The prospect of a fair weather cross-country day is enough to make any eventing editor’s heart sing, and as we wait for things to kick off at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, I’m as excited as anyone. The crowds are already packing in — the security check at the entrance to the Kentucky Horse Park was noticeable busier today.
Last night’s dressage grand prix freestyle was a very special occasion. As I left, I overheard a spectator say, “That made this whole trip worthwhile.” I don’t know where she’d travelled from, but I reckon many will have felt the same.
Sitting in the stands, sipping freshly squeezed lemonade with a dash of vodka — great stuff — with my colleague Sarah Jenkins and Aly Rowell (pictured above) from Lloyd Bell Productions, I felt very lucky. Watching the final five freestyles really did send a buzz right through your body. The awe-inspiring floodlit arena (left), the packed stands and the skill of the horses and riders as they danced to the music were a brilliant combination.
Although the crowd appreciated the wonderhorse Totilas, Britain’s own Laura Bechtolsheimer, and of course the home side’s Steffen Peters, they also gave a spontaneous standing ovation to Juan Manuel Muñoz Diaz and Fuego XII. This grey Spanish horse really played to the big occasion, throwing his legs out extravagantly, and when his rider executed some one-handed movements, the spectators loved it.
On the eventing side, it’s interesting to note that three of the top 10 after dressage — America’s Becky Holder and Germany’s Simone Deitermann and Frank Ostholt — are individuals, not team members, something I heard some members of the press querying yesterday. Tactics vary from nation to nation, but this isn’t actually a huge surprise. Individual slots often go to combinations who could pull off a giant performance and get an individual medal, but perhaps don’t have the reliability or experience for a team spot.
For the Germans, Simone Deitermann is at her first championship, so giving her an individual slot takes the pressure off, as she herself said on Thursday. I also wonder if it was in the back of the German team hierachy’s minds that she had three showjumps down at Badminton. She slipped from third to a still impressive 12th, but that could be costly in a tight team situation.
Simone’s compatriot Frank Ostholt and Mr Medicott were members of the gold medal-winning team at the Olympics, finishing eighth individually, but the horse — an Irish-bred by Cruising, out of an Edmund Burke (sire of Supreme Rock) mare — hasn’t hit quite the same form since having 2009 off injured. Sure, he won Saumur CCI*** this year, but he also dunked Frank in the water recently at Schenefeld.
Talking of Frank, I saw him with his little daughter, Wilma-Sophie, earlier this week. Frank married Swedish eventer Sara Algotsson — sister of Linda, who competes here — and if their daughter doesn’t grow up to be a beauty, there’s not much hope for anyone else. She must have an excess of the blond gene, if such a thing exists.
Meanwhile, today’s all about action not appearances. Fingers crossed for a smooth day, plenty to keep people interested without any serious falls — and a British-dominated leader board by 4pm this afternoon.
Log back on later for updates on the cross-country action, full report on the eventing at WEG in H&H out 7 October, including comment from British team member Tina Cook.