October 2018 - The Gallop: World Equestrian Games

U.S. wins double silver in dressage, gold & silver in reining, while hurricane adds challenges to all.

by Kim F. Miller

Hurricane Florence made the World Equestrian Games even more interesting than it was already on track to be. Mark Bellissimo’s Tryon International Equestrian Center stepped up when the original host, Bromont, Canada, had to back out with just 18 months to prepare for the quadrennial competition that features eight disciplines over two weeks. There’s been a lot written about the parts of their ambitious plans that didn’t get finished in time, but watching from home on FEI-TV, and following media friends who are there, what strikes me is the remarkable amount of things they did finish and got right and the determination of all to see that the show goes on, so long as it can do so safely.     

 


The North Carolina venue has hosted equestrian competition for several years, and it’s exciting that the facilities they’ve added for the WEG will stay put to host major competitions far into the future. It seems like the long-term impact on the sport will be great.

 

Alex Luque Moral of Spain on Calandria PH leads after the restart of the endurance ride. Photo: FEI/Martin Dokoupil

North Carolina weather is often hot and humid in September, so participants and organizers were ready for that. As Hurricane Florence developed off the mid-Atlantic coast in the week preceding the Sept. 11 opening ceremonies, weather related prep went into high gear. An on-site weather station monitored changing conditions and shelter and evacuation plans were poised for worst-case scenarios.

But it wasn’t directly the storm that caused the shocking cancellation of endurance on Wednesday, Sept. 12. First, the race had to be re-started after several pairs were misdirected at an early leg of the course. At a press conference a few days later, there was no explanation as to how that happened but it was being looked into, officials assured. After the re-start, and just as the leaders were approaching the last part of the course, word came that the race had been cancelled altogether. The reason in this case was crystal clear: heat and humidity levels that exceeded those deemed safe by FEI horse welfare guidelines. Very sadly, it was later reported that one horse had to be euthanized and several were treated for heat-related issues.

Cade McCutcheon on Custom Made Gun, helping Team USA to another WEG gold! Photo: FEI/Liz Gregg

After these heartbreaking developments for endurance, dressage and eventing offered thrilling and inspiring competition. Extreme rain and wind forecast for Sunday, Sept. 16 prompted rescheduling of dressage freestyle and eventing’s show jumping to Monday, Sept. 17, originally an off-day for competition. Shortly after that decision was announced, news arrived that dressage freestyle was cancelled. This was mostly due to logistical concerns because the dressage horses were scheduled to leave the venue on Monday. Worries about the impact of the storm’s impact played their part, too.
    

Laura Graves of the United States on Verdades. Photo: FEI/Martin Dokoupil

Super Dressage

Dressage team competition was finished by then. Isabell Werth led the Germans to gold; Laura Graves, Kasey Perry-Glass, Adrienne Lyle and Steffen Peters led the U.S. to silver and Charlotte Dujardin led the British to bronze.  Completion of the team standings also meant that the top six teams, rounded out by Sweden, the Netherlands and Spain, had earned their berth at the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan. In the next day’s Grand Prix Special, the individual rankings repeated those of the indivduals in team competition: Isabell, Laura and Charlotte.

Dressage arena. Photo: FEI/Christophe Tanière

We guess team and individual silver medalist Laura Graves would have loved one more go at unseating Isabell Werth in the freestyle, but it was not to be. With Isabell riding Bella Rose, an earlier star returning from a lay-off, and Charlotte on the 9-year-old newbie, Mount St. John Freestyle, it seemed an unusually fair fight, so to speak, among these leading ladies of the sport. As Steffen noted in an interview, the fact that his and Suppenkasper’s 73.494 was the U.S. team’s drop score sheds light on the quality of the U.S. squad and the entire international field.

Along with rooting for our awesome U.S. team, it was fun to watch Charlotte Dujardin, Carl Hester, Edward Gal and Hans Peter Minderhaud, all of whom have given clinics in Southern California in the last two years, thanks to Scott Hayes Productions. Plus Laura Graves gave a terrific session with the CDS San Francisco chapter not long ago. And now Isabell Werth comes this month, Oct. 13-14, to San Diego. We are some lucky dressage fans here in California!
    

Rosalind Canter of Great Britain, riding Allstar B, leading Great Britain to Team Gold. Photo: FEI/Christophe Tanière

Eventing Kicks On

Eventing had to finish its third phase, stadium jumping, to determine team medals. After a very wet final jog on Sunday, Sept. 17, that phase went off smoothly on Monday. The United States finished dressage sitting third in the team standings, but Saturday brought some rough goes during the cross-country phase and they could not jump their way out of that hole for either a podium place or a top six spot that would have earned them a 2020 Olympic berth. Having finished 8th, the U.S. must now land top two at the Pan Am Games in 2019 to earn their ticket to Japan.

Dressage rider Laura Graves carrying the red, white & blue in the Opening Ceremonies. Photo: FEI/Liz Gregg

Captain Mark Phillips’ beautiful cross-country course made for exciting rides that shook up the standings for other countries, too. Great Britain, Ireland and France emerged top three and held those spots through show jumping to take gold, silver and bronze. As host of the 2020 Olympics, Japan didn’t need a top six finish to qualify, but they finished an impressive fourth. Germany was fifth and Australia, sixth.

The U.S. reiners won another team gold even amid increasingly intense competition from other countries. Belgium’s Bernard Fonck and What a Wave earned individual gold. The USA’s Dan Huss and Ms Dreamy were individual silver, followed by 18 year old Cade McCutcheon and Custom Made Gun in bronze.

Mark Bellissimo Photo: FEI/Liz Gregg

We went to press with this issue just as Week Two got underway. As of Wednesday, Sept 19, the U.S. had earned its first para-dressage WEG medal with Rebecca Hart’s bronze in the Individual Grade III test. Beyond that, show jumping, vaulting and driving were just starting under sunny skies.

We’ve very much enjoyed following the action via our FEI-TV subscription. Coverage has included great commentary and helmet-cam views, which were especially thrilling on cross-country. We’re so happy that almost all horses and people survived the dangerous weather, and send our thoughts to those thousands in Hurricane Florence’s path who were not so fortunate.
    
The Gallop welcomes news, tips and photos. Contact Kim F. Miller at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 949-644-2165.