A lot of things have gone wrong during the FEI World Equestrian Games at the Tryon International Equestrian Center. Parking is generally a disaster, the place is still something of a construction zone; after a false start, the endurance race was cancelled part way through today because of heat and humidity (North Carolina in early September, go figure…) and hideous Hurricane Florence is bearing down on the Carolinas.
But one thing is very right, and that is the most important factor: The sport is good (except for endurance, of course). That is what the WEG is about. It is, after all, the world championships in eight disciplines. Some things are the organizers’ fault, though of course they can’t control the weather. Even so, they must be given credit for doing a fine job with the footing and the large US Trust arena that was built on what formerly was a derby field.
The first day of the dressage Grand Prix there yielded an expected result; Germany leads the way in the standings, followed by Sweden and the U.S., with a mere 1.817 percent separating first and third places. But don’t take the results to the bank just yet. The stars of each team are yet to come in the second half of the competition tomorrow. The team scores today are a bit misleading, because with only two members starting for every nation, one score was dropped, but that may not be the case after the whole squad is finished competing.
For Germany, Jessica von Bredow-Werndl earned 76.677 on the Trakehener TSF Dalera BB to stand in first place; not unexpected. But second-place Juliette Ramel is not a household dressage name, though she may become one. Her impressive test on the Dutchbred Buriel KH, her mount on Sweden’s fifth-place team in Rio, was quite special to be marked at 75.248 percent. Another German, Dorothy Schneider, finished third on Sammy Davis Jr. with 75.062 percent. And don’t forget, world number one Isabell Werth is yet to come for Germany on Bella Rose, along with Sonke Rothenberger on the extremely talented Cosmo.
Adrienne Lyle had the top U.S. score today on Salvino, the stallion she has brought along artfully to achieve that mark of 74.860 percent with memorable piaffe/passage and transitions. As rain poured down while she was warming up, it was déjà vu for the 2014 WEG in Normandy, France, where she competed on Wizard in a deluge. But this time she got lucky; sort of.
“I was trying to change gloves and dry off things, so it was a little bit of a disruption; then it was blazing hot the next second,” said Adrienne after her ride, still wiping sweat from her face.
“Fitness is a big factor here as well. He’s a big, dark horse that I’ve done my best to get him as fit as I could. I’m glad I did, because it took every ounce of fitness he had out there to get through it in that heat,” she noted. To hear more about Vinny, as Salvino is known, click on this video link.
Steffen Peters was the lead-off rider for the U.S. on Suppenkasper, a horse purchased with the 2020 Olympics in mind but who had to step in here when his stablemate, Rosamunde, didn’t travel well and wasn’t at her peak.
His score of 73.494 earned him seventh place, and made a new milestone for the duo.
“There was overall less tension in there. I could actually push some of the extensions, which is new,” said Steffen.
“Usually, I just hold my breath and hope he doesn’t break into the canter, because it’s so big.” He thought the test was pretty good “for a young kid and an old rider. He needs to see venues like this where he gets used to this,” Steffen said about the 10-year-old Dutchbred.
“He is the kindest, sweetest horse that I’ve ever dealt with. He wants to be a little puppydog. He’s an extremely kind-hearted horse. At this point in my career to get a horse like this, it’s a lot of fun.” Mopsi, as the horse is known, is really “a big Labradoodle,” said Steffen, noting the gelding’s favorite thing is having his nose scratched.
The tale of how the U.S. will measure up against the Germans will be told tomorrow, when the two strongest combinations, Kasey Perry-Glass on Dublet and Laura Graves aboard Verdades, are set to compete. Will there be an upset that takes the Germans off the top step of the podium? We’ll have to wait and see.
It’s looking now as if Hurricane Florence won’t strike the Tryon area until Sunday night, so we should be able to get through the Friday Grand Prix Special, a test for which Adrienne said her horse is particularly suited, and Sunday’s freestyle before the storm moves west from the coast to strike. Monday is an off-day for the WEG, and it looks as if that will be the time the rains come, but predictions of hurricanes are notoriously unreliable.
I’m preoccupied with the storm (there’s non-stop coverage that you may have seen wherever you live in the country), but riders don’t focus that way. Click on this video link to see how Steffen thinks about it.
The dressage drew about 8,000 spectators, around half the capacity of the new stadium. While VIPs and those with “upgraded” tickets had some shade, other fans boiled in the sun. It’s worth it for dressage devotees, but this WEG hasn’t made it easy for everyone.
Gina O’Sullivan, who walks with a cane, came from north of Toronto to watch the dressage and was thrilled with the competition; less so with the way the WEG was organized.
“We were delighted to be able to come and see such a world-class event close to Canada, but we were concerned about some of the logistics,” Gina said. She and a friend waited fruitlessly for hours for a bus to take them back to their car in the parking area, so they finally decided to get there via Uber.
“I was promised disabled parking. There isn’t any,” noted Gina, saying being in what amounts to a construction zone isn’t fun as workers finish additions to the facility.
“I’m trying not to trip over all the wires and the puddles and stuff,” she noted. “There’s equipment working around us. They struggled to get this ready, and it’s not ready.”
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