Apparently there is a Big Eq Horse factory somewhere cranking out large, brown or bay-with-no-markings Warmbloods, because I swear that about 75% of the horses in the Maclay class fit that description. It was truly amazing. It's a good thing there was an announcer because you literally could not tell them apart! I felt like standing up and cheering when a horse of a different color came into the ring (especially a grey, of course). When I was watching the warmup on Saturday night I was astonished to see a red roan trotting around out there. Boy, would I love to show up with a flashy Pinto or Appaloosa... that would shake things up.
Well, what do you know, look what I found on the Bigeq.com website. They do exist!
|This fella is a Belgian WB, billed as a 3' Eq horse or Jumper. I don't see why he couldn't go into the Hunter ring as well with those lovely knees! $40K and probably worth every penny, much-loved by a family of daughters.|
|This is just a pony, but what a doll... and I like his young rider's riding very much.|
I think the Brown Horse Syndrome is doubly amusing because heaven knows, the riders themselves are fairly undistinguishable. Same old, same old Tailored Sportsman breeches, dark coat, light shirt. Yaaaawwwwn. Really the only variation is in helmets and boots. With the helmets, a few years ago the "skunk stripe" GPAs were all the rage. Now it's Charles Owen GR8s or GPA Speed Airs. Thanks to a COTH Forum thread I read yesterday I have learned that Antares is in the helmet business now, and that some of the kids like those, too, but I wouldn't know one if it bit me. The uber-spendy Samshields are also picking up steam, but again - from my seat in the Arena all I noticed was the usual two suspects. Here are some course walkers modeling the GPAs:
Ovation Deluxe Schooler. Smart-looking, appropriate and cheap!)
Some of the boots were kind of interesting. This pair belonged to a young lady who washed out after the first round and was sitting near me in the stands:
As far as the riding actually went in the Maclay, for the most part I was suitably impressed in the first round. Most every rider put in a workmanlike trip with good to great results. I saw a few who must have come from the "easy to qualify" regions: one with legs shooting forward over every fence, another who was jumped loose every time, with noodle-y legs and heels up (that could have been partly nerves - I know my lower legs practically lose sensation in the show ring, I'm so wired from crise de nerfs). The riders who moved up to the flat phase and then especially the second round were uniformly excellent, effective horsepeople. The fact that some of them didn't look so pretty bugged me... and you know by that I mean those boys. Regarding this issue, I read someone's comment on COTH where she said the boys "lead with their shoulders" - exactly. Maybe this is something they can't help? But they didn't all do it...
Anyway, if you will allow me a moment of further political incorrectness, we all know that certain rider conformation lends itself to success in equitation. Basically, if you have legs the length of a giraffe's, thighs like twigs and the BMI of a supermodel, you're going to be favored. I was gratified to see that not every rider fit into that mold. This is a good thing. Girls today have enough problems with body image and they don't need to be discouraged from riding if the family genes have rendered them less than svelte. (Take that, George!)
Here is one thing I noticed a few riders doing: posting at the canter. I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me, but nope, that is exactly what they were up to. I forget where I saw it, if it was during the flat phase or in opening circles, but I know I did. The only other time I have seen this is on the polo field. All the players do it. For the life of me I couldn't figure out why I was seeing it in the Maclay ring (for that matter, nobody has been able to tell me yet why they do it playing polo). COTH thread to the rescue, again: supposedly this is to "help establish the quality of the canter." Hmmpf. I just think it looks weird.
As soon as the Maclay ended, which also signaled the end of the National Horse Show, I made a beeline for the NHS merchandise table. My hunch was correct: everything had been marked down 50%! I bought a pretty enamel pin with the NHS logo on it for $3.00, which I thought was a pretty good price for a souvenir. It joined my WEG pin on one of my horsey hats.
Then I made another clandestine trip "backstage," with the specific aim of finding Sarah and congratulating her. Once again, all the barns were deserted. I moseyed around, petted some noses and admired the gorgeous horseflesh, and then went into the warmup area/tunnel of the Arena. I thought it would be fun to see. I encountered absolutely no one... until I heard some shrieks of laughter and a young voice saying, "Don't drop the champion!" I peered around a corner and there she was, Sarah and two friends. One was a boy who had picked her up and was swinging her around. I waited until they had calmed down and were walking to the barn and then approached. I told her that I'd seen her win in St. Louis and had been rooting for her and she did a simply terrific job. She could not have been more gracious, thanking me and saying she appreciated my support. I thought about being a total fan-girl and asking for a photo with her, but it was pitch dark and I didn't want to embarrass Sarah (or myself) any more, so I skipped it. But I felt good getting to speak to her - what luck that I found her, out of everyone there!