We got up early and had a very French breakfast made by our host, which beat the piece of tongue I had last night (it had hair on it, so I’m not sure what part it came from, but I can assure you as a veterinarian, it was NOT tongue). Then we headed out to watch Doug school early, then watch dressage and walk xc.
The horses are all feeling a little fresh – it is pretty cool in the morning and it was reassuring to see several riders head out to school flat work with neck straps. I feel a little less like a weenie. Quantum schooled well, but may need a bit of a gallop before dressage tomorrow. He goes at 2:40 so hopefully will be a little more settled by the time we get to that.
Next up – dressage watching. The 6-year olds went in the morning and we were able to watch the top couple of riders go. The scoring was a little difficult to understand at times – it didn’t seem the judges were all looking for the same thing and seemed to be rewarding opposite sides of the spectrum. At one point, the final scores for 1 rider were off by 11% – that’s a pretty big range and it continued across the day. It varied as well – not one single judge was always high or low. I did get to see a 10 though – for a leg yield by Cooley Moonshine who is currently leading the 6-year olds. I was impressed by Michael Jung’s ride – he rode his horse in a longer frame which I thought was better for his horse, as it is not the most elastic mover and it allowed him to show relaxation instead of cramming the horse together. The youngsters did well in the environment – some were tense, but they handled it well and no major malfunctions seemed to occur.
The 7-year olds are quite impressive. Ingrid Klimke is currently leading and had a lovely, forward test that wasn’t rushed, as some of the others I saw today were. The horses again handled everything well, and most of the tension was seen in the connection to the hand with some unsteadiness evident. There are some very heavy movers though – I wonder how they will hold up over a 4* course.
I did see the Diarado, who is currently in third and although he wasn’t as relaxed as he could have been, I continue to like him. I also liked Bogosse du Levant, an Anglo- Arab who though unsteady in his connection, was a loose, elastic mover and I think his gallop will be effortless. I guess I’ll find out!
We then walked xc with Doug, Jess, Hudson, Marilyn and Richard Payne, and some of their friends here for the event. It was kinda like a class trip, with people going ahead, having to wait for others and people falling behind to take pictures of the jumps. They are truly amazing. The course is along galloping paths which are roped off pretty narrowly, so twisty and turny with some open spaces. It is really dry here, but they continue to water and aerate, so I think the footing will be fine. The first couple of fences are pretty small (like even I would jump the first 4 or so!), and then they get harder. I gave up thinking I could ride them after about fence 6. There are a lot of accuracy questions and some very skinny corners and lines late in the course when the horses are going to be tired. I’m also unsure what the course will look like with 60,000 people roped in close – I think that might be the toughest part for Quantum.
As far as the jumps, my favorites were the snails (escargots, for you French folks) and the dragons which are jump #1. They are fairly innocuous dragons, but I like them anyway. I’m not sure which is going to be the hardest combinations on course – there is a big drop off a house roof (yes, I did say a roof), 4 strides to a skinny to a 2 strides skinny, all down a pretty good slope, and a turning question which involves a skinny ditch and wall to uneven terrain and a corner, so….
So, looking forward to tomorrow and dressage. Quantum is just starting to mature into himself, so I’m hoping this is not going to be a dressage contest. Watch the live stream and cheer us on!
Dr. Elizabeth Callahan