Archive | August, 2014

Favorite moments

29 Aug

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Michael Eilberg on the great gray mare, Half Moon Delphi. What an addition to the British team prospects!

 

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Helen Langehanenberg on the great stallion, Damon Hill; Alydar to Valegro’s Affirmed

 

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Laura Graves and Verdades, shooting stars deluxe, on the Great Adventure which just happened to be WEG, with scores climbing from mid 70’s to the 82+ today in the freestyle!

 

 

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It is really difficult to take a bad photo of this pair. Team Hester, enjoying The Zone that exists for the great ones.

 

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I’m stopping here  with images only because the internet connection in the media center at WEG has just decided to go south, along with our toilets (no am not kidding).

 

Some thoughts:

Is the glass half empty, half full, or are we always going to finish up an event by saying ‘the horses were great!’ and let that excuse everything else?

Is WEG just getting too ridiculously unprofitable to run?  Perhaps.

FEI is getting ever fewer bids, even pretending that a single bid has actually been considered carefully —  as opposed to desperately.

 

But continuing to add disciplines and require more money back from the Organizing  Committee, more proof of public and private $$–all of which seems to always disappear at the last moment—it is getting ridiculous.

 

The Olympics and World Championships in the various disciplines may prove to be the way to go, plus World Cups.

The venue for dressage, eventing’s show jumping and regular show jumping is all in this soccer stadium, D’Ornano. There are no vendors, toilets that are holes in the ground and defy anyone to move fast enough not to get splashed by back-flush. There is a security force who are one step removed–maybe only half a step– from the notorious Hell’s Angels at Altamont, a generation ago at the Rolling Stones concert that will always be remembered for the thuggery and death ,rather than the music.

It is difficult to build horse sport when someone not already a fan of something has to decide what to go see, and then finds out there is nothing to see.—the parking is execrable and there are no shops, barely a hot dog stand and one over-priced brasserie the size of a postage stamp with huge lines.
 

 

I stop to take a photo of the anatomically complete and correct metal rearing horse that looks like Hi-Yo Silver but is supposed to be a Percheron stallion.

 

 

We have afternoon break entertainment today! Usually they just lock everyone out of the stadium in order to ensure ticket collection for paid AM and paid PM  performances.

Buying a ticket to a performance at the stadium guarantees the holder a section of the stadium–but not an assigned seat.

When they kick people out of stadium at lunch break, there have been fistfights when people return and find OTHER people screaming they now have those particular seats and to go elsewhere in that section.

But non! Today’s 15 freestyle rides is one ticket.

So we shall have the medal ceremony for endurance.

Individual gold goes to Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum, yes a close relative of Sheikh Mohammed. Hamdan was being investigated (really?????) by FEI for riding a ringer horse at least once in competition and arranging for all data on the horse to be erased from the FEI online database.

Also, Team gold goes to Spain.  The team’s  lead rider, Jaume Punti Dachs, is the head trainer  for  the Maktoum endurance stable in Newmarket,England —where the illegal veterinary drugs came in on the private Dubai plane.

And then, everyone troops back into the stadium,herded by the security, and we watch 7 horses get over 80 per cent.

WEG dressage is over.

 

 

 

 

 

They came….they saw….they conquered

29 Aug

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Carl Hester after Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro finish their freestyle on92.16 to take the Freestyle Gold at this year’s WEG

 

More photos and stories later.

Elvis. Marilyn. Ali. Valegro.

28 Aug

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The Grand Prix Special is over. The cake is baked. Only the icing—the Freestyle—still to come.

 

Enough of the cooking metaphor. But Valegro really was on fire in his test, rider-partner Charlotte Dujardin did not ‘have the knife between the teeth’ as Dutch friends like to say—Charlotte WAS the knife. (Hm, cooking metaphor still firmly in place).

 

They came in, 9’s popping up everywhere. For a few movements, it seemed possible we would see a technical test in the 90 range.

Then Valegro pooped just as he was about to perform first piaffe, and the test came crashing down to the high 80s we have come to expect of this pair.

 

There were many fantastic rides.

Each rider of course has to set the goal, the psychological parameters: making the top 30 for the Special; placing top 15 for the upcoming Freestyle; placing top 3 for a medal.

