WEG day 3–it takes a village to make it happen

So lots of good dressage happened today.  The play by play can be found on many websites, like Dressage Daily and EuroDressage, etc.  Isabel Werth had mistakes, Nadine did an unintended capriole, Carl Hester apparently had trouble counting. (I am so sad to be missing him in the freestyle–cute little Carl!) Ah, the ups and downs of this sport!  The only good thing is that it made them all look a little more human, and made me feel a lot better about my naughty horse!  I didn’t take any horse photos–I wanted to sit back and watch today.

To me, the GP special test is much nicer to watch–I’m not sure if it’s harder or easier than the GP test, but it’s definitely less staccato–I abhor that 6 step canter zig zag in the GP test, few horses make it look pretty even if it is correct–and I do like the passage to extended to collected trots down each long side, I feel like the whole thing just flows better.  My $.02.  It was interesting to watch how different horse/rider combinations handled some parts of the test.  For instance Maria Eilberg (GBR) on Two Sox rode very forward on the short sides before her diagonals of tempis, while Katherine Bateson-Chandler (USA) rode Nartan very collected to prepare for the lines of changes.

Even Totilas, as awesome as he is, had some tension.  What a “Wow” moment to watch Edward Gal earn five 10s for rider in the collectives. Can you imagine–five 10s???  Isabel’s horse was less behind the vertical today, and damn that horse has an extended trot stride that must be over 20 feet.

Something new I learned is that if there is 5% or more difference between the judge’s scores, the judges confer after the event, with all the tests and video of the ride, and figure out what happened.  This did occur 4 times (to my rough count and recollection), including our Tina Konyot, who had one judge who scored her 6% lower than the other 4 judges.

Muñoz Diaz’s horse Fuego–WOW (picture my eyeballs popping out).  Many dressage folks are not really into the Iberian/Baroque breeds, but this little guy is impressive.  He’s got plenty of shoulder freedom and extension as well as the collection these breeds are known for in general.   Of course, there is also the cute factor–he comes in whinnying each time, looking like an overgrown pony.  I can’t wait to see his freestyle Friday!  (On a side note, Robert Dover just bought one of this sire’s sons–that’ll tell you how nice he is!)  He presents this picture like his front end is filled with helium and that if Muñoz Diaz didn’t hold him down it would float up and away!

I think the horse Edward needs to keep in his rearview is Mistrals Hojris.  Ridden by the super-young Laura Bechtolsheimer, this horse has tons of movement in a calm, quiet looking package as well.  His tail is just down and still for the whole test–no swishing–and he seems happy to be doing the work.  She was behind Edward and Totilas by 3.9% (his 85.6% to her 81.7%), and I don’t think it will be long before the gap narrows even further.  I guess he’d better check his tack!

But, one of the highlights of my day today was getting the real behind-the-scenes tour of the nuts and bolts of the WEG.  Fellow competitor and NCDCTA member, Laura Pendleton has a friend (for blog purposes “JH”) who is an “event planner”.  This is, of course, an understatement. He’s done 10 Super Bowls, the Atlanta Olympics, you know, “small” things.  He and his partner (both Raleigh residents) have been planning down to the tiniest detail for 3.5 years.  We slapped on some credentials, hopped on his golf cart (one of over 1100 at the park), and away we went.  I have included most of my photos from today, with brief descriptions, and will add more information tomorrow–it’s time for bed!

Oh, and he gave us free tickets to all the eventing dressage.  Score!

We started just past the main arena, and passed the Maker’s Mark huge hospitality tent/lounge/kingdom.  This hospitality area has large screen TVs for watching, and you are waited on hand and foot.  For $600 a day.  According to JH, even at this price they are losing money (what???). Next down the paved path are 2 warm-up areas specifically for pre-competition, one on each side and both with dressage courts set up inside.  The newer one was just completed for the games, and features (as do many of the rings) the OTTO footing system.  This system has a layered combination of matts, gravel, and then about 8″ of sand mixed with felt fibers.  It was lovely to walk on–tons of cushion and concussion absorption–while still maintaining a firm feel for the horse’s feet.  The new arena cost $750,000 to put in, although JH said part of this was due to the fact that the decision to “pull the trigger” on the ring meant it all had to be expedited, which added bucks.  Even so, the rep at their display said it runs roughly $6 a square foot, which means that to you and me, if we just did the 20m x 60m dressage courts in our back yards it would cost about $78,000 JUST for the footing (ie, not the leveling, etc.).  We can dream, right?

Next we passed a few cross country jumps on our left, and on our right saw temporary buildings housing all the jumps, landscaping plants, and other temporary building parts.  Behind that was the campground for grooms–interestingly, all FEMA trailers!  Just beyond that was the start/finish of the Endurance race, and the Driving arena and warm up.

The Endurance race was run along and between 26 local horse farms, and each farm hosted it’s own hospitality.  Apparently it was a big party!  Each competitor wore a GPS chip, and were monitored on a screen (and could also be monitored from anyone’s computer!).  Several times folks went off course, and the organizers knew it long before the competitor, who would then have to turn around and rejoin the course.  This 100 mile monster was apparently won by a Spanish woman (Maria Mercedes Alvarez Ponton) who just had a baby 7 weeks ago!  Second was Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, UAE, whose Meydan corporation sponsored the endurance (and has apparently infused a lot of money and recognition into the sport).  I go into all this detail, because near the start/finish was a large temporary tent structure that had been commissioned by the Sheikh during his stay.  It was large, with chandeliers in every room.  It had separate men’s and women’s sides as is mandated by their culture, and had a massage room, prayer room, and other stuff JH couldn’t remember anymore.  He did say that in as many years as he had done events, he had not only never hung sheet rock in a temporary building, but he certainly had never then painted and wall papered one!

Next we drove around the entire back side of the park, looking here and there at adjoining farms and cross country jumps.  The national guard and army have a presence, monitoring all the possible areas folks might want to enter “illegally” or “nefariously”. The barns were next–some temporary, some permanent–with HUGE transport trailers that had just arrived.  Beyond that is an area rife with security types who will whole-vehicle scan, bomb sniff, and manually inspect EVERY transport vehicle (supplies, food, or horse) that enters.  The way back has areas where the garbage is taken, extra wires/cables/water/pallets, etc. are stored.  So what about all that shit manure?  Well, some guy used an Obama stimulus grant to devise a system to use that manure and extract the methane for energy–otherwise  it would just go in the landfill.  It’s not operational yet, but it’s “piling high” while he puts on the finishing touches.

Then it was to the Alltech Arena–there is a building on the backside that houses food services for all the staff/volunteers and athletes where we took a yummy lunch break.  Reining and vaulting will take place there, and then we passed the huge new covered arena where ParaEquestrian will compete, as well as their associated warm ups.  We ended behind the “big barn”, near the Horse Park main entrance, where there is an “Equine Village” with constant clinics, demonstrations, etc. from various different horse associations and breeds.  Our circuit completed, JH dropped us off back at the main arena just in time to see the afternoon program!

Whew!  An hour and a half to tour over three years’ work.  And it ain’t over yet!  After the inspiring afternoon session, we took a tour through the Alltech Experience and sat in the beer garden to have a Bourbon Ale (yum).  Patrik Kittel (Swe) was being interviewed for the radio on the deck.  According to JH, the owner of the Alltech company wanted this place to be special.  The plants alone cost $700,000.  Oh, what I could do with that money!!!!  (I could almost by an OTTO ring!)

Tomorrow–the freestyles!  Of course, it’s an evening program, so don’t expect an update Saturday morning with your coffee–you’ll have to wait until I’m snug in bed with my laptop Saturday night!

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