Archive | July, 2012

Grace Under Pressure= OLYMPICS!!!

30 Jul

 

<< A July 2 story in Al Jazirah newspaper quoted Prince Nawaf bin Faisal outlining the conditions for female participation in London, saying they must “wear suitable clothing that complies with Sharia (Islamic law) … the athlete’s guardian agrees to attend with her … (and) there must be no mixing with men during the Games.”>.

So I guess we will never see  Dalma Rushdi Malhas or any other female equestrian until and unless such ideas change.

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There is no way to wear the hijab and comply with the idea of a helmet. There is no way to cover one’s body in loose-fitting clothes and ride.

And most of all—there is no way to go to ANY international event and not ‘mix with men’.

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Well, once upon a time, we had USET team HQ. Very majestic, imposing, a ploace where it was easy to see that dreams were being made. Now we have a teeny weeny  piece of land, like a toy farm, surrounded by golf course etc.

I remember going when it was still ‘the Team’ and we competed to see who could shine the brass balls that decorated the stall front doors…when walking down the aisle, history and greatness was everywhere, every ghost, every legend.

So  three of the legends are now being honored with …a courtyard!!

The Hamilton Farm Stable Courtyard

Yes, that is all there is room for now, in terms of honors.

The courtyard will honor three U.S. showjumping legends — Frank D. Chapot, George H. Morris and William C. Steinkraus–  three men  who have helped create and define U.S. Showjumping and really, the international top sport.

The dedication has been made possible through a gift made to the Gladstone Fund by Jane Forbes Clark, United States Equestrian Team Foundation President, and will take place on Saturday, October 6, 2012.

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Olympic eventing is in the middle of what used to be the meat and potatoes—cross-country—and which is now a Dieter’s Version of the sport. Nevertheless, grace under pressure abounds everywhere and this is proving to be a thriller, right through to the last ride.

Here’s hoping dressage provides as many wonderful moments of what it is to be a champion.

My favorite quote for my favorite riders/horses still remains tennis great Billie Jean King’s advice:

“Champions adjust and embrace the pressure.”

 

Yayyyy Olympics! (and thank heavens it only happens once every 4 years!)

 

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Almost here! Almost here! Almost here!

23 Jul

There’s news this week—there is always “news”, right?
But it is the week before the closest spectacle we have to Hunger Games—the Summer Olympics.
And basically, it is a long, collectively held breath that will not be released until Opening Ceremony.
The Internet has changed everything.
So much is out there to be read, listened to, looked at.
2008, we were happy to have the internet.
2012—it has taken over. There are so many blogs. So many twitter accounts.
So many photos. So much Facebook. So much media…

The only thing missing are the carefully guarded vet reports and private life details. Those are all in PRIVATE tweets and phone texts and calls.
Nevertheless, two tidbits:
The Steven Colbert lesson with Michael Barisone will be this Thursday—thank heavens Viacom and DIRECTV have settled.
The lesson is the result of the intense media frenzy jump-started to a great deal by Colbert when he picked dressage as his summer Olympic sport and created a small industry in foam fingers to be waved at the US Olympic trials, after Colbert gently poked humor at the shadbellies and tophats of dressage, using Jan Ebeling and Rafalca as his models.
and
Markus Gribbe appears to be MIA from Canadian dressage team—he was not at Hartpury, does not appear to be getting ready for London. Gribbe has had many interesting jobs, including but not limited to: auction rider Vechta; trainer for the Becholsheimers; partnership with Harli Seifert, the well-known breeder; and so on.
Instead, former Canadian team coach, the US Olympic rider Robert Dover, was ringside at Hartpury and has said on his own website he will be ringside at the Olympics for the Canadians.
Of course, Gribbe’s original contract really only ran until Nov-Dec.2011, so it is possible that a decision was made months ago to just wing it for a while.
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And so, it is only right and fitting to close with Olympic predictions.

Dressage:
Team .
1. Great Britain
2. Germany
3. Netherlands
Individual
I tried to do this several times, but am wimping out and will just alphabetically list horses in my Top Ten:
Augustin/ V. Max-Theurer
Desperados/ K. Sprehe
Digby/ Princess Natalie
Mistral Hojris/ L/ Bechtolsheimer
Parzival/A .Cornelissen
Ravel/ S. Peters
Scandic/ P. Kittel
Undercover/ E.Gal
Uthopia/ C.Hester
Valegro/ C.Dujardin

And my sentimental favorite for kur is Salinero/ A. van Grunsven. I NEVER bet against them.

And looking ahead, for 2014, the name that will be added here will be Isabell Werth on something amazing.

On to the Games! Here’s hoping everyone , horse and rider have personal best!

