Saturday, April 25, 2009

Lucky 13

To prep for the upcoming WEG, and because several fence judges didn’t make it to their posts on time last year because of traffic, we were told to arrive by 7, be inside by 8, and at our fences by 9. I dragged poor Donna up (we stayed out too late last night eating a wonderful meal at the Atomic Café), and we trudged in and over to our fence.

Once again, I find myself at the Sunken Road as a fence judge. But THIS time, they’ve turned it around (literally!), and made the exit a LOT more challenging. The riders have to come off a long gallop, round a corner to face a skinny (A), one stride to the sunken road (B), two short strides in the sunken road, then out (C), and one stride to the direct route out over the D element, which was literally perpendicular to the C element…making the riders have to take it as almost a corner.

Several of the riders walked it so that they could go the direct route, or the “long” route—winding awkwardly around the edge of the sunken road, then back straight to the final element.

All in all, it was a really tough complex.

The TD’s spoke with us about the problems they foresaw, and we had several fence judge meetings before the event began. Because it was a tough fence, we had a large group of judges: scribes, “picture drawers”, timers, flag/stopping people, crowd control…and horse chasers (in case a rider and horse parted ways). I was assigned the latter job.

Because I was hoping not to have to perform my duty, I also drew and detailed each rider’s trip over my fence so that if anything happened, we’d have several records.

A few things happened.

The first thing happened with the first rider on course: Buck Davidson and Ballynoe Castle RM. As the pair came down the long galloping lane and was prepping for the turn to Element A, a dog ran out and nipped at the back of his horse’s legs! He rounded the corner, pulling up and pushing at the same time, but it was obvious that the horse’s attention was still back w/ the dog…for when the jump came up, the horse was totally surprised, and he ran out. GIVEN that this was the only run out at the A element of the fence the entire day, and GIVEN that Buck had a clean round the rest of the time, I believe that the dog interfered. We had to score it as a refusal, but the US Eventing apparently reversed the call (Good for them!), and Buck was left with only a few time penalties.

We had some exciting rides; a lot of the horses came up to the first element and saw the big gaping hole behind it and hesitated…..but they all went. And when they came out of the sunken road, they all went bravely (all of them ridden quite vigorously) to the final element.

Well, the first half of the day. Sandra Donnelly and Buenos Aires scrambled up the bank and tried to get past it, but hung up his front legs on the fence. They had to go past the D element, then circle and take the D element straight on.

Tim Lipps, the Dutch rider who gave us such a great dressage test the first day, rode really well, but his horse scraped his foot on the way down from the D element. I hope they’re ok!

I was pleased to see Bonner and Jazz take our fence complex like pros. Go Texas!

Barbara Crabo and Everady, who hail from Arizona (we’re practically neighbors!) had a ragged ride over our fence; her horse misjudged the leap up out of the sunken road and they pair ended up scrambling up the bank almost on their knees. I’m amazed she stayed on! She, too, had to circle past D and take it head on.

Tara Ziegler and Buckingham place, too, had to circle before D.

Some memorable rides:

Philip Dutton and Connaught: the pair who look so “together” got a bit off rhythm coming up out of the sunken road, and he sat back in a VERY defensive position and drove the horse over.

William Fox-Pit: For as long/tall as the man is, he’s in INCREDIBLE balance!

Bruce Davidson and Jam: The pair lilted along, taking the whole thing in the rhythm of their stride. We could learn a thing or two from these pros!

Buck Davidson and My Boy Bobby: Lots of controlled power there.

Jolie Sexson and Killian O’Connor: a nice, tight pair. They communicate really well together.

Kyle Carter and Madison Park: SMOOTH. Nicely done!

Ditto The Alchemist and Debbie Rosen!

And finally, KUDOS to Bettina Hoy and Ringwood Cockatoo, who were the ONLY ONES to voluntarily take “the long way” around to D. They did it efficiently and easily, and while they added to some of their time, they took care of each other. Bravo!

As of the end of the day, eight out of the top ten were Europeans…and the top two were women! I’m pulling for the ladies to win it all this time.

Because of the issues with the dog at our fence, we had to stay a bit extra after the course was closed. In the hospitality tent afterwards, where it was more hot and claustrophobic than “hospitable”, we waited to see what we would need to do with any complaints lodged re: the fence judge’s decisions. Ultimately, we were able to leave, but it gives one pause to know how much responsibility we have as fence judges. Once again, I’m honored to participate in such an incredible sport.

Because I was working, I didn’t feel right about taking pictures, so I drafted Donna and several other onlookers to take pictures. A BIG thanks to Chelsea DuFresne from Minnesota, who not only took pictures, but took great ones (and with verve!). Thanks, too, to Alison and Carol from Area V who ended up sitting next to me in Lexington, KY. I look forward to seeing you at future events!

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