Blog Number 3 25th September
Part 2 from WEG
As everyone will know, the WEG eventing dressage phase concluded with Team GBR in a good position in reach of a medal and our camp was on the whole content and excited at what was to come. During the dressage days, every now and then someone would come up to our air-conditioned viewing location by the Tryon Arena looking red hot and flustered, a sure sign they had been out to walk the cross country course. This was quite amusing until we set out on the same mission. We found the track ran steeply downhill from the central venue to the first few jumps, then much of the action took place in a beautiful parkland bowl that contained a huge lake, many a twist and turn, lots of water fences, and the run home was up a very steep and very, very long hill. In the hot and humid conditions pre Hurricane Florence our thoughts were on how, if it was scorching, the horses would be cooled after their runs, or if it rained heavily how would the course toughen up. Also, to be honest, on getting ourselves back to the top of the hill without expiring!
Given the high level of anxiety about how the turbulent weather would develop around Tryon, WEG Saturday and cross country day reality was a welcome surprise. With generally overcast skies, moderate temperatures and a light breeze it was a relief that the weather wasn’t that influential and held up for most of the day. A few sharp showers passed quickly through during the early part of the competition but generally the conditions were fair to all the horses. The going on course was excellent and the track we thought equalled it, with innovative fence dressing and challenging questions throughout its duration.
The usual dilemma of ‘where will we go to watch’ was exacerbated by the prospect of the hike up and down the long hill to the main obstacles in a huge bowl. The trade-off between seeing horses and riders come home and of seeing more jumping action was pronounced. Owners who gambled on having good screen viewing at the finish in the main arena were disappointed as the large outdoor screen had been removed overnight, and similarly the arena hospitality area had no coverage of the cross country. Down in the bowl, two large, open-sided hospitality tents proved ideal vantage points for the downhill run to the early fences, the long gallop around the lake, up the hill to the stone wall then the run back through the influential Mars water feature. By quickly crossing a pedestrian bridge it was possible to see the horses come back around to the equally influential crossing fence combination. The tents seemed to us the perfect location, with plenty of seating, refreshments and reassuring, good company, complemented by a large screen located close to the first turn. Its associated commentary had a habit of breaking up. when key completions were in progress or results summaries were being announced, however this all added to the drama of the day.
As you can imagine, much emotional energy was expended in the owners’ camps before the competition commenced. However, Gemma’s early round showed the course and the all-important turns could be ridden at speed and thereafter the owners’ anxieties about performance expanded swiftly to include not letting the team down after such a good start. It was fascinating to see how the superb team spirit evident amongst the riders and squad advisors was reflected amongst the owners. No one looked on this as an individual competition and happily our combined wildest hopes were realised when all five GBR riders put in the most amazing clear and fast rounds. To end the day at the top of the team rankings was a surreal feeling after all the (now unnecessary) worry about the conditions.
It was heart-warming to enjoy the company and support of other people spectating in the bowl, who of course were primarily there to support other nations. People were so friendly, keen to admire all the horses and to make new connections. We were thrilled to be invited to go to the Galway USA three star in the autumn by some local enthusiasts. Also, to meet two ladies from Norfolk who have travelled to see Team GBR at every championship since Athens. Of course there was ardent cheering and flag waving from every nation’s home team supporters as their riders sped by but generally the enthusiasm made for a very pleasant and mutually supportive festive feel. We concluded our day in the Summit Club unwinding over a few beers with fellow spectators, all very satisfactory.
With the weather forecast to deteriorate and all Sunday competitive events cancelled we had only the trot up to accommodate the following day. The timing of that was moved several times in anticipation of a break in the rain. It wasn’t to be and everyone was drenched and ankle deep in water by its conclusion. The smart gear of the first horse inspection was replaced by waterproofs and wellies. However, our team jackets passed the soak test and don’t leak a drop, which was another good result. The team GBR horses looked absolutely superb at trot up and the riders splashed up and down the puddles at impressive speed, some in wellies. The stables were sand-bagged and remained dry but the same can’t be said of the surrounding walkways, and the team’s electric buggy was partly submerged at one time. Returning home to watch news reports on TV the storm’s impact on parts of the state left us very grateful to be concerned with sport and not to be dealing with homelessness and flood damage.
Delaying the showjumping by a day allowed us all to relax just a little, but then to have plenty of time to dwell on the potential for the medal positions to change. We enjoyed a very convivial owners dinner with the whole team except the grooms (who were still working) on the Sunday night. Wise words were said and the team managers helped to get the show jumping stage in perspective, with the sage advice to all the riders being just to do their very best, as their own performance is all that they can control and circumstances for others will dictate the results.
