Mack’s Moments “Dressage Takes Center Stage” Thursday’s Grand Prix

Friday, April 17, 2009
Posted by Christy

With Brian O’Connor doing his darnedest to convince the fevered crowd to lower its pitch, Adrienne Lyle came onto center stage of the Thomas & Mack arena. In yesterday’s mutterings about the warm-up for this dressage competition I referred to this test ride as an opportunity for the judges to attune their measuring devices. Particularly after some of the recent hubbub over judging standards and the equitable application of the expectations of “O” Level judges , such a ride seems to this observer a sine qua non (an indispensable item in the toolbox of every reputable dressage contest).

Photo Credit: Ruth S. McCormick

Ms. Lyle and her mount (Wizard [10 year old Oldenburg gelding by Weltmeyer]) gave the judges plenty upon which to chew by the time she left the ring. Again today our highly favored announcer, Brian O’Connor, pointed out that Jan Ebeling’s having ridden this test ride the last time the World Cup was hosted by this Las Vegas venue sets a very high standard since Jan is one of the fourteen competitors in 2009.

As if to read this scribbler’s mind, Mister Ebeling and his buddy, Rafalca (an Oldenburg mare, Argentinius x Rubinstein) entered the arena but rode a rocky test from beginning to end. I am fairly certain that my co-worker, Ms. DeRosa, will dive into the technical aspects of Jan’s and Rafalca’s problems. Permit me only to comment that anyone who has ever sat a ride will sympathize with Jan as he pulled himself and his mount back into form and completed the test with a score of 53.915.

Photo Credit: Diana DeRosa

Hard on the heels of this first competing rider of the day came the second of three US entrants, Leslie Morse and Kingston. After the first few movements of the test, this pair of competitors were rung off the field by the judge at C (Maribel Alonso de Quinanos, who bravely stepped in to replace Doctor Vincenzo Truppa as the latter is in exile not on Elba but somewhere off the coast of Iceland. The impression of those of us who had been watching the test up until the ringing of the dreaded bell was that Leslie’s body position seemed out of kilter – perhaps a sign that she was compensating for some lameness of her teammate. And then there were two (both two horses scratched and only two US riders left in the running). Not a propitious start to the three days of dressage when all is said and done.

Stepping up to the plate in short order was the brave soul named Marco Bernal aboard the lady horse, Diamore (Dutch Warm Blood, Diamond x Fruhling). With a sizable contingent of ardent fans sitting just above the in gate urging him on, Marco demonstrated the tenacious spirit of Colombian blood finishing his test with a score of 62.553 in his first World Cup.

Once upon a time (and very successful) three-day event rider, Australian, Heath Ryan (onboard Regardez Moi [a Rubinstein kid]) bore the colors of the Pacific League into the ring. The jet black stallion was responsive to his master’s every wish, but the two of them were the second victims of Ms. Alonso’s assertive ringing of the bell as they omitted the halt at C in an early part of their test. After a “humbled school boy” returned to C and performed the appropriate halt, Ryan continued on to garner a cumulative score of 64.638. An accomplishment not to be sneezed at given the early difficulties. Nicely done, Keith and Regardez Moi.

Next onstage were the first couple representing Sweden, Minna Telde on Don Charly (Swedish Warmblood, Don Gregory x Inschallah [Mom’s name is an Arabic word meaning “If God wills it,” a not bad sentiment for any sport horse . . . let’s see if her boy lives up to Mom’s name]). In between my attempts to carefully watch Ms. Telde’s test I could not help but notice that she is a nonconformist when it comes to the tack of her mount. The majority (read “nearly all”) of the riders in the higher echelon choose a traditional black dyed leather for their tack. Here we see a horse fitted out with natural, reddish-color leather. Don Charly lived up to his appearance as a non-conformist as he exceeded the efforts of his peers who preceded him in the ring and finished the test with a score of 68.979.

The rider’s draw held on Wednesday evening placed the two Swedish riders cheek-by-jowl (can you tell that I’m a Midwestern boy, born and bred?) with the most senior team at this year’s World Cup, Jan Brink and his 18-year-old partner, Briar (Swedish Warm Blood, Magini x Krocket). Briar put his hoof down early in the ride and made it clear that he would leave the international ring with all his energy left on the field of play. The more senior of the Swedish horses fulfilled Jan’s wish that his partner say farewell to the sport while near the top of his form. The duo departed from this day’s Grand Prix with a score of 70.043.

The hushed assembly saw, just before the interval, the Maple Leaf proudly borne by Ashley Holzer on Pop Art (Dutch Warm Blood, Amsterdam x Cabouchon). Ashley (who has represented her nation in three Olympic games thus far in her career) aimed to keep the crowd in a hushed state until they might rise in adulation at the end of her test. Her Passage work did the trick as most of the folks sitting near me were absorbed by the team’s 70 plus score for the movement. The remainder of the test showed that “Poppy” (as Pop Art is called around the barnyard) did not disappoint. He finished this day with a score of 72.511.

Photo Credit: Ruth S. McCormick

First representatives of the three pairs (after the withdrawing of Parzival) contesting on behalf of the Netherlands, Jeanette Haazen and Nartan (Dutch Warm Blood, Jazz x Le Faquin), came into the arena minus their pink accoutrements of the warm-up day. In place of pink-almost-everything (I chose not to inquire about their unmentionables yesterday), Ms. Haazen sported an orange collar as well as orange vest tips on her shadbelly (the better to match the orange-nearly-everything of the Dutch fans in the stands). Even this flashy orange paled by comparison with the horse and rider’s competence. Neither the “bling” of sequins that edged the orange elements of Jeanette’s garment nor the flash of the pair’s performance could lift these Dutch folk above the Canadians who continued to hold their mid-competition lead. Jeanette and Nartan left for the stalls taking with them a total of 70.383.

