Monthly Archives: December 2018

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

The Long and Winding Road – Part 5

The true test – xc day!

Well, what can I say about the crowds… I think unbelievable might be the answer.  I have never seen so many people on a xc course in the US – Ever – I’m not sure even at the event formerly known as Rolex. I think the estimates for other years were at 60,000 and I believe it.  And it seemed to be a much different crowd than we normally see in the US.  It was people of all ages – riding bikes, walking ALL over the course from one end to the other.  Lots and lots of baby strollers, small children, families who had picnic lunches all over the course.  No tailgating – these people walked.  On foot.  No shuttles and no complaints. There were large parking areas that were several miles away that had large shuttle buses, but once you got to the event you walked.

There were strategically placed food trucks around the course, (with wine, of course), serving pate, baguettes American (nope, not going there again) and hamburgers with goat cheese as well as French fries. Lots of loud speakers so you could hear well.  Unfortunately, although there were 2 announcers, the major speaker was French (well, duh), but my limited French knowledge was certainly an impediment.  It would have helped if the numbers were only 1-10.  The whole two hundred and whatever was confusing, so a lot of times I wasn’t sure who was going.  In an effort to go green this year, there were no paper programs- everything was on line so you had to stop and consult your phone to see what rider you had.  International roaming gets pricey (and more on that later!)

Doug didn’t go until later afternoon, so we got there early to watch the 6-year olds.  The course rode well for them and basically most of the standings were unchanged – time was easy to make, so unless the stadium is way, way tough, I expect the placings will be pretty similar.  The youngsters handled most things well.  I saw a few issues with them propping at the first landing in the first water and some scary hanging knees on the lion on the mound.  The lion ended up with enough leg grease on him to enter a greased pig contest. He caused at least 2 rider falls, even with the extra grease.

We watched the 6-year olds do the big drop off the roof with really no issues- that didn’t carry over to the 7 years old though, as that and the corner after it were the most influential fences on course.  As a matter of fact, the 7-year-old course had 10 riders get eliminated or retire, another 7 have refusals, 8 with time only and 1 frangible pin.  It truly was not a dressage contest!

Most of the issues were with the first water, then the drop to an angled brush with a separately numbered angled fence that caused a bunch of glance offs, and the following corner – upright and narrow that caught out a number of horses, as well as causing several falls. If you blasted into the drop with poor control or fighting to get back, you were done for.

Quantum looked great and Doug felt that he was up to the course.  Aside from breaking his lead shank and getting loose right before xc(!!), we were ready. (and I say that as if I had anything to do with the whole thing, which I did not!)

We decided that we would stay at the drop fence, and since there was live streaming we could watch Doug’s round and see that bogey fence in person.  So, as he started out, I excitedly tuned in to live stream, just to have my wireless carrier tell me that all the GPS I have been using has eaten up all my bytes, and my video would now run at half speed.  That means it doesn’t run.  So, as I cursed Verizon in audible tones, I thought I would miss the whole thing. Well, not to worry, because I did anyway, as Doug rode in between a French rider and a British one. That meant they showed nothing of his round (but did show the French rider refusing twice – once in regular speed and once in slow motion).  I’m still mad at Verizon though.  And the other thing is that no one except Americans cheer after a good fence.  They clap politely.  So, my screaming “Woo hoo!!”and jumping up and down was met with some odd looks.

Quantum was nothing short of spectacular.  He handled the crowds, the questions, and the tight quarters like a pro. And because of the TB in him, there was gas left in the tank and he went into the last run up to the finish on fire. He moved up 28 places by virtue of his double clear.

Someone asked me today if I would change my breeding program based on what I have seen in the last couple of days.  I thought long and hard about it and decided no.  There are horses that did well today that I think will struggle with longer courses. There were some good gallopers that weren’t good jumpers. I saw some really, really nice youngsters today. But mine was one of them.  I think I’ll stick with what I’m doing and I know we have more of these horses in the US. We just have to develop them- they are out there!!

On to the final horse inspection and stadium tomorrow.

Dr. Elizabeth Callahan

Follow this link to see Doug’s YouTube helmet cam footage: