Horse & Hound gets its Games Face on in Kentucky

  • “Get your games face on!” suggest banners over the traffic lights driving through downtown Lexington last night. OK, perhaps it was mid-afternoon, but I’d just got off the Delta 11 and negotiated passport control, where I played musical queues for the entertainment of officials and got x-rayed by security — if I’d had any idea what was going on I’d have breathed in at least. Anyway, I’m unsure what a “games face” is, but mine’s a suitably American mega-watt smile. This is horse heaven, I’ve found my mecca.

    Otherwise known as Thoroughbred City and the Horse Capital Of The World, you fly into Lexington over a labyrinth of neatly white-fenced paddocks and acres of perfect pasture. I’m not saying fields anymore, it’s pasture. My press pass is “my credentials” and I no longer pronounce the T in media “centre”. I even contemplated buying a “cell” over here as my own “mobill” phone company doesn’t offer “bundles” and I don’t have a house to remortgage when the October statement comes in.

    The impressive Kentucky horse park stretches a sizeable distance along the side of the approaching interstate. It feels like Badminton plus Olympia multiplied by 10. On arrival this morning, I watched Linda Algotsson exercise her 20-year-old eventer Stand By Me with the rest of her Swedish teammates. If I look that good when I’m 20 I’ll be happy. Then on to the “small” indoor arena, which is probably bigger than Earls Court. Here, local fans were hooting and a hollering their lungs out as the reining event got underway.

    As dressage editor I was keen to see former Olympic dressage medallist Anky van Grunsven in action. Reserve for the Dutch reining team, she stepped in when another horse was injured and scored a personal best. Her halts were perfectly square and, in a strange turn of events also still… Her flying changes were predictably impressive, too. And she looked the part in her orange and black shirt – a bit C&A circa 1973, but that’s all part of the fun.

    Nobody looked better this morning than our first British rider Tammy Greaves, in spangly blue shirt and riding an immaculate palomino stallion. But then, Tammy is a qualified nail technician, so you’d expect this attention to turnout. Her “games face” was a less than happy one when she incurred a five-point penalty, but the competition has only just begun and she won’t want to be heading home yet.

    I certainly don’t want to leave anytime soon, which is lucky as Pippa Roome and I are out here for the next 17 days covering all the World Equestrian Games action for Horse & Hound magazine and online. Only following the closing ceremony will we be on that plane again, back to Blighty, where the boys won’t call me Ma’am, anymore. Sigh.

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