 

And of course, for this pair—being the best and pushing the boundaries.

No sooner does a champion get made, the detractors set on to say the performance, the athletic endeavor, is really less; that the support is over the top.

But this is a horse that does, as trainer- and co-owner ** –and all around dressage rock star Carl Hester likes to say, “ seem to have read the book already.”

And this is a rider who keeps pushing herself to be better, to live up to the horse’s athleticism and precision.

 

The reports on the Special are already all over the place, not to mention videos, and for some livestream and so on,. so shall just pick favorite moments from the day’s performances, in no particular order.

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Diederik van Silfhout, 26 years old, Dutch Young Rider champion, Rabobank Talent star, son of Grand Prix trainer Alex van Silfhout, and his partner, the 8 year old, green and immature  but also focused, supple and elegant KWPN stallion, Arlando (Paddox x Mytens xx).

Paddox is by the wonderful Ferro, so one can say both horse and rider come by their success legitimately (and Mytens xx is a wonderful Thoroughbred sport horse sire).

 

Only called up for team a few weeks ago, this 2nd reserve pair outdid themselves at this level and show that the Dutch have a rosy horizon.

 

 

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U.S. rider Laura Graves (also 26 years old)  and her 12 year old KWPN gelding, Verdades (Florett As x Liwilarda). This pair is just on The Great Adventure—it’s like a video game!

They barely scrape into the US Selection Trials (and then only because of withdrawals), make the team shortlist, placing 2nd overall behind superstar Steffen Peters, and then go on to super performances in Europe, rolling along and gaining confidence (“success breeds confidence; confidence breeds success” said Yoda or someone) and then laid down beautiful performances here at WEG, rides full of harmony and expression.

 

 

Cannot wait to see what surprises await in the Freestyle tomorrow.

They will include, I am sure, this rider and horse–I suspect there is something left in the tank for tomorrow!

 

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**  And shout out to Carl Hester’s co-owners:

THANK YOU

to Roly Luard for the incomparable support of Valegro and keeping together the team;

and  to Jane de la Mare for Nip Tuck, just such a lovely example of believing in a horse!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why are there no photos of Legolas or Valegro in that last story???

26 Aug

yes,faithful readers, you may notice that I have no photos of Legolas or Valegro from todays Grand Prix at WEG.
Well, here’s the  story:
I went to take photos of Legolas in warm-up and was told that –despite the FEI rule which has been in place that says warm-up arenas are open–the arenas had been closed. “New rules!” said one of the psychopath security guards.
So,after arguing unsuccessfully with the two thugs,I went back to competition arena where the usual hassle took place with yet more security guards (you are not wearing your photographer vest! you MUST wear it,not carry it!”)

Much to my amazement, I saw the FEI Director of Dressage, Trony Asmyr,so gaily skipped over to him to find out what happened to the FEI rule on warm-up being open.

Without batting an eyelash, he informed me this closing of the arenas had nothing to do with FEI (!!!) and to take it up with “the Organizing Committee.”

I knew I had been beaten–this was one on one and he had much better cards than I did,not to mention access numbers–the Holy Grail of getting around a WEG.

Anyway,found a spot pulled out camera–dead battery. Went to hotfoot it back to media center to get new battery,started through the gate,but the guard stopped me. You have to go around–he points all the way to the other end of the stadium. After more conversation, he points out I do not have a photographer vest on and therefore must use the vacation-person entrance.
Which is how I realized I was missing my vest. I turned around in a total panic. This vest is EVERYTHING for access. Eventually, after getting his jollies torturing me by telling me no I could not go back, he gave me two minutes of which I needed 30 seconds as one of the few NICE security people handed me my vest.
The psychopath made me put it on and off I ran.
And then I realized the horse coming through the tunnel was Valegro.
So I just stood there and admired the ride with everyone else and consoled myself with the thought of even more incredible photos of both horses from the GPS and the kur.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

And….team dressage is over! And…They’re back!

26 Aug

Charlotte and Blueberry

 

 

He’s back!

Valegro produced the kind of performance we’ve come to expect of him and that was such a shock when the plot (and timing) got lost at Aachen.

 

Under pressure (mostly from herself), Charlotte Dujardin knew she and Blueberry needed about a 76+ for the bronze and about an 81 for silver.

