First of all, let me back up. Just entering KY makes me happy. The closer I get to Lexington, the happier I get: you start seeing beautiful farms several miles out. My head is on a swivel. It's like I'm playing a video game: Horse! Horse! Horse! There's another one! Horse! Horsehorsehorse! Driving past the KHP itself (my friend lives at the next exit, five miles up I-75 but only a mile as the crow flies from the actual boundary of the Park) I'm practically bouncing off my seat. I saw all the cars in the parking lot at the Alltech Arena, and could hardly wait to join them. Last year at the WEG I had no reason to go in the Arena, so I'd never even seen it.
On my way in the door, I bought this. Rarely have I been in more of a hurry to dig $5 out of my wallet. Just the sight of the program practically brought tears to my eyes: it was true, I was actually back at the National Horse Show, for the first time in some 30-odd years.
|(Doesn't hurt that it's a grey horse, either)|
|Many more people showed up after this. Apparently the attendance was lower than the organizers would have liked, but I thought it was a decent crowd.|
Before the class started there were a variety of introductory events. A chorale group sang the National Anthem beautifully, albeit at deafening volume (I had to put a finger in one ear and I wasn't alone. The next day I actually fled to the Ladies Room to escape their performance :-)). Dr. Pearse Lyons, founder of Alltech, gave a little speech (between the WEG and this show the company has done its level best to educate me about just what it is they do, but I profess to willfully ignoring them - sorry!). The President of the NHS, Mason Phelps, also spoke but not about his garish orange pants. And then there was George. Yes, THAT George (Morris), chef d'equipe of the US show jumping team, who talked about the importance of supporting the United States Equestrian Federation. I felt as though I'd done my part since I'd paid the full admission fee of $30, half of which was going to the USEF.
Here's the course map for the GP:
|My photo above is taken from in front of Fences #2 and #7a|
Here's a nice photo of Jessica taking the Keeneland fence, #1:
|Photo by Shawn McMillen|
As far as the other "name" riders, here's how they fared in Round 1:
- Margie Engle: Went clear on her pretty grey named Indigo :-)
- Kent Farrington: I LOOOOOVED his horse, a stunning dapple grey who was also a gorgeous jumper, so lofty and careful; sadly, they had rails at first and last for 8 faults
- Nicholas Dello Joio: Probably a green horse, 15 faults, but perfect through the triple on second attempt
- Laura Kraut: This pair positively ripped around the arena, and he had his knees up to his eyeballs, but 8 faults
- Nick Skelton: Yet another nice-looking and acting grey who went clear in excellent form
- Lauren Hough: A very hot horse. Lauren sensibly retired after just a couple jumps, having had a bad "sit-down" during a turn
- Charlie Jayne: LOVED this little bay mare (I think), Athena, who reminded me of Touch of Class and did great until #13 - 4 faults
- Todd Minikus: Not their night, 8 faults
- Rodrigo Pessoa: He and Let's Fly had a rail at fence #2, I believe, and then after a few more jumps and another rail, Rodrigo pulled up and exited the ring. I was very disappointed as I'd especially wanted to see him, but I guess he knew what was best for the horse and I certainly admire him for that
- McLain Ward: CRAZY hot horse (not even going to try and type his name, hah!), 4 faults
Other rounds of note were Paulo Santana of Brazil, riding Taloubet (clearly of the Baloubet line, I would think) and Christine McCrea of the US, riding Avenir. The former horse had an unbelievable kick in his hind end. They only scored four faults but I guarantee I'd be off between his ears over a tiny fence. Unbeknownst to me until this night, Christine was the Individual Gold Medalist at the recent Pan American games (our team also won Gold) on this horse, and I could sure see why: they are a beautiful, beautiful pair. All went well for them until, you guessed it, Unlucky #13. That completely stunk.
Five riders made it back for the jumpoff: Spooner, Margie, Jessica, a guy (!) named Harrie Smolders from the Netherlands, and Skelton. Here's Richard Spooner, not nicknamed the "Master of Faster" for nothing:
|Photo by Molly Sorge, Chronicle of the Horse|
|Photo by Molly Sorge, Chronicle of the Horse|
Here's my whole score sheet (the "V" meant I took video, by the way, and I'm going to try and get some more up on YouTube):
Some notes about tack/attire during this event:
- I saw the usual assortment of interesting head gear on these jumpers; mechanical hacks with/without bits, complicated bits, etc. On the other hand, I also saw at least a couple in plain snaffles.
- Spooner appeared for the awards presentation with Cristallo wearing draw reins, of all things. They certainly weren't on during the jumping so I guess he thought he needed more control at that point? I really don't know. All the horses were spooky during the awards, presumably because of the TV lights/cameras, but I thought this tack change quite interesting.
- Some of the riders sported show coats with shiny brass buttons front and back. This amused me because I have a show coat, ca. 1978, with similar buttons, and I thought those had gone the way of the dinosaurs.
- All/most of the riders were wearing navy blue sashes and I never could figure out why. I must need a new prescription because during this event and especially during the Maclay I had a tough time reading numbers, never mind if there was writing on the sashes.
Watching this Grand Prix was terrifically exciting and I was just so darn glad to be there. Certainly our Grand Prix held here in St. Louis is nowhere near the same scale: these were top-notch horses, largely capable of competing at the highest level of the sport. Only a couple horses really demolished the course (23 and 20 faults), and I thought it was tough but fair. I will be looking for some of these at the next Olympics, that's for sure!
Next Up: Behind The Scenes At The National