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: