I’ve been feeling neglectful of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games driving, having not seen much of the dressage phase. I intended to go and watch the Boyd Exell and Tucker Johnson — rumoured and indeed proved to be the best of yesterday’s runners — but their times clashed exactly with the Brits in the vaulting. Without a pair of wings, superhero vision or time travel, it wasn’t going to happen.
So, my kind boyfriend rigged up FEI TV on his computer last night in bed — it’s a romantic trip, this — so I could watch Thursday’s highlights show. On the plus side, this let me see day one’s joint-leaders Ijsbrand Chardon and Chester Weber’s tests in full and I now have a much better understanding of what’s involved, and why Chester said at the press conference he had a problem in the rein-back (the left wheeler wasn’t keen and stood up).
On the down side, I then dreamed I was driving — one small pony luckily, not a four-in-hand — through a house, trying to avoid china and photo frames. As Sarah Jenkins says, bear with us, we’ve been away from our shrinks too long.
I nearly had to blog again last night after I’d posted my effort earlier in the day. The team freestyles in the vaulting were so impressive I’ve run out of superlatives. Think of three people on a horse, perhaps with one person sitting backwards on the wither, supporting someone standing up, who is holding a little kid (the flyer) above their head, twirling them around with the ease of a cheerleader’s baton. Or perhaps that standing person isn’t being supported, if you really want to impress.
Just think for a minute about how brave you’d have to be to either be the person holding up the flyer, or to be the flyer. We’re probably talking about being 13ft up in the air (6ft of horse, 6ft of another person, plus a foot of their arms) on the back of a moving live animal.
This was really brought home to me when the South African team horse, Prize, became upset just as the lunger sent him out onto his circle. He tried to pull away, meaning the lunger had to dig in and hold him, reel him in and start again. He settled, thank goodness, but it takes some guts to stand up on that horse after seeing that.
I asked the British team if it wasn’t scary and they said maybe the first time you try something, but once you know how to do it, you’re just concentrating on what you are doing. And that the team spirit is amazing: “It’s brilliant all being able to hug each other when you come out, rather than just being on your own.”
Today, after the driving marathon, it’s back to individual vaulting. Yesterday, Joanne Eccles exchanged a high five with her father and lunger John after her technical test — she knew she’d nailed it to go back into the lead. Can she stay there today? Let’s hope so. I want to add another British gold to the medal table.
Log back on later for updates on vaulting and driving; full reports in H&H next week, 14 October.