Everyone who follows eventing will know that team GBR secured individual and team gold medals, but may not have experienced the especial torture of being present and strongly invested in a competition jumped in reverse order and with both team and individual medals at stake. Every pole that falls you realise is someone’s disappointment, dreams crashing, effort for nothing, but this is set against the pleasure of seeing some horses and riders successfully handle the huge championship track in a very pressured environment. Seeing Allstar B and Ros pop around the course like they were jumping Newcomers was beyond impressive and brought huge relief to us all, and a lot of flag waving in the medal ceremony. That those who were unlucky showed such gracious sportsmanship is my abiding memory, alongside the huge thrill of seeing the Brits, Irish and French being presented with their team medals. What an event, we feel so honoured to have been present. And so much fitter for having been up and down and round that cross country course a few times!
Blog Number 2 15th September
Tryon Equestrian Centre is quite a place, and as the first week of competitions gets underway it is proving to be a very spectacular setting for WEG. With a massive, on-going expansion programme to accommodate this and subsequent events, the facilities are superb for the horses and participants. The numerous arenas, rings and walkways are set amongst shopping, dining and relaxation areas and every way you turn there is entertainment of the sporting, educational or credit card-flexing varieties. Our impression is that the quality of the permanent horse facilities is top notch. The atmosphere is very calm and cheerful in the central barn area where the eventers are stabled, with the Team GBR horses sItuated in a good ‘end of row’ spot, with maximum airflow and easy access to water and other supplies. There are spacious rings available closeby for training and exercising.
The stable areas are fortunately are built to withstand the severe storms that characterise this part of the USA. With incoming hurricane Florence already causing hardship to coastal residents and threatening to deluge the region across a 400 mile front there have been more discussions about weather than even at a UK event. Weather updates are being provided daily and plans are in place if conditions deteriorate significantly.
Riders’ and owners’ arrangements are focused on the team hotel in Asheville, a characterful town busy with tourists, many of whom come to visit the Biltmore Estate, ancestral home of the Vanderbilt family, and to enjoy the arts, the food and craft brewing scene and to tour the Blue Ridge Mountains. We took half a day to drive west from Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway, a road closed to heavy traffic that leads you high up across the mountains and through the forests. A very spectacular route with mown verges and banks of wild flowers and an excellent diversionary tactic to quell pre-event nerves.
No rest days for the riders, team trainers and support staff. They are busy from dawn to late at night, working in extreme temperatures that mean the horses need constant monitoring and everyone is learning to adapt to the conditions. Team morale is high and we all enjoyed a reception at the start of the week, at which the eventing riders were presented with their new MUSTO kit. The riders and support teams are now entirely focused on the competition and owners are keeping discreetly in the background. However when we see the squad members they are all very upbeat and clearly enjoying their joint mission, as well as throwing themselves (not literally) into the extracurricular kayaking, team workouts and physio sessions.
As of the Wednesday trot up, the games are now very definitely on on, and whilst we enjoyed a team Tattersall dinner at a steakhouse in Asheville last night (Thursday) we missed groom Marcelle’s company as it is an hour-long drive back to the stables. She couldn’t be persuaded to leave her horse even for a few hours downtime. Interesting to hear from her how much he is drinking in the heat during in the course of an evening, about three times his normal intake. All the grooms’ attention to detail is a marvel and people come up to us frequently to say how tremendous the Team GBR horses are looking.
Hot and humid days gave way to a warm and breezy Thursday morning, perfect for the first day of eventing competition and the second day of pure dressage. The arenas for these competitions are adjacent and from the top floor of VIP hospitality – we have been hosted very generously – we can view both competitions by crossing the room. This is horse heaven. We watched Gemma ride early, then moved across the room to watch Carl in the main stadium, back to see Piggy’s test, across to see Charlotte, back to see Tina, all without moving away from the air-conditioned hospitality area. To experience this quality of horsemanship in one day was special beyond measure. We could also appreciate the rides of Isabel Werth and Sonke xxxxx as they led the German dressage team to gold. I resolved to book tickets to other integrated championships, as it is such a pleasure to be here. Amidst all this dressage, endurance horses circulate on exercise, driving horses pound their way through occasionally and the reiners audience cheers can be heard a good distance away.
More to follow as the competition develops…
I am Linda Allan and I am part of the Arctic Soul (known as Spike in the yard), Syndicate and am lucky enough to be making the trip to WEG this week.
We are heading out on the 10th September and staying til the 18th and I will update you as best I can with the trial and tribulations of an EHOA member out at WEG
We set up our accommodation about a year ago – Spike was going so well and I had everything crossed and we chose to stay in a B and B about 12 miles away in Landrum.
Gemma’s mum Marcelle is doing the quarantine phase groom role and I hope she will get to send us some early stable pics too.
Until later in the week