Thursday, April 23, 2009

It's a Beautiful Day for Dressage!

We arrived at the horse park almost on time, and found that our seats in the new stadium are in the FRONT ROW! I feel so special. It’s like having 50 yard line tickets at the superbowl!

The new arena is stupendous. It was intimidating before, but now it’s world class. I love the details, including the emblem of the horse park in the guard rails in the stands And the footing—WOW. I’m not sure what it is: fine sand, mixed with a cotton-like material. Plush. Whatever it is, it looks amazing. And it didn’t look like it had rained four days previous. Well done, KY horse park!

Alas, we missed the first ride, and we apparently missed something; William Fox-Pitt and Navigator held the lead for quite some time.

Stephen Bradley of the USA had a nice, consistent ride on Brandonburg’s Joshua, a horse I’ve liked for some time. And Selena O’Hanlon of Canada had a LOVELY test with a beautiful, floaty trot and once again, a consistent test. Well done!

Jolie Sexon’s Killian O’Connor was another impressive ride.

The thing I noticed about the horses that didn’t place as well was that they were TIGHT. I know these horses want to GO…and getting them into a relaxed, supple, yet on-the-bit frame for dressage is nigh unto impossible. Last week at Holly Hill, I learned that contact doesn’t mean stiff or pulling….and that you can have some substantial contact and still be soft and supple. I’m learning that dressage is more and more of a contradiction…sort of “you have to be cruel to be kind, in the right measure…” So it’s sit softly, but half halt with your core/tush; keep a taught outside rein, but be supple; keep your leg on, but don’t squeeze; and so forth!

Still, I’m noticing that the horses who do well LOOK more relaxed and seem much, much more consistent.

After a walkabout through the trade fair (and a nice chat with Bit of Britain’s John Nunn, who believes that this year’s Rolex will go to France’s Nicolas Touzaint, as well as David and Leslie from the incredible Stackhouse Saddlery), it was back to dressage.

Sadly, we missed Oliver Townend’s ride, and it must have been a good one; it moved him into first place. We did see Jolie Sexon and Killian O’Connor, and they had a smooth, up, lovely test—enough to move them into third.

But it was the Dutch rider Tim Lips on Concrex Oncarlos, who stole the show today. I found out later he’d spent the winter taking lessons with Anky Van Grunsven, who I believe just came in second last week in the World Cup. Well, no wonder those Dutch are so good at Dressage; they WORK at it with the very best! His test was lovely; flowing, consistent, up, and really supple. Nicely done!

Corinne Ashton and Dobin should have come in better than they did—but Dobbin had a canter bauble that spoiled an otherwise excellent test. The pair is still in fourth place now, though, so let’s hope the pair have a great XC and SJ round! Right now, the leaderboard is headed by a Dutch rider and two Brits. C'mon, USA!

A special acknowledgment to Canadian Karl Slezak from Canada, who put in a solid test on a first time horse….and later let me borrow his helmet as I tried out a horse. I don’t know that it made me ride any better, but it was impressive to have worn the hat helmet of a four star rider!

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