Last night’s showjumping individual qualifier was very exciting stuff. Sweden’s bad luck continued – Rolf-Goran Bengtsson was looking a dead cert to make the final four on Ninja La Silla till he rubbed a pole in the final round. This did however allow the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Abdullah Al Sharbatly to creep up the leader board and into tonights final, which is writer’s gold.
Abdullah is only 28. His enthusiasm for being in the final four with living legends like Rodrigo Pessoa even surpassed mine at being in Kentucky for H&H and getting to interview legends like Rodrigo Pessoa. And that’s saying something.
Abdullah has only had his mare, Seldana Di Campalto, for six weeks. He only brought her here to try and qualify for London 2012. Somehow, he’s found himself in the final. I say “somehow”, it’s taken more than Lady Luck in tune to score five clear rounds up to this point – even Rodrigo has had one fence down this week. What a coup if he made the medals tonight, where each of the top four has to jump each others’ horses… Can’t. Wait.
Robert Smith, who was reserve for the British team until Tina Fletcher’s Hallo Sailor was withdrawn with injury, ended up being best of the Brits with Talan. So that’s a quandary. We’re all geniuses with hindsight, but it’s not like they didn’t have form…
Robert didn’t contest the last round; he was out of contention for the last four and felt the horse had done enough. Having walked the course last night (yes, I did feel like a complete imposter), I was blown away by quite how enormous the fences are. To me, they look unjumpable – Robert says I should have seen Athens… Either way, they’re not something you’d jump for the fun of it – you’d certainly need to pay me, and prize-money was off the cards so it would seem sensible to save your horse.
Robert is off to Oslo next week with Talan and then on to more World Cup shows all over the shot. It’s a grueling program for the riders as much as the horses, I don’t know how they cope being away from home so often and for so long. Standing in that many queues for passport control is enough to make anyone crave cottage pie and Countryfile.
I for one am just about ready to go home. Kentucky has been an incredible experience – one I may never have the opportunity to repeat and one I’ll never forget. There’s so much I’ll miss, not least the permanent buzz of being at a championship competition, which is like valium for us equine enthusiasts.
Despite being a dressage aficionado for the past five years, being here has woken me up to the excitement and skill of every equestrian sport. Which is pretty tidy timing as on my return home I’m leaving my much loved dressage editor’s job at H&H and trotting 100yards across the office to be deputy editor at our monthly sister title Horse. This has been one hell of a swansong. Thank you very much, boss.
Oh dear, FEI TV commentator John Kyle has already told me off for using “pissing” rain and sparrow’s “fart” in my blog copy, and now I’ve gone and written “hell”. Bugger.