Last night was magic. Having never seen the World Championship format before, where the top four riders swap horses, I was mesmerised. Philippe Le Jeune gave a masterclass, and Hickstead proved himself the best horse in the world, neither having a pole all night. He was the worthiest of winners.
Hickstead was the only horse to jump clear for all four riders
It’s a lot to ask of these horses; four different riders, four changes of tack, jumping the same course four times. They must wonder what the hell is going on. But for the spectators it’s brilliant, watching how the best in the world adapt. There’s no practice or rehearsal or quiet moment to get to know each horse. Every adjustment is witnessed by the 25,000 in the stands.
We were considering running a kick-a-gram when Abdullah Al Sharbatly’s sensitive mare objected strongly to her tack being changed and lashed out repeatedly… now that was sport.
Abdullah is a popular man back home — Philippe had to tell him to get off his mobile while stood on the podium in order to pose for the group medal shot (below). There’s a lot of muttering about the amount of money Saudi Arabia is putting into their team in order to secure Olympic gold in London. Everyone in the stand joked that it was the boss on the phone asking how much for Hickstead. Stranger things have happened, but I very much hope not.
Left to right: Abdullah Al Sharbatly, Philippe Le Jeune and Eric Lamaze
Everything’s wrapping up here today at the World Equestrian Games. I’m off to report on the final paradressage competition before writing the last of my reports for the magazine. Then we’re hopefully heading to the closing ceremony/Lyle Lovett concert. Woop!
This is it from me, so thank you very much for following us. And as it’s our last day at the Kentucky Horse Park, forgive me a little nostalgia…
Top 10 things I’ll miss about Kentucky
1. Pulled-pork sandwiches. Mind you, they must be running out of pigs now.
2. The white post-and-rail fencing. Maybe it’s the OCD in me, but there’s something deeply reassuring about these pretty, matching perimeters everywhere you look.
3. The press office answering everyone’s query about absolutely anything with: “It’s all online”. (Say this in a New York accent and it’s somehow funny… or maybe I’ve just been here too long.) And of course it isn’t online, that’s why we’re asking, but it’s funny all the same, particularly when you’ve only asked how they are.
4. The organisers’ penchant for making things up as they go along. Eg. “Guys, we’re having an additional showjumping class this afternoon, there’s too many competitors to fit in this evening.” Because of course they all just rocked up last week unbeknown to anyone here…
5. Being able to resort to language comparisons when I can’t think of anything else entertaining.
6. People giving a concerned “oh” every time I tell them where we’re staying — and indeed the fact that we’re staying in a place that ought to be the set for Tarantino’s next movie.
7. People, random people, just having a chat to you. All the time. Everywhere. It’s like being in Manchester, but times-10. London, I’m feeling loquacious.
8. Not having a golf cart to take me absolutely everywhere I need to go.
9. Restaurants where your “vegetable” options include macaroni cheese.
10. As I predicted early on, the boys won’t call me ma’am anymore. Sigh.
Photos by Kit Houghton/FEI