Archive | August, 2015

Where do we draw the line? Who gets to draw it?

28 Aug

Below is a link to a new shooting star in gymnastics,  Li Qi of China:



She is 13 years old, this routine is extraordinary. So extraordinary, was almost relieved she slightly muffed the final landing so she remains human and fallible.
But to perform like this…to make THIS extreme suppleness, athleticism, expression and power, balance and rhythm into her comfort zone…one has to accept the training sessions were not always pretty.
Why is this all right and not all right for horses?
I know, I know: we are their guardians, their stewards, trying to be their partners. We must speak up for them, because partnership is the crux of what we do in horse sport,whether it be to have a perfect pirouette, sliding stop, triple to an in-and-out, cones, etc etc. Partnership and communication–that is horse sport’s glory and fantasy.

Lately, there is another round of outcries about horse sport, horse welfare, training techniques, etc. Ugly photos, extreme positions..and so on.

All I ask is that people try to differentiate between what might be necessary and what is not. Which horses go into the arena basically focused and successful—and which ones do not. Because in the end, we must judge PERFORMANCE, not supposed intent.
This is why the judges at Young Horse and Aachen –among many others– gave marks that rewarded the performance they saw, not suppositions.

I know this is a can of worms, but the time to discuss this rationally is upon us. We always need to question, to debate–but we do NOT need to witch-hunt. The days of internet bashing simply have to stop: they do the sport no good, they do the trainers no good, they do us, the audience no good.


The Internet Rules Our Thoughts…we think

22 Aug

Chardon happy(Rinaldo de Craen)


The Internet is a wondrous toy, an amazing tool, and has changed the way we live. Huge money is being spent by various sources to ensure that everyone, everywhere, will be able to access The Internet (excepting of course local tribal types who will try to forbid such a doorway to knowledge).

In the world of horse sport, the European Championships at Aachen are proving just how powerful access to instant news can be.
Today was the Four-in-Hand Driving Marathon and the results decided the Team and Individual placings.
Netherlands once again won team gold–jubilation, tweets, photos, videos of happy teams and fans.

Having the marathon last–instead of the traditional middle, with the technical skill of cones last, more like 3-day-eventing uses show jumping AFTER cross-country– was a decision based on drama, emotion and spectacle.

Well, Aachen got all that, perhaps not quite the way they intended.
Because when it was over, Dutch legend Ijsbrand Chardon was on top by tenths,and his name inscribed on the Winner’s Record.
He had been leading throughout the competition, he is highly decorated–no surprise.

And then–surprise!
The results of the marathon had been re-calculated and Chardon’s score was still 162.37,(1st,3rd .1st BM  before marathon) but runner-up Michael Brauchle (GER) who has been 9th,4th, 5th up to marathon, had apparently gone even faster than first thought and now was 162.16 Somewhere, he had lost four-tenths!

chardon sad(de Hoefslag)

New tweets, new photos, new faces looking bright.
At the very very top of driving, like any other sport, the very very top live to out-perform one another, so this was a bitter pill for Chardon,despite the lovely team gold.

Apparently the electronic scoring…was imperfectly entered.

The show jumping team qualification saga..continued

CianOConnorIrelandb2012(Irish Examiner)

Over in show jumping, the Irish team vows to take their appeal as far as they can–and when one watches the video,sees the guy run into Cian O’Connor’s sight line as he and Good Luck come down to the final line of jumps…one can only be sad that their Olympic hopes came down to this ridiculous moment.
But the internet allows us to watch the moment on endless loop…so we can all weight in what the final decision should and must be.

Tomorrow is the Individual Final for show jumping as well as Vaulting’s freestyles!
Am sure the Aachen organization is hoping for sunny, mistake free day!

