Reiners have their signature moves, especially the sliding stop. All of these details are what dictates what kind of footing works best for each discipline.
Kersten is overseeing much of the process and plans to check in at 1:00 a.m. to measure the placement of the circle and judge's stands.
Now that the Vaulters have arrived with just days to go before they begin, the Organizing Committee is also arriving and will meet on Friday to go over everything.
So, now the Vaulters and Eventers are poised and ready.
Friday is the second half of Eventing Dressage and the Dressage Freestyle Finals takes place at night. In between I am hoping to walk the complete course. On the 30th we had a chance to walk the abbreviated course to get a taste of what is out there. Timing could be an issue as a lot happens every day but somehow we make it all work.
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