Saturday, October 2, 2010

Grand Prix Special at WEG

It was another fantastic day at WEG, filled with great rides, great weather, and just a little bit of drama. I'll get to the great rides and drama in a minute. As for the weather, quite a change from the first day, but it still started out quite cold (about 50 degrees at 9am). The sun was out all day though, and it sure warmed up quick. We passed around SPF 50 sunblock and I still got a bit red. I think the mercury got up to 80 today - pretty nice for the end of September.

So today was the Grand Prix special - the top 30 riders from the first two days came back to ride a different test and compete for Individual World Champion medals. The order of go was determined by putting those 30 riders into 6 groups of 5 based on their score in the Team round, and then a random draw within the groups of 5 put the riders in order. So the top five riders from the first two days of competition were the last five to ride today.

In the first group of five, Anabel Balkenhol came away with the early lead and a score of 72.6% (please note, I have been rounding off the scores). Her lead would hold through the next 16 riders, until Christoph Koschel from Germany rode almost 4.5 hours later! Again, Christoph rode Donnperignon beautifully. Aside from some piaffe work that earned only 5s and 6s, their test had a soft supple flow that was truly special to watch.

The next rider was another of the Germans, Matthias Alexander Rath on Sterntaler-Unicef. His test started out really well, even earning a 10 for his walk from one judge. His work on centerline in the canter did not score as well (the test calls for a pirouette left, then a series of one-tempi changes, then another pirouette to the right) and some of those scores were as low as 4. And just like his previous ride, he basically did not ride the piaffe at X on the final centerline. Yesterday he earned some low marks, today, there was even less attempt at piaffe, and he earned two zeros. Crazy to get a zero and a 10 in the same test! So that problem caused his score to drop to a 70.25% which was surely a dissapointment.

Another shocking disappointment came from Exquis Nadine and Hans-Peter Minderhoud. Nadine was rather worried about something today, and after a couple of smaller spooks or startles within the test, during the final centerline passage she leaped off the ground and Hans-Peter was lucky to stay on and finish the test! She was definitely not as well focused on her work today, and that caused the score to fall to only 68.3% which definitely displeased the crowd.

After Hans-Peter, Imke Schellekens-Bartels entered the ring. There was a slight moment of tension and resistance at the first piaffe (earning just 4s and 5s) but the rest of the test was really quite well done, and each of e 5 judges scores placed her in the lead at that point with a score of 74.8%. One more break where the John Deeres came in to drag the ring, and it was on to the top five.

I could go on forever here, but I will try to keep it brief. Isabell Werth had a couple of minor bobbles, a 10 from one judge on the extended walk, but had some trouble at the beginning of the two tempi flying changes and ended up with a 72%. Then it was time for Steffen Peters and Ravel.

They had a very steady test, with highlights in the half pass and flying changes. The extended walk scores of 6s and 7s and extended trots of 7s and 8s did affect their final score. The final score of 78.5% however, was enough to put them in the lead! And Steffen received straight 9s for the collective marks for rider's position and seat.

Next to halt at X was Laura Bechtolsheimer and Mistral, a pair that I enjoyed watching yesterday. Today was no different. Laura rode a very clean test, receiving a 10 from one judge on one of the piaffe scores, two 10s on the extended canter, and too many 10s to count on the final centerline passage and piaffe. Their low scores were the halts. I think she was so excited by the time she approached the final halt she didn't even notice that Mistral barely halted! Their score of 81.7% rocketed them to the lead.

Juan Manuel Munoz Diaz and Fuego XII were the last to go before Edward Gal and Totilas, and they had another great ride today. An fun pair to watch, the passage was a highlight, but Fuego did not show as much extension in the canter or freedom in the walk as some of the other horses. Their final score was 76%, which would end up keeping them just out of the medals behind Steffen.

So if I did not just give it away, Edward and Totilas won the gold by a landslide. And a beautiful landslide it was! He earned 10s from at least two or three judges on each passage score, as well as 10s on a piaffe, a piroutte, and too many 10s to count on the final passage and piaffe down centerline. Truly spectacular (did I say that yesterday too?). And Edward was awarded straight 10s on the rider collective mark. Best of all, during the victory gallop at the medal ceremony, Totilas was completely relaxed. He cantered around with his new cooler (while Ravel was a little bit crazy) and just took it all in stride on a long rein. That horse knew he was king of the ring today, and I think he loved every minute of it! So did everyone who got to see it.

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