What a day. It rained and rained and rained. Not very hard, just a steady, chilly drizzle. I was sure glad I decided to put on that extra vest this morning. And many thanks to the man at the hotel desk who gave me free ponchos this morning! He was a lifesaver.
With the aid of ponchos keeping me and my camera dry (or as dry as possible), I watched every single rider today. I took notes on every rider, and took as many pictures as I could, but the light was not very good for photography even with the stadium lights on, so I am not sure how some of them will be.
It is now very late already, almost 11:30pm, and I just got back after attending the most fantastic concert I have been to in recent memory. I heard the American Spiritual Ensemble (that had sung at the opening ceremony) at the 1st Presbyterian Church in Lexington. They were amazing - each and every song gave me chills or brought me almost to tears, or both. Look them up.
As for the horses, wow. The first big wow was Hans-Peter Minderhoud riding Exquis Nadine, who is a spectacular horse. His score of just over 72% was no shock at all. Could have been even higher without a few little bobbles in the test. Other rides I liked out of the morning session were Anabel Balkenhol (Germany), whose horse Dablino has a lovely passage and a well balanced canter, but was very tight and nervous in the walk, and Emma Kinerva (Finland) who is a lovely, soft rider. Her horse Sini Spirit started well but they had some mistakes in the canter zig-zag. A bit of controversy in the crowd after Anabel's ride since the judges scores ranged from 62% up to 72%. Interesting. Yet another reason I want to enter the USDF "L" judge program.
After a break for arena maintenance and the medals ceremony for Endurance (complete with victory gallop) there were six more rides before the lunch break. Oded Shimoni (Israel) rode a steady test but had some issues in the changes. I loved watching Luiza Tavares de Almeida (Brazil) ride. Her horse Samba was a bit heavier bodied and he needs to develop more thrust and power, but they were a lovely pair to watch and I will keep my eye out for them in the future.
After a very wet lunch break where I managed to score a free sample of some french pork dish at the booth advertising the next world games in France, our first US rider, Todd Flettrich, had a very good test. Some lovely piaffe work, but the last piaffe was quite stuck and tense, and Otto's flying changes tended to be a bit short behind. But a good showing for the first US rider with a score of over 66%.
The next few riders all had some nice moments, and some not so nice moments. The four riders after Todd ranged in scores from 64% to 66.5% or so. Then the next Dutch rider, Imke Schellekens-Bartels entered the arena. Wow. She gave Hans-Peter a run for the money, and she stole it. Her horse, Hunter Douglas Sunrise, was amazing. But for one bobble in the canter zig-zag, they would have scored even higher than the 73.4% they received.
The next horse to go was quite a contrast - a Spanish horse ridden by Claudio Castilla Ruiz from Spain. VERY different horse than the previous. Typical Spanish style stallion - very thick neck and crest, and a much more compact stride, especially in the canter. But he rode a well balanced test, and scored a respectable 67.3%. After that, a young German rider by the name of Christoph Koschel entered the arena on Donnperignon. Very nice, uphill moving horse with big extensions. Perhaps something of a sleeper after the Dutch horses were so flamboyant, but I loved him. And Christoph has a lovely seat with forward energy and none of the tension and backwards push I had seen in some of the other riders. Keep an eye on him too.
Belinda Trussel from Canada had a great ride, as did Sune Hansen from Denmark and Rackel Sanna from Australia. Last to go today was the other US rider, Katherine Bateson-Chandler, riding Nartan, a horse she has only been riding for about 6 months. They had a very good test, but there were a few errors that very much could have been due to the newness of the partnership. Must be nice to have a sponsor to go out and buy you a million dollar horse so you can qualify for the WEG. She did show well, ending with a score of 69.6% to put the US in fourth place after today.