The first round of dressage had already been a day of firsts for both the American and Spanish teams. Day two saw the firsts continue, as the USA took its first ever world championship silver medal in team dressage, and Spain took it's first ever world championship medal by securing bronze. The German team took its 8th straight team gold, proving that they are a juggernaut in the team competition that is nearly impossible to overcome.The first round of dressage had already been a day of firsts for both the American and Spanish teams. Day two saw the firsts continue, as the USA took its first ever world championship silver medal in team dressage, and Spain took it's first ever world championship medal by securing bronze. The German team took its 8th straight team gold, proving that they are a juggernaut in the team competition that is nearly impossible to overcome.
The first round of dressage had already been a day of firsts for both the American and Spanish teams. Day two saw the firsts continue, as the USA took its first ever world championship silver medal in team dressage, and Spain took it’s first ever world championship medal by securing bronze. The German team took its 8th straight team gold, proving that they are a juggernaut in the team competition that is nearly impossible to overcome.
Dutch hopes were still high when their favorite daughter, Olympic gold medallist Anky van Grunsven pranced in to the ring aboard her youngster Gestion Krack C. This is an elastic and talented horse, but he’s still young an a bit rough around the edges. He threw in several extra flying changes between his two pirouettes, and van Grunsven appeared to let him cheat his way through a few transitions to keep him quiet. Though his score wasn’t good enough to elevate his team to medal position, it’s clear he will be a top horse for the future.
The German team has a new face in car dealer Klaus Husenbeth, and his 10-year-old Piccolino has all the makings of a top horse. He tends to twist his head and shorten his neck in places, but he has wonderful flying changes and a strong passage, though his piaffe can get a bit labored. His score of 72.080 all but solidified the German victory.
Following Piccolino in the ring was Guenter Seidel and Nikolaus 7. Though both horse and rider and German-born and bred, they represented the US well. Nikolaus has had a reputation for being a difficult ride, and it showed a bit today as he locked his eye on some gremlin in the corner, and was a bit distracted and spooky throughout his test. He missed in his one-tempi changes, but absolutely nailed his extended trot to passage transition. His score of 69.840 kept American hopes alive, but insured that anchor rider Lisa Wilcox would have to perform at the top of her game to nail the silver.
The third Spanish rider was Juan Antonia Jimenez Cobo, on the dark bay Guizo. He brought home a 69.400, landing right behind Seidel and keeping the race for bronze and silver tight.
When the afternoon session started, the air was thick with excitement and anticipation as the three anchor powerhouses, Ulla Salzgeber and Rusty for Germany, Lisa Wilcox and Relevant for the U.S., and Rafael Soto Andrade and Invasor for Spain, prepared for the final showdown.
Salzgeber and Rusty had been considered the favorites for individual gold here, but the big liver chestnut didn’t quite look himself. Though he performed brilliantly, he raised his head and looked around in all his halts and during the walk portion of the test, and had a bobble in the rein back. Salzgeber would later reveal that the horse had arrived in Jerez with a high fever, and she had only been able to ride him one day out of the last five to prepare for her test. Under normal circumstances her score of 75.600% would have been a winner, but for the moment, she’s had to settle for second behind her countryman Nadine Capellmann and Farbenfroh.
Compared to Rusty, Relevant looks almost like a pony–where Rusty is tall and broad, Relevant, another liver chestnut, is small and light. He has a very keen look in his eye, and looks like he could skip across a pond without touching bottom. He put in a light and flowing performance, though in his 2nd piaffe he became so excited and lifted his legs so high that he fell a bit off balance and stumbled. Still, the overall quality of his work was such that he garnered a 74.120%, good enough to secure the first ever U.S. team silver, though it put her in fifth individually behind countryman Debbie McDonald and Spain’s Beatriz Ferrer-Salat.
When the Andalusian stallion Invasor strides in to the ring, he looks like a wise old warrior coming to battle. The gray has a depth of expression and a kindness in his countenance that catches your attention. He is the wily veteran of his team, and he showed off his skills with a powerful and measured test that showed off the skills of the Spanish horse to a tee. His final piaffe was so impressive, so high and strong and dancing, that crowd began to cheer and rose to their feet in appreciation. As he slid in to his final halt, his rider saluted and then tossed his hat into the air and gave a great cheer, bringing the Spanish fans to their feet with a deafening roar, that only grew louder when it was announced his score of 72.160 percent was bringing the home country their first WEG medal.
