There’s no doubt that as Chronicle staff members we’re lucky to get to travel to some of the biggest competitions on the calendar. But regardless of how many times we hit the road to report on what happens when a horse heads out on course or canters down centerline, each year we’re left with lasting impressions that we’ll remember far after the story is published.
Mollie Bailey’s Favorite Moment: Clinta Clinches A Win For Team USA
It would have been hard to script a better finish for the show jumping competition at the FEI World Equestrian Games (North Carolina). The United States and Sweden tied down to the hundredth after the competition after three rounds of competition, forcing an unprecedented jump-off. The Swedes went first, and the U.S. riders matched them round for round.
When it came down to the last combination of the day, McLain Ward and Clinta started out on a true jump-off pace and nipped around the course easily. When her hind hooves safely hit the dirt after the last fence without hitting a pole, Ward looked up at the scoreboard to check his time. If the cumulative time was less than the Swedes’ then team USA would win gold.
After the one-second pause to check the clock, the normally sedate Ward erupted in celebration. Spectators joined in the cheering, and Ward stayed in the ring an extra minute pumping his fist in the air and patting his mare. It was an extraordinary moment for U.S. show jumping fans, spoiled for some who were watching at home when the feed cut out midway through the short course. But for those fans who did manage to make it to Tryon, it was an unbelievable fairytale finish to the Games.
Kimberly Loushin’s Favorite Moment: Always An Appreciation For The Horse
I’ve been lucky enough to see not one, but two, U.S. riders win the FEI World Cup Final in the short time I’ve worked for the Chronicle. And while last year was hard to beat (thanks McLain for the bunny ears!), Beezie Madden’s win this year was special in its own way.
It had all the makings of what makes this job so much fun: The cheers as Beezie was the last to enter the ring on a score of zero, a brief hand squeeze with photographer Shannon Brinkman as we both wished for things to turn out in our way, and the heart stopping moment as Breitling LS dropped his first rail partway through the course.
And as Beezie and Breitling cleared the final fence with no other faults, the elation set in. But we were in Paris to work, not to celebrate, so after Beezie took a few minutes in the ring to celebrate her victory, with us snapping away, I took off behind Shannon towards the warm-up area for some behind the scenes shots. (Shoutout to British photographer Jon Stroud for recovering my phone after I left it in the photo pit. Whoops.)
And despite the pure chaos of that warm-up ring, it was one of the most magical parts of the trip. Amid the flurry of camera shutters, other competitors giving Beezie their congratulations, and the hurry to get Breitling in his winning cooler for presentations, Beezie took a few moments to appreciate the horse who helped her win her second World Cup Final. I’ve always known Beezie to be a consummate horseman, but watching her dote on Breitling, I saw a glimpse of what I imagine got Beezie into the sport years ago, pure love of the horse.
Lindsay Berreth’s Favorite Moment: Checking One Off The Bucket List
I was able to fulfill a lifelong dream when I went to the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials (England) this spring. Since it was the week after, I skipped the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day for the first time in several years, which was a little painful, but in the end, Badminton was incredible.
I went with a friend, and it was the first time I’d ever tried to drive on the left side of the road. Surprisingly, we survived and really got the hang of it by the end of the week. Driving through the country roads of England, stopping at historic pubs and staying in beautiful Bath are what my dreams are made of. Driving up the country lane to the event and looking out over yellow fields of rapeseed while listening to Radio Badminton in the car was pretty surreal.
The scope of Badminton is pretty amazing. I was definitely not prepared for the size of the trade fair, which actually had street signs to help you figure out where to go! The media center is as big as I’ve ever seen, and the crowds were enormous.
Standing in the arena to shoot dressage and show jumping, I got chills. I’ve watched videos of past Badmintons since I was a kid, and I never expected I’d be standing there with a camera in my hand.
Walking the cross-country course was daunting, and at the end of the day I had to stop and think for a minute. A year to the day of cross-country I had fallen off a horse and broken both my ankles, but that Saturday at Badminton I walked miles watching the best horses and riders in the world.
Seeing famous fences like the Hollow and the Vicarage Vee gave me a new perspective, and rounding the corner to see the gorgeous Badminton House standing tall in front of me was breathtaking.
Even more exciting was watching Jonelle Price come from 16th place after cross-country to win her first four-star. Being in the literal center of it all was something I’ll never forget.
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