Perhaps as much anticipated because of the music he has selected for his and Randon’s (Polish Warm Blood, Czuwa x Famino) as for his superlative work in the Central European League, Michal Rapcewicz was under a careful scrutiny by the assembly in the Thomas & Mack. A solid ride put them solidly in the middle of the pack going into Saturday night’s Freestyle with a cumulative 68.128.

[If you haven’t picked up this tidbit of data from Diana DeRosa’s excellent reports or from other sources of information, this year’s World Cup will see all of the remaining thirteen pairs riding their Freestyles. This is a change from previous years when only those who were in the running for the championship were permitted to show the prowess of their Freestyles.]

Hans Peter Mindenhoud’s arrival in the ring proved (once again) that I am far from infallible. I wrote in yesterday’s report on the dressage warm-up that there were only two mares in this year’s World Cup. Hans Peter’s colleague, Exquis Nadine (Dutch Warm Blood, Partout x Roemer) took me to the side and gave me an oh-so-gentle chiding because I had neglected her membership in the fairer sex. (She may forgive me. We shall see). This gentleman and his lady partner – both from the Netherlands – showed the form with which they had helped the Dutch win the team silver at the Olympic Games in 2008. Their consistency in all the movements at one point so bedazzled the judges that none of them lowered their score in the Pirouette to the left in spite of a bobble which so many of us seated around the ring clearly saw. Bedazzling left to the side for the moment, they completed this test scoring 73.064 and taking the lead away from Ashley Holzer. Of course, there remain a formidable number of riders and their horses.

One of those formidable pairs, Isabell Werth and Satchmo (Hanoverian, Sao Paulo x Legat), boldly strode into view. As notable to my eye as their fluid strides in every phase of the test is the completely immovable halt this pair can show. Isabell asks and Satchmo complies. Gee! I wonder to what other rider in this year’s World Cup I might be comparing Isabell and Satchmo?

In spite of a slip here and there (most noticeably in their two-tempis near the end of the ride) the full number of the judges approved highly of the German pair’s test. The reward for their hard work was a 73.745 to barely bump Minderhoud into second place with three top riders left to be seen.

Photo Credit: Cealy Tetly

It was to me almost palpable that Painted Black (Dutch Warm Blood, bore on his broad shoulders the weight of Salinero. In the run up to these games Anky was not visibly upset when the FEI stood by its rules and told her that her only ride that qualified for the World Cup was Painted Black. As Anky and her co-worker progressed through the Grand Prix test there was nary a sign that she would rather be riding any other horse. [Anne Gribbons remarked to me as the ride progressed, “Anky could make a kitchen chair do Grand Prix.] To prove me wrong in my snide observation of an earlier paragraph, the pair’s final halt in front of the judge at C was as steady as one could hope to see.

As has been seen before, the walk on a loose rein is not so willing as one might like to see. (Well, not so relaxed as this observer of the sport would prefer to see. Let us leave it at that.) In spite of this McCormick person’s nit picking, the professional judges from around this globe of ours rewarded Mrs. Van Grunsven and Painted Black with a 74.17. The tug of war for this day’s top position continued with Isabell being pushed down one stair.

The appropriately well-behaved crowd that surrounded the magic rectangle broke into spontaneous applause at the introduction of Steffen Peters and Ravel (Dutch Warm Blood, Contango x Democraat). Hopes are high for what this team will show us, not only in this match, but also through the many years (God willing!) that they have ahead.

Photo Credit: Ruth S. McCormick

The larger assembly stopped short of the European style of hissing at disapproval when some judges bestowed mere 7’s for the pair’s half pass near the end of the test. The crowd was on the side of the angels in their opinion when the judges finally toted up the five minutes of work with a numeral of 77.915 (Linda Zang at H totaled their effort with an 80.0. ‘Nuff said!)

Wrapping up the first phase of the dressage competition we in the stands waited with ‘bated breath to see whether Monica Theodorescu and her mount, Whisper (Baden-Württemberg, Welt Hit I O x Weltstar) could push Steffen and Ravel out of the lead they had just taken. We call these examinations of horses and riders “tests,” do we not? Questions are posed by the standardized movements each team is required to face, and the answers they give have verdict passed upon them by the schoolmasters/schoolmistresses.

Monica and Whisper applied themselves to this test giving all of us who watched the impression that this was just “another day at the office.” No perceptible sweat worked up on either brow, although Whisper did show us the froth around his mouth one hopes to see from a worker who both knows and enjoys his labor. The two of them scribbled their last answers as they proceeded down the midline with appreciable piaffe and passage. The folks who graded their examination conferred to the team an examination score of 70.128 to place them seventh as the day wound down.

When this day’s work was wrapped up many happy citizens of these United States left the arena with smiles upon their faces. Going into the second and last set of examination questions the humble gentleman, Steffen Peters, who always points to his teammate as the crowd applauds, leads the pack. I, for one, am willing to follow this good man’s lead.

But, it ain’t over yet. (I DO hope that the schoolmasters in the audience will forgive my grammatical indiscretion). Please stay tuned as we here at Dressage Daily do all we are able to bring you the excitement and the joy of this competition in the final examination, the Freestyle.

Related Links:
EuroDressage  - 27th February 2009 - Judging at the Edge
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