World Cup Thoughts

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No rest for the weary.The minute the horses are home from a major competition, then we’re already discussing what’s next. After the World Cup this week, now it’s on to the Olympics in 2016, with a detour to the Pan Ams, Euros and maybe even next year’s World Cup.

Already in the sights for 2016? Rosamunde, just 8 years old, and Steffen Peters performed an exhibition Grand Prix Freestyle at the World Cup.

Already in the sights for 2016? Rosamunde, just 8 years old, and Steffen Peters performed an exhibition Grand Prix Freestyle at the World Cup.

Charlotte Durjadin is talking about where Valegro goes from here.The European Championships and the Olympics in Rio, but what after that?Valegro is 13.Will he retire on top, presuming he wins the Olympics?Will he keep on competing for another 4-year-cycle?Do exhibitions?Just go on hacks and enjoy grass?

Steffen Peters did a Grand Prix Freestyle on Rosamunde, his next star, who is only 8.Will she be his Olympic mount in 2016?Will Legolas continue to improve and outpace the upstart?There’s plenty to watch out for, discuss and enjoy over the next year.

There have been lots of pictures and comments to come from the World Cup this week.With the hope that I am not repeating anything, here are some random observations, from my seat on the 50-year line (behind E):

I was really amazed by the selection of the background music played during the preliminary Grand Prix on Thursday.The tempos of the individual horses at all their gaits (including piaffe and passage) must have been carefully studied because the music always changed when the horse changed.This wasn’t elevator music without a defined beat.It was as clear in the tempos and phrasing as the Freestyles two days later and, I thought, sometimes better.

Not only were the tempos precise but the choice of songs often matched the nationalities of the horses, such as Russian folk songs for Inessa Merkulova on Mister X, who was the lead-off rider. She got a huge round of applause from the audience, who booed when the score of 71.343 percent (eventual 10th place out of 18 riders) was announced, and was again cheered when she finished 7th on Saturday.

Is 5 ½ the new 6 when it comes to canter pirouettes? I would say the majority of riders did fewer than the 6-to-8 strides specified in the rule book in their canter pirouettes during the Grand Prix on Thursday. It was harder to tell during the Freestyle since most pirouettes were 1½ or 2 revolutions. I later cornered a couple FEI “I” judges from the audience who said they were watching the quality more than the count, and if the quality of engagement was high in the pirouette, then 5 or 5½ steps wasn’t a concern. On the other hand, if the quality had been low, then the score might take an even bigger hit if the stride count was also low.

We don’t see many top hats any more in this country, unless it is at an FEI show, such as this one (where the exhibitions were mostly hatless, allowed at an FEI show but not at an USEF show). I noticed that many of the male riders were saluting at the beginning of their tests by dropping a hand, just as the ladies do. However, at the end of the test, they were removing their hats. Just a new wrinkle, I guess.

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