 

 

 

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Getting closer and closer…and closer

16 Jul

It is almost difficult to concentrate on this past weekend:
yes, Isabell Werth’s El Santo has decided piaffe is not beyond him, and got positive marks for this movement at Falsterbo’s World Dressage Masters show; yes, Patrik Kittel’s Scandic is starting to show the form that earned him individual bronze at last year’s Europeans; yes the future stars of dressage showed up at European YR and J championships (if you do not know what YR and J stand for, you don’t care anyway) and laid down tests that take one’s breath away and make one believe that there will be a future to horse sport; and…so on.

BUT everything now is in context to Olympics.
We are barely double digits away from Opening Ceremony. (Friday July 27, 2012, but who’s counting?)

Nerves will probably decide horse sports as well as just about all other athletic categories.
Who can focus. Who can stay in an ongoing ‘zone of concentration’. Who can cancel out atmosphere.

But with horse sport, there is the Great Intangible: the Other Mind.
We spend lots of time tuning in that other mind, asking it to stay on a particular frequency (no worries, the radio analogy stops here).

But the Other Mind…has a mind of its own. Which is why sense of humor, as well as humility, is one of the touchstones for successfully being involved with a horse.
Only horse sport pairs one ambitious athlete with an athlete of alien mind and interests and prizes partnership above all.

The Olympics are almost here, casting the big and encompassing shadow that comes once every four years.

Here is hoping every rider can settle down, believe it is just another day, another show, another arena or course.
Because for the horses–that is exactly what it is.

And may all produce personal best.

9 Jul

What a week.

The Totilas saga  is now in…recess.  Everything about this story has been topsy-turvy, so this most recent chapter just figures. The horse was bought  by German interests amidst great protest from perennial  rival Netherlands  two years ago, with one great goal in mind: Olympics.

Current rider Matthias Rath,  27 and seemingly “healthy as a horse” (written obviously by someone who has never had the care of top-sport horses, all of whom can suffer near-calamity on a weekly basis) contracted mononucleosis and now is “not fit to compete”—which is what we usually say about horses, not riders.

So no Totilas at the Olympics.

 

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Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro recently set the world record for the GPS,  88.02 at Hagen CDI****, and now, at Hartpury CDI *** have set the British record for GP freestyle, 90.65, less than 2% from the world record still held by Totilas with former partner, Edward Gal.

Valegro is just one of the most exciting horses to make his way around ‘the sandbox’ –the most difficult transitions and movements all performed almost carefree, as though they are his own idea, the rider just following his lead in a dance.

What is there to say about this extraordinary horse, his extraordinary rider and perhaps key to it all, the extraordinary  owner-trainer-teammate  Carl Hester. Everyone knows that Carl has accomplished a most (here it comes) extraordinary feat in not only producing a world class horse for himself in the wonderfully elastic and expressive stallion Uthopia, but also producing Valegro at the same time as mentoring Charlotte who has worked closely with Carl for the last 5 years or so and has brought Valegro on herself, under his watchful eye.

Together, these two combinations  are two-thirds of England’s hopes for gold in a few weeks in Olympic dressage. As the third third is Laura Bechtolsheimer and Mistral Hojris (who was the former British record holder and has been the shining light of British dressage these past several years), hopes and hearts are high.

No one before this has ever produced another rider at this level at the same time for the same team.

 

So  icon of bowing down to Carl Hester—may the wheel of fortune continue to find him right on the top for a long time and most deservedly, at least through  August.

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Aachen almost always wins Show of the Year for the annual  L’Annee Hippique records, and this year had its share of excitement, of course, although some of the most hair-raising moments were sins of omission rather than commission.

The PSG had stars this year, and one of them, the  epitome of elasticity and elegance, the 8 yr old mare UNO Donna Unique, ridden now by Swedish Olympic rider Patrik Kittel, won the class with 4 of the 5 judges placing the pair clearly first. Only Wim Ernes disagreed—placing them not 2nd but 4th! (below who???)

In the Int.One, however, it was Ernes sitting at C as head judge and after only a few movements, he rang the bell, citing blood on the mouth.

Kittel pulled up in astonishment, shrugged and then walked the mare around the outside of the arena, showing her to the confused spectators (what? Why was the bell rung?) who clapped for their favorites  until he and the mare disappeared from view at the out-gate.

And so Ernes’ choice in the PSG now easily won the Int.One. Vici Max-Theurer and Della Cavalleria are also a charming and athletic pair, both world-class (and indeed Max-Theurer   deservedly won  Aachen’s Best Rider award as the dressage rider with the highest  aggregate of scores).

It’s just to be hoped that she would have preferred her win with her main competition able to finish their test as well.

 

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More Excitement: MMB 1st alternate for German SJ team with her 9 yr old Holsteiner  mare Bella Donna.