Charlotte Jorst

17 Aug

Charlotte Akeem 1Charlotte hacking Akeem in Florida

There are so many ways to talk about American dressage rider Charlotte Jorst.
In the past year, her local-to-California profile got raised several notches to international, thanks to being picked as part of the USEF’s CDI Observation Event Squad sent to Europe.
And then her results at prestigious CDIO 5* shows such as Hagen and Rotterdam put the cherry on the icing of the cake, most assuredly the team bronze at Rotterdam thanks in part to her Grand Prix Special ride for third place and a 71.33 behind Dutch team members Diederik van Silfhout and Patrick van der Meer.
“I think ,yes, that was my favorite memory of Europe, “ says Charlotte. “Walking through the tree-canopy trail to get to the huge show arena—and then the enormous crowd and the atmosphere! And then—everything falling together, finding my focus, feeling the flow into the next movement. “ She thinks for a moment, then adds, “That is where I really learned not to be intimidated, to realize that I can belong in this.”
One can also talk about Charlotte in terms of her horses.
Her partner in Europe was the 12 year old KWPN stallion Nintendo, and she is excited about his development. “I really think he is now getting more supple, bigger in the movements. Only the changes—but that is me, not him,” she adds with her characteristic honesty. “Just have to work harder!”
Also in Europe was Adventure, a 10 year old KWPN gelding, who gained top ten placings in small tour at the huge shows. “He is showing a real talent for piaffe and passage—I hope to bring him out at Grand Prix later this year,” she says.
Charlotte and ‘the boys’ are now back at home in Nevada, where she is enjoying being on her own, letting the two horses enjoy the longtime routine of power walks under saddle, hacking, and only once in a while, working a movement here and there. “I give them lots of praise! They really seem to love it, and I just keep giving it to them. I believe in that,’ she says.
Also at home is Akeem Foldager, the sensational gelding that Andreas Helgstrand thought to have for the Danish team. But difficulty dogged this horse before even Helgstrand had him, and has continued in his time with Charlotte. “Sadly, he is just turned out, probably for good. It is proving too difficult to keep him sound. But he has my pasture for his life, he deserves that.”
Vitalis, the magnificent KWPN stallion with whom Charlotte won US Young Horse Championship 6 year olds and then took to Verden for the international Young Horse, is now 8 years old and back in full training. Charlotte’s trainer, US Olympian Guenter Seidel, “has kept him in training while I was in Europe.” She nods, “We gave him a long time off after World Young horse, and he has had so many breeding commitments—but now he is going really well.”
“Training for top sport,” she continues, “is very demanding, very focused—and of course, nothing is ever as good as it could be. It can get very depressing. I need these times at home to just have it be me and the horses, enjoying each other, we focus only on what we want…”
Also at home is her new horse, Ray Dance, who qualified to go to Verden World Young Horse, but now is in Charlotte’s barn. “He is 6 years old, real collection is already easy for him! Riding him is very exciting!”
Her youngest horse, Forlan, was bopught as a 4 year old late last year, and has remained in Europe where he just won the Danish Nation Championship for 5 year olds. He will stay in Europe for another year because Charlotte has an ambitious showing calendar coming up. She hopes to start all of them back to competition with CDNs in California, and then go to Florida again for the winter circuit and CDIs.
And of course, there is the small matter of her growing clothing company, Kastel, which she tells me, just added 65 outlets in Germany. “Well, I like to be busy,” she says. Kastel’s sunscreen SPF shirts have added a touch of elegance to horse sport wear, and now they will have a new fall line for cooler weather—sweat jackets and shirts made of a new very fine, thin light wool cut the same as the summer shirts, long and short sleeve.
Anything Charlotte touches seems to bloom, so I ask if she any Vitalis babies. “No, not really.” But then a few days later, a text: She has just gotten word that the elegant mare she showed in Wellington, Fraktura, will need a few months off to let her hooves grow out, so off to the breeding shed (metaphorically,as this will be AI)
It will be interesting to see how all this develops as dressage riders in the US and elsewhere prepare to qualify to make teams for next year’s Olympics in Rio.
I do not count out Charlotte Jorst.

Thank heavens there is another week to go at European Championships!

16 Aug

I will absolutely print posts that hold opposing views to mine.
But I am NOT going to give time or space to diatribes based on personal emotion, NO facts, NO experience, NO knowledge, and zeal born of bigotry.
I am not not singling out people who have not done top sport, not trying to sneer at those who prefer the harmony–because I too prefer harmony! I am trying to say that the horse has a mind of its own; that the thin veneer of our training does not always hold when put up against millennia of being a prey creature, of NOT wanting to do what is asked at the moment. That competition itself is more a mental than physical undertaking for both human and alien. It is the ,yes, malicious cyber bullying–the absolutism of some statements devoid of fact, knowledge,experience– that allow me to be so sympathetic to the dressage riders. Again I ask-=-where does anyone see this in showjumping? in eventing? in reining or driving? How can a sport grow when its very fans spend so much time tearing it down?

