Mill Spring, N.C.—Sept. 19
The roar of the crowd; nations battling it out for team glory under pressure; four grueling days of competition—you only get to compete in your first FEI World Equestrian Games once, and during Wednesday’s opening speed round we caught up with four riders competing in their very first WEG.
Karen Polle, 26, represented Japan aboard With Wings. Out of 120 pairs they sit 11th going into Thursday’s competition and had a quick time and no rails down in Wednesday’s speed round.
On her speed round, which briefly went into the lead:
“I’m in shock; it still hasn’t sunken in,” Polle said. “Unbelievable, I never expected this in a million years. Walking in I was really excited for sure. Definitely nervous but it is a really special moment, so I was just trying to enjoy it because you work so hard for this, and I just wanted to really soak it in a little bit.”
On her horse, With Wings:
“I’m nervous, but for sure having him with me makes me feel like we can do this,” Polle said. “I’m going to be OK. I got him eight years ago when he was 7, and he was always a special horse, but he’s opinionated and a bit temperamental, so we definitely had some tough times. We started in the low junior jumpers and worked our way up to the grand prix level, and his biggest classes have always been my biggest classes. We know each other well now, and it’s definitely nice to have him here with me. I wouldn’t want to do it on any other horse.”
Erynn Ballard, 38, represented Canada aboard Darkos Promise. They sit 33rd going into Thursday’s competition and had a single fence down in Wednesday’s speed round.
On representing Canada at her first WEG:
“I feel very good about it; I’ve been to Tryon before, so I feel like I’m in my comfort zone,” Ballard said. “I’m lucky my first time isn’t in Europe or someplace. This year I’ve ridden with some of these riders before, so I don’t feel like a complete stranger, and I feel good about my horse and my team, so I think it’s very exciting.”
On her horse, Darkos Promise:
“Well I think it’s unusual that you get a horse in May and you’re at a championship in September, but it’s also a little bit my style; I have great faith in the horse. And everything that we’ve done has told us we’re ready for it. He’s the right age; I’ve had an amazing year; I feel good about where I am; he wants to do it; I want to do it. So I wouldn’t wish to be on any other horse right now. He’s from Ilan Ferder, he was in Ocala [Florida] this winter. He’s a bit of a stranger; no one really knew him, and he’s starting to set the world on fire. He’s made it to the right owner and the right program and right rider, and he’s going to become very famous. He was bred in Ireland, born and raised in Ireland.”
Devin Ryan, 36, represented the United States aboard Eddie Blue. They sit 38th going into Thursday’s competition and had just one rail down in Wednesday’s speed round.
On representing the United States in his first international team championship:
“When you’re sitting in the stands some people say, ‘Oh I don’t get nervous.’ I think everybody gets nervous,” Ryan said. “When you’re sitting in the stands you feel it a little bit. But it’s unbelievable when you get on that horse, that confidence I have in him. I get on him in the schooling area and all that goes away, and I know all we have to do is go in with what we’ve been working on all summer.”
On his horse, Eddie Blue, who he’s had since Eddie was 4:
“To walk into that ring on him is like walking into any ring, honestly, just the confidence he gives me,” Ryan said. “I think he believes in me that much too, probably a little bit because I’ve had him from such a young horse. We have that bond and that relationship.”
Luka Zaloznik, 34, represented Macedonia aboard Coupe Du Rouet. They sit 78th going into Thursday’s competition and had no rails down in Wednesday’s speed round.
On qualifying for the WEG:
“The plan for the last three years [was] to make the qualification; this is my first time getting here,” said Zaloznik. “I am super proud to be here; I think I did a good job, and I am super happy.”
On his horse, Coupe Du Rouet:
“My horse I got last year in February. He was quite not experienced; he came from Mexico from an amateur rider and I got feeling with him, and I said this is my horse to jump a WEG,” Zaloznik said. “Now we are here, and we did a good job, and I am so excited.”
Luka Zaloznik gave a quick fist pump after he jumped a clear round on Coupe Du Rouet. Photo by Kimberly Loushin.
On representing Macedonia:
“I think we will put some good riders together on a team in the future,” said Zaloznik, who is originally from Slovenia. “It’s a very nice country, very nice people. They are not rich; it’s a poor country, but they love animals, and that is the most important thing, and they support me.”
To see coverage of the winners from the class, click here.
For full results from the FEI World Equestrian Games, click here.
For everything you need to know, including broadcast schedules, click here.
For all WEG coverage, click here.
We’ll be onsite for the full two weeks of WEG to bring you all the news you need to know plus gorgeous photos and insight into the competition. Be sure to check out the Oct. 8 issue of the Chronicle for detailed analysis.