The Long and Winding Road, part 2

So, we flew over to France Saturday night/Sunday morning, afternoon, evening.  It seems like that day goes on for a week.  Of course, you all know how much work is involved in leaving horses when you leave home, so I spent the last day shipping some horses one place and some another, writing out instructions, and taking care of all the other animals as well.  Whew!  And I feel really guilty that I’m missing the YEH Championships this week at Fair Hill, as I have a young TB mare in the 4-year-old class and won’t see her go.  Can’t be in 2 places at one time though!

We spent 2 days in Paris, not much horse related except for the 3 degrees of equine Kevin. Bacon.  We were invited to a dinner party Tuesday night where one of the guest’s daughter had spent the summer riding with Adrienne Lorio, who had come to try a 3-year-old of mine last year.  Small equine world indeed! We walked all over Paris, and although it is a beautiful city, it is way crowded for this person.

We left Paris this am and drove down to Le Lion, which was about a 3-hour drive – other than some major confusion about the tolls, and no earthly idea how to figure out what we were going to owe at the end, it went well.  Thank God for credit cards. The country is beautiful, rolling and lots of trees.  It looks pretty dry, and I’m not too sure how the footing will be.  The towns are small, the roads narrow and they look a lot like small town rural America – boarded up buildings and store fronts.  The difference is that the towns here have older stone houses that are boarded up, and the cost of redoing them to today’s expectations must be staggering.

We are staying in an Air BnB about 15 minutes from Le Lion and it is a house that was built in 1650 (or so!)  and has been totally redone. It is fabulous, and thanks to GPS, we can actually get back and forth with only minor discrepancies.

I didn’t get too much of a look at the course yet – a few fences were visible from the road and included a giant set of brush snails(!), a violin, and the spider.

We got here in time to watch the jog up and I’ll share my impressions with you.  First, the horses were all beautifully turned out. I’m not sure I’m a fan of the braided tail look, – mostly because they look half way done to me after looking at hunter braided tails.  I won’t say it affected the jogging or how they carry their tail, but I prefer the pulled look myself.  The riders were neat – most of them – but not ostentatious.   I only saw a few dangerous looking footwear choices and mostly the horses behaved.

It really is a who’s who of eventing – a lot of them were at the WEGs, so it will be really interesting to see them riding the youngsters.  Michael Jung, Ingrid Klimke, Rosalind Canter, Piggy French, Thomas Carlisle, Sandra Auffarth, Andrew Hoy, Christopher Burton, and of course the USA’s Tiana Coudray, Liz Holliday Sharp and Doug Payne.

As for the horses first let me tell you that the horseflesh is amazing.  The quality that is here is superb. However, I thought a few, generally in the 6-Year-old divisions, could use a little more weight and shine.  Conformationally speaking, not all of them would be winning the conformation classes, which just goes to show you that it isn’t everything, since these guys have already done a CCI* and a CIC** with no xc jumping faults. I was surprised by the loin connection in a few – they looked weak in the loin and back, with poor hindquarters. There were some pretty low set short necks as well, which could affect front end and shoulder freedom.  But who am I to judge?

Now for the breeding junkies.  If you don’t care about the breeding or where your horse comes from, you might want to skip this part ‘cause it is going to be ALL about it!

I liked both the Diarado’s a lot – Rebecca Howards 6 yr old Cooley Convinced and Nicola Wilson’s 7 yr old JL Dublin. The best mover of the day might have gone to Gentleman FRH, the 6 yr old stallion by Gray Top. Is he going to have the blood for a 4*?  I also liked Aoife Clarks’s Celia D’ermac Z for Ireland and Thomas Carlisle ‘s Birmaine for France.  The Mighty Magic’s were different in size, but all the same type and have the same eye. I was surprised at how small Figaro de Consessions is – my MM’s have all been big horses. Not the biggest movers, but very similar.  Michael Jung’s horses, with the exception of the Contendro, Choclat ‘weren’t the biggest movers either.

And my personal favorite, of course, was Quantum Leap, who certainly is in the minority with a full TB parent.  Michael Jung has a TB sire on one of his, and there are a few with TB grandsires, usually on the dam’s side

Couple other observations…  First, the ISH breeding is no longer the dominant breeding that we used to see.  There is a lot of warm blood in most of them – in fact they now resemble the different European studbooks – seems like everything is being consolidated. You could pick out a few that were the older type ISH without a doubt, but on the whole, they weren’t much different looking from the warmblood.  The Selle Francais that France has were of many different types – there did not seem to be a clear consensus – some were heavy and short, some were tall and long. I was surprised   to see that dissimilar a type for a breed that is becoming more dominant in eventing breeding.

So on to dressage tomorrow, and hopefully a chance to walk the xc course and also thank my lucky stars and my stomach that I am not riding it.  I’ll try to get the snails’ picture close up.  Any of you at the YEH Championships in the next 2 days, cheer on those babies so that they might make it here to France in the future!

Dr. Elizabeth Callahan


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