Though Capellmann is well in front, no one is taking anything for granted in the individual placings. "As you can imagine I am very pleased with Farbenfroh, we was very good and concentrated, and there isn’t much he could have done better. I am in a good position today, but there are two more days, so we will see on Sunday who is where."
Salzgeber was very pleased with her horse, who she felt was as good as can be expected considering his illness and lack of recent work, but remains circumspect about the rest of the show. "I’m not frustrated yet," she said with a smile. ‘If you look at all my championship places I’m always behind at the start, and it works out OK."
McDonald is sitting in third, poised to be the first individual dressage medallist for the US, but she’s not counting on any medals yet. "I’m honestly not thinking about it. I’m taking this one step at a time. I’m excited to have come this far, and I hope to have a nice test tomorrow and take it from there."
Over in the eventing ring today, the Americans got off to a fabulous start by taking second and third in the first day of dressage. John Williams and Carrick put in a flowing and strong test which received a 34.20 from the ground jury and second place, to tie with David O’Connor and the veteran Giltedge. They were beaten for first by Phillip Dutton, who rides for Australia but resides in Pennsylvania, aboard House Doctor with a 33.60. One of the two American individuals, Gina Miles, placed 14th on McKinlaigh with a 47.60
"I’m quite pleased and surprised to be here," said Williams of his strong placing. "I was hoping for the low 40s but this was great. The horse is only 10, and I feel like I have a lot further to go with him, a lot more I can get."
"Anytime you are sitting up here you are pleased," agreed O’Connor. "I’m very pleased with my horse’s performance. He’s an experienced competitor, and he rises to the occasion. Today was a lot of fun."
If some observers were surprised to see Dutton atop the leader board, he certainly was not. "My horse has been working well the last few weeks, and he generally scores well, and I got very fortunate today," he said.
In a bit of side news, Dutton had been removed from the Australian team at the last minute and is competing here as an individual. When asked about this last-minute change, he first joked, "They felt my dressage was not up to the standard," then demurred with, "seriously though, you’ll have to ask the selectors–I only found out about it myself yesterday."
The American team is currently in the lead, with Australia in second, and Australia in third.
The crowds were bigger at the stadium here today but one wonders if they are here for the riding or here for the trade fair. This tent city is impressive, and is filled with the sorts of wares that make your credit cards scream to be let lose from your wallet. There is official "WEG Wear", and tack stores from all over the European continent. Some of their things are beautiful, though I’ve noticed that the European horsey set apparently has a thing for velvet pads with fancy gold and silver trim, even rhinestones. Either that or someone came up with the idea and everybody hated them so they are trying to pawn them off as chic on unsuspecting foreigners. Either way, in nearly every stall of tack and supplies you can buy one of these pads in every color of the rainbow. I will be passing as I doubt my prima donna Thoroughbred would deign to be seen in such a thing.
What I’m most lusting after is a pair of custom Italian boots, but with their 600 Euro price tag, I imagine I’ll just keep right on lusting from afar. There is also some beautiful artwork, including some amazing sculptures of Spanish horses, but it’s hard to fit a 1,000-pound bronze in to the overhead bin for the flight home.
I’ll admit my cultural bias by saying that I’m having a little trouble adapting to the Spanish time scheme. With the traditional siesta in the afternoon, the days go late in to the evening, with most competitions finishing well after 8:00 in the evening. It’s hard to fit in dinner and time to work on that schedule, and my nights are getting later and later. I suppose the siesta would be more fun if I could actually take a siesta during the break, but I find people look at you funny when you try to lie down on the computer tables in the press tent. Ah well, these are the sorts of experiences one remembers for a long time.
However, at one point during the siesta break yesterday we were treated to a performance of a manege by six riders from the National Association of Breeders of Pure Bred Spanish Horses. Within the musical ride, the six horses and riders displayed the doma vaquera, or Andalusian-style dressage, which culminated in a spectacular sequence, where rows of horses reared and walked or hopped across the ring on their hind legs, boxing and striking with their forelegs. It was a reminder of why these horses had been such deadly foes on the battlefield and was absolutely one of the most beautiful and amazing things I have ever seen. These horses are just amazing, and their riders, are just amazing.
Tomorrow the top 25 individuals ride the Grand Prix Special on the way to the individual dressage championship, and the final group of eventers do their tests in preparation for the cross-country on Saturday.
English Content Director