Am grateful that eventing and reining enthusiasts managed to enjoy this year’s Europeans and the excellent competition.

Am even more grateful that Aachen/Europeans moves on this coming week to Driving, Vaulting and Show Jumping. We shall see how fans of these disciplines treat their top sport.

Dressage: The Sport That Eats Its Young

15 Aug




European Championships at Aachen are bringing out the best—and of course the worst—elements of horse sport. This is a huge stage, a stage that consistently and rightly wins best show of the year, so it is only fitting that some of the big questions go on the table here.
It remains amazing how the dressage cognoscenti—which includes everyone who has ever looked at a horse/seen a horse/thought about a horse/can spell the word ‘horse’ — know everything better than the judges, better than owners, better than riders, better than coaches and grooms.
I have read the comments, the tweets, the scathing oh so clever pieces dismantling the rides one by one, giving credit to the few acknowledged as Right and Good.
And frankly, it all makes me a little sick in the mouth.
Everyone tut-tuts that Carl Hester has ‘taken a piece of clay’ and made it into something special. Frankly: THIS IS DRESSAGE. It is about training, it is about partnership, it is about making each ride a bit better.
Carl, among his many achievements, has produced the current record holders of the sport; this partnership with Nip Tuck is yet another facet of dressage, probably the one that deserves the most applause—a trainer starting a horse, training a horse, showing a horse.
This is what Isabell Werth has been doing for decades; what Anky van Grunsven did for decades; what Edward Gal is starting to do –and has done brilliantly—with Undercover. Here is a horse that came with serious baggage , mostly from tension. And now, he has a horse that WALKS , that halts, that is beginning to truly trust the connection. This is a “robot” as some like to say? Obviously not riders.
Sure, the horse does not have the best canter. And sure, the horse is not Totilas (more on that later). But Ed is training everything, schooling everything, figuring out the best way to ask for everything—and is being rewarded by actual judges.

And many seems to believe that Charlotte Dujardin is herself like a robot, able to turn off nerves and feelings!!  This was obviously not the case in the Grand Prix  which had a few errors, and frankly was also not the case in the Grand Prix Special, where she and Valegro went to The Zone and pulled out a gorgeous test,on (her) world-record pace, but ending barely one percentage point below.
Totilas taught everyone a big lesson: that it is possible to have power and expression without negative tension. I can close my eyes and see him and Ed in one of those magical pi-pa tours, dropping into that cocky yet serene walk, ears catching for the oohs and ahhs as everyone appreciated what we were privileged to watch. A once-in-our-lifetime creature.
Now of course, everyone ‘knows’ that it is possible to have this power without tension: the breeders apparently breed for this; the riders aim for this; the judges reward all this.
And yet, Undercover is stamped a robot. A mechanical bunny manipulated by a rider.
I say total piffle.
As for Totilas, he still draws the crowds and the hordes of internet posts.

So here was Totilas II, post-Ed, post the Dutch team, and now The Comeback.

The buzz was amazing and grew from there.
At the vet check, the horse was not held but had to trot three times before the jury agreed to give the nod. This proved to be the omen for things to come.
The crowd grew as the black stallion and his current rider entered the arena and remained transfixed as the pair went through the movements.
When it was over, everyone could see that the horse had had some problems in engaging the hind end and had taken irregular steps.
And so the hounds of the internet were let loose and began baying.
The screams have only gotten louder: the horse should never have been allowed to pass vet check! Anyone can see total lameness!
Snark snark snark.
The reality is that tension and pressure on riders almost always makes for some poor timing and stutter steps. The reality is that several horses showed more irregularity than Totilas and yet were not rung out. The reality is that we have seen this magical creature probably for the last time and I for one am glad that the jury allowed us this privilege, marred as it was. I can only imagine the screams of protest if the horse had been spun at vet check and we were all left to conjecture as to what had happened.
Totilas—thank you for the great memories, they are indelibly written on my heart.