There’s a strong sense of history at this Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games., with people looking back to the 1978 eventing World Championships here.
Then the Kentucky Horse Park was a fledgling venue — the worlds was one of its first events — and nothing like the amazing complex we are visiting this year.
That championships was won by the home side’s Bruce Davidson, with Ireland’s John Watson taking silver. John said when I met him earlier in the week that the only part of the venue which is recognisable is the steeplechase track. It’s pretty special that both Bruce and John have sons riding here at WEG, Buck (Bruce Jr.) Davidson being on the American team on BallyNoe Castle RM and Sam Watson representing Ireland with Horseware Bushman.
The only rider actually competing at this championship who also rode here 32 years is of course the irrepressible Mark Todd. Despite a rip to his Achilles’ tendon sustained out here while training to run the New York marathon for the spinal injuries charity the Catwalk Trust, he was on top form this morning with Grass Valley and scored 48.5 to lie sixth after the first morning of dressage.
Mark said this morning that he thinks it’s taken this long for him to get back to where he was before he retired — it’s over two years now since he announced a comeback in January 2008. And he was thrilled with Grass Valley, having hoped for a score between 50 and 55.
So much of the skill of succeeding in horsesports, whatever the discipline, is about managing your horse in the right way and bringing him to his peak at the right time. Paul Tapner said this morning that Inonothing ate up his feed last night for the first time since arriving in America, so he’s settled at the ideal moment for today’s dressage.
A horse who can cope with the heat is going to be needed this week, I think. Although temperatures aren’t yet matching the 90º and 90% humidity that Mark remembers from the 1978 championships, it’s pretty warm today.
William Fox-Pitt is first on for the Brits this afternoon, riding the horse he won on here in the spring, Cool Mountain. Let’s hope “Ollie” remembers where he is and pulls out all the stops.
Log back on for more updates on the eventing, full report in H&H out 7 October.