Yes, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, the darling of Rolex, World Cup and countless German showjumping teams and medals, will travel  with the team to London as 1st alternate/replacement. So even though brother-in-law the even more famous icon Ludger Beerbaum will not be going to London, a Beerbaum will continue the Olympic tradition.
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One thing about Aachen—dressage horses can win real money AND make teams!

Although World Dressage Masters offers pots more money, everyone knows that most dressage riders have only one top horse and have to plan their calendar so as to peak at qualifying events in the hopes of making whatever team they are trying to qualify for. Olympics,  WEG, Europeans—and now the new plum ,European Equestrian Games –aka  WEG without the rest of the pesky horse world who just cock everything up and irritate the  Europeans!

Coincidentally, this plum has been awarded to Aachen for its inaugural run in 2015. This will maybe help soothe the wound opened when the FEI grandly announced that Aachen, Spruce Meadows, etc.  will now have to submit bids for Nations Cup—if indeed anyone can financially keep up with the Saudi and Chinese bids,etc., as FEI spells it out: globali$$$ation.

But I digress.  Desperados ,ridden by Kristina Sprehe, winner of the GP, GPS and 2nd in the kur, amassed 44,800 euros. And a spot on the German Olympic dressage team.  They also won Best Dressage Horse.

The traditional award, Best Horse at Aachen was, of course, won by a showjumper, in this case Embassy II, who amassed 48,000 euros , including a 4th in the Rolex GP, right behind the aforementioned MMB,who was 3rd.

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Michael Whitaker wins with Totilas …

The British show jumper Michael Whitaker has won countless titles, medals  and international classes  in his career—but never the Grand Prix of Aachen, despite several attempts. “I will not quit until I am on the winner’s board,” he declared.

There is a “winner’s wall” at Aachen, and the night before the class, Whitaker climbed up and added his own name. In the space for Horse, he wrote… Totilas!

 

All this came to light when he and Gig Amai actually won the class and their names inscribed in the ceremony reserved for such inscriptions. Whitaker professed to have no idea how his name  had come to be already there, smiled and said ,”Well, it’s true enough now!”

New security precautions have now been put into place regarding the wall.

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What is wrong with horse sport in the US?

Answer: There is no central place to go to find information, so how can anyone get really interested let alone excited.

I tried to find the US showjumping team. I could not find it.

NOT the long list, but the final four named. 15 minutes, including going to USEF,  going to Google.

And then—I went abroad. The time it took to click on the link and away we go.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/olympics/equestrianism/

That link is a huge public daily newspaper.

And before anyone says-well of course, London and by extension GBR hosting Olympics—such information is easily available in most countries that have any interest in horse sports.

One might think that it would be a simple matter to pick oh say USAToday .com and ask them for an Olympic spot and just like the Telegraph, cover “equestrian”

But that would mean someone expending the energy to do that…so far, not happening in the US of A.

In the end, I realized no one here reads when they can watch, whether it be TV, smartphone, tablet etc. So I went to www.nbcolympics.com  and was able to find my answer. Of course, that is just for this Olympics, carried proudly by NBC, but better than nothing. Sigh.

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How many equestrians will get to be flagbearers??

Olympic equestrian show jumping champion  Rodrigo  Pessoa will be Brazil’s flag-bearer at the opening ceremony for the London Games. Pessoa will be participating in his sixth Olympics and trying to win his fourth medal.

I wonder if legendary Canadian  showjumper Ian Millar going to his TENTH Olympics (a record) will be flag bearer for Canada  ??

Hope so!

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Hypersensitivity—the sleeping giant of FEI raises its head again—must be the smell of the Olympics!

Hypersensitivity is a condition of NATURALLY occurring sensitive spots on a horse’s leg—ie, from banging the leg while in the stall or perhaps over a jump.

Hypersensitization is a condition of CHEMICALLY induced hypersensitivity to make a horse’s leg more sensitive—ie, clipping to produce razor burn, rubbing with capsaicin,etc.

 

Dennis Lynch has been named to one of the two Olympic spots for Irish showjumping.

So his horse is examined before Nation’s Cup, and is cleared to jump. Does jump, is re-examined and it is determined that in jumping he hypersensitized his already-known but not hypersensitized cut on leg and so he is DISQUALIFIED from the event he just completed.

He is not held for wrongdoing. He is not disqualified from further competition on other horses at the show.

No, he is simply DQ’d from the class he was cleared to go in—after he has gone.

My head is spinning.

Now the Irish Federation wants to remove Lynch from the Olympic slot.

http://www.rte.ie/sport/equestrian/2012/0707/328239-lynch-clarifies-aachen-ordeal/

 

What you say, the link does not work? That is because  the Irish Federation has taken down all links to this story.  Transparency in action!

More breaking news when it happens .  As they say.

 

slow news week,but the mind can wander

2 Jul
Ed and Toto

There was a time they both looked happy.