 

Without doubt, this is one of the great partnerships—and both athletes have to be up for it to achieve the over-80 score.

 

When he came in, Valegro looked rather tight, but as the test went on, both athletes found a better connection and just kept sailing higher. The canter work was a highlight, the twos huge and bouncing and then the ones…equally expressive!

The monkey was off her back and the pair just glided through the pirouettes and final centerline.

 

They defined all our buzzwords.

 

Balance and rhythm.

Uphill, power, expression, supple, focused, able to collect and extend, able to stay supple laterally…able to move us by sheer performance excellence.

 

85.271—for most horses, not even a dream. For this pair—not quite the magic world record they already hold.

 

Applause for Team Hester.

Once again, Carl Hester has provided 2/3 of the team scores and in fact trains not only Charlotte,but also helps Gareth Hughes with Nadonna—the 4th team member today.

 

Press conference later, am sure Carl will be witty and buoyant and we will report clever sayings. But under that lies not only the heart of a champion, but a man of real grace and inner strength.

I like to think it is this generosity of spirit that is the main attraction for so many people, as well as the ability to enchant us.

 

So Germany won team gold; Great Britain—thanks to Blueberry’s monster score—jumped into silver; and Netherlands, despite the loss of two team horses held on for team bronze.

 

The U.S. fought for and was awarded 4th place, and can be very proud of the job accomplished here. It took all four riders to dig down and earn every last point, and less than one percentage point separated them from Spain who eared 5th place.

I am NOT a nerd–dressage made me do it!

26 Aug

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Damon Hill and Helen Langehanenberg

 

 

It is finally the last rotations…cannot say ‘the heavy hitters’ because so many of those have gone since the first ride all those many hours ago yesterday, with D’Agostino and Arlando showing the strength of Germany and Netherlands as they went first for each team.

 

And of course, first ride this morning was the so-far still leader and definite newly anointed superstar pair, Isabell and the mare Bella Rose.

 

Many highlights, many little moments that aficionados will discuss over video and beer or wine or whathaveyou.

 

Helen Langehanenberg and Damon Hill sealed the German team gold, the rumor is that the horse may be sold after WEG, but she rode for every point. It was interesting to see that the piaffe is more on the spot, but perhaps at the cost of balance as he appears to carry more on forehand in return for immobility.

 

Vici Max-Theurer and Augustin lived up to every promise of their salad days ,before the changes went south, before the piaffe was too stilted and un-offered. They had the kind of ride that makes one glad the sport exists—kudos to them ,this has always been one of my favoritehorses. No less an expert than Uwe Mechlem, the German super judge who teaches the other judges how to judge Grand Prix ( “No, I do not need the test sheet, I ride the test often enough that I like to think I know it by now”) picked this horse as one of the best in the world.

 

Sometimes, promise takes a while to be achieved.

 

Parzival and Adelinde Cornelissen, needing a 74-75 to displace the Spanish team sitting in provisional 2nd, of course accomplished that and more. With a 79.629 , of course the pair lived up to their star status and achieved every point, with well over 80 from 2 of the judges.

 

Still to come—Legolas and Steffen Peters for the United States;

Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro for Great Britain.

 

Mathematically, either can displace Spain for bronze, as Spain is done and currently 3rd as a team.

 

And of course, Donnperignon for Denmark has been going very well, as have Tiine Wilhelmson and Don Auriello for Sweden.

 

 

Hey—this is what passes for excitement in dressage.

 

Back later.

 

 

 

 

 

Decorative touches….maybe

26 Aug

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The above is the decoration of this WEG. He is outside (naturally) The Presidential Loge.

His twin is several hundred feet  away, maybe 5 lightyears in terms of access and cofmfort, in front of General Admission.

 

Here’s another great shot of the showgrounds.

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And yes, they do have several of those exciting white tents. Most of them house off-limit spots for officials,security,etc.

Other photos–of the Presidential Loge, of the red-white-blue twine that keeps You from going up or down stairs from one area to another, of the little touches that make one wonder what the other venues look like —  are apparently now missing from the camera.

Maybe a gift from The President, maybe I left the lens cap on.

As Scarlett O’Hara (sort of)  said, “Oh fiddlesticks! But there’s always tomorrow!”