The Long and Winding Road to Le Lion – The Final Day
The last day…
Quantum came off xc yesterday dragging Doug back to the barn and still full of run. He lost a shoe (maybe on the drop off the roof?) and had a couple small scrapes on his legs. We jogged him after the shoe went back on, and he looked absolutely great. So, we all went home.
The jog up was supposed to be at 8:30, but the French seemed to have a vague concept of time, so when we go to the barn at 9:30, it was just in time to see him jog up and aside from spooking at stuff, he looked ready to go.
I went up to stadium to watch the 6-year olds go. The stadium was held in the same place dressage was, so on grass and I think the fences were at most 6 feet from the rail. We estimated 4-5000 spectators – all the seats were filled and they were 3 deep on the rail. It was quite closed in feeling compared to what we see in the states at the big events.
The course was beautifully decorated – lots of plain jumps, with tons of plants, a Liverpool, and 2 double combinations for the 6-year olds. And I was wrong – it was not just a dressage contest. We saw maybe 6 double clears, a lot of rails, a fall of horse /rider and some unpleasant rounds. These horses are still green, and the atmosphere overwhelmed some of them (and to be honest, some of the riders too). Now, I’m an amateur rider and I make plenty of bad decisions on fences, so I get it, but I really didn’t expect so much at a Championship. There was a lot of hardware in these horses’ mouths, and some of them were overbitted and a lot were just strong and running through all the aids. Lots of pulling and yanking. Kitty King’s ride was lovely – soft and forward and deserving of the win.
The crowd was great – watched every horse, groaned when rails came down, cheered when a clear round happened and although they did cheer a little more for the French riders, they were appreciative of everyone.
I did, however, hate, hate, hate the light plastic jump poles. If horses hit them, they bounced up and caught at least 2 horses between their legs, causing one to fall and another to make a heroic effort to stay on its feet. Pretty is as pretty does and safety needs to come first.
At noon, they had a parade of the winners of the 2 and 3-year old Selle Francais youngsters, who were also competing somewhere on the grounds for the free jumping and under saddle jumping national titles (at least the 3-year olds were. Not sure what the 2-year olds did). If you thought the atmosphere was a lot for a 6-year-old, just imagine the 2 and 3-year olds. The Spanish Riding School would have been proud of the airs above the ground. However, not one person got hurt and no horse got loose, surprisingly enough.
Then, much to my surprise, they totally redid the jump course for the 7-year olds. They didn’t just add a triple, or increase the height, they moved all the fences, and made a totally different course. That’s something I’ve never seen before. Again, it didn’t look too bad from my vantage point but again, very few double clears. Maybe 12? The biggest questions were in asking the horses to move up to a bigger jump (a triple bar and a square oxer off a tight turn) then come back quietly for a skinny/Liverpool and a double set short. The quality of the riding was much better, but some of the horses looked tired and some just looked like this was the end of their scope – hard as they tried, it just wasn’t going to be a clear round.
Quantum was still fresh and was still not a fan of the close quarters. He was jumping way over the fences, but a spook down the triple line caused Doug to ride him forward and he got too far in and pulled the last rail in the triple and then had the last fence down. Even with 2 rails, he moved up several spots and ended up 29th out of the original 69 starters.
I want to thank Christine Turner and Tim Holekamp for making this trip possible for Quantum, and Dave and Susan Drillock for supporting him as owners And I especially want to thank Doug Payne for buying this horse as a yearling and bringing him along to this point. No, he didn’t win, but that isn’t the point of the grant. The point is to further a horse’s education to be a 4 star horse for the future. I know Quantum experienced stuff he has never seen before in the US, and that will only make him a better horse, and hopefully a team horse.
I also want to add that being over here makes you a little more appreciative of what we have at home, like Diet Pepsi and gas that isn’t 8$/gallon. And, despite all our differences in the US right now, we are lucky, lucky, lucky. One of the things we saw this week was not only the armed police and mounted police who were very visible, but army regulars in full body armor with automatic weapons who were patrolling the crowds.
Thanks everybody for reading. Au revoir from France and go US Eventing!
Dr. Elizabeth Callahan