World Equestrian Games blog: Reining convert in Kentucky

  • I am officially converted to reining. I was Ecstatic to get up at five this morning for today’s 7:30am start of the concluding part of the team event. Unfortunately, not many other people were. Whose dumb idea was that then? You’re trying to sell tickets and get spectators in and you start a competition at half seven on a Sunday morning…? And it’s over by half one.

    It’s a shame because this sport is unique in atmosphere when they crank up the rock and roll and insane fans start cheering. Stamford Bridge is quieter on a derby day. I’m hoping that more people will arrive after this break for the half eleven start; much more civilized. [Turns out it was on account of needing the best group to be running during the lunchtime slot for live national television].

    I’m watching Brit Jessica Sternberg exercise her dun mare in the interregnum. They all have to work in this arena as it has the right surface. Sand. Just dirt. No fancy silicon mix or bits of chopped up cable. Horses can’t dig in and slide on that you see. Horses that have fantastic names. Jessica is on Whizin Off Sparks, uncle Doug (Allen, also on the squad) could have ridden Chic In a Bar, (ahem), and the current leader Stefano Massignan from Italy was riding, Yellow Jersey. He was wearing something far less M&S.

    Dressage riders have got nothing on the bling that’s reached this arena. In fact, why has Katie Price not taken up reining? Someone should suggest that. Nevermind a diamante browband here and there, some of these horses’s bridles are entirely covered in pearls. Pretty, pretty. [I’m just picturing my editor’s despair at this sentiment]. The riders’ shirts, too, are very Strictly Come Dancing at times. Only on the girls though, the men wear real shirts and swagger like real John Waynes.

    Speaking of movie stars, last night we had the opening ceremony, which featured none other than William Shatner. Yes, he of Star Trek fame, who hails from Canada, so I’m not quite sure why. But he drove a Saddlebred around the stadium — these are incredible looking horses that strut like elegant chickens and have hair extensions in their tails. Shatner’s apparently a big fan.

    Local hero, international legend and humanitarian Muhammad Ali was also part of the celebrations. I’ve never been to so much as the opening of a paper bag, so I lapped up the “ceremony” of it all; the national anthem, the sheer number of horses and riders involved. I unashamedly love the Americanism of it all, too. Sitting with popcorn and Kentucky Ale, we could have been at a baseball game. They wheeled out high school cheerleaders (natch) — think Glee everyone — and teens were blithely thrown in the air and fortunately caught again.

    We were reminded in speeches by the Governor, and the Mayor and Princess Haya, that the Worlds were being held on this continent for the first time. They hammered home how apt the setting was — Kentucky, home of “unbridled spirit”. Just to prove it, riders appeared with no bridles on their horses. There was a lot of cheesy talk about heart and spirit and love of the horse, which I won’t repeat — I am still an uptight Brit after all. But they are awesome, horses. Incredible, I reckon. Aren’t they. You definitely get that here.

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