Jimmy Wofford shares his musings on the first two days of competition at Rolex Kentucky.
The judging has been very tough, but it seems to be level, and I do not think they’ve been unfair to anyone. The ground juries are starting to judge eventing dressage in terms of dressage, and not all of our horses and riders have satisfied the requirements for good scores yet. Having said that, I was very pleased with the overall attitude of the U.S. riders who are obviously here to compete rather than merely participating.
My only disappointment with the first day was that Sinead Halpin and “Tate” did not perform quite as good a test as I had hoped. They are well placed, but I think that Tate’s obvious fitness got the better of him. This pair is not out of it by any means.
It’s the sports world, and March Madness is just over, and they kept talking about how a team controls its own destiny. Well, Allison Springer and Arthur control their own destiny.
I am thrilled for Michael Pollard because if he will ever learn to have three good days in a row he can be one of our brightest stars.
From Friday’s dressage, I’m disappointed with Wundermaske, who was one of my top 10 picks, because he can be so good, but he went in the ring and got green, and Sharon White did as good a job as she could under the circumstances. When a horse is not with you, it’s tough to do dressage.
On Thursday the judges left themselves some room for Friday, but then the weather did not cooperate today, and the tests were unsettled. I don’t think it was just a question of the judging being severe, which I think it was slightly, but also I think the tests were off a little bit. They were giving an average of 1 mark less than I might have given if I were a judge, but they were very consistent with that all along. The reason the scores did not explode after lunch Friday was the weather—wind, rain and cold temperatures—and riders had to really struggle to get into the low 40s.
For some reason the Rolex stadium always has an atmosphere. That kind of leveled the dressage. Except for Allison and William, everyone is packed up with close scores, and over a four-star course, not everyone is going to make the time, so it’s the classic case of “it’s not a dressage competition.”
If you’re within 8 points of lead, you’re well placed.
My impression of the first veterinary examination was that the horses are in much better condition this year. In years past I think that the horses coming here from Florida have looked stale and dehydrated. That was not the case this year. I think that there are several factors at work. First of all, we have more riders with experience in preparing upper-level event horses, and the horses this year have obviously been prepared to peak at Rolex rather than win every horse trials along the way.
Next, I think that riders are learning to handle the distractions of a winter training center. The problem is not that there is not enough to do; the problem is there is too much to do. The winter months now offer an endless succession of show jumping clinics, private dressage lessons, seminars, horse shows and other training opportunities. Taken one at a time, these opportunities are invaluable; however an endless diet of them soon puts the horse over the top and causes him to lose interest in his work.
There were at least 10 horses at the first exam with a “bloom” on their coat. This metallic sheen can not be produced with lotions or potions; not even elbow grease will put a bloom on a horse’s coat. Only a horse in peak condition will display this, and I was thrilled to see so many horses obviously here in peak condition.
Finally, I would like to think that our new coach David O’Connor is quietly exerting more influence on the conditioning and training workload of the horses and riders that we will be watching this weekend.
Tears To Come?
Looking ahead, Derek di Grazia has obviously increased the difficulty of the cross-country. It’s typical of him that he has done this by placing increased pressure on the riders. There is nothing here horses and riders have not jumped before, but the jumps are higher, wider and more related than most of these combinations of horses and riders have ever seen before. After I walked the course I hurried home and obtained the Kleenex concession for the stable area. There will be a lot of broken hearts in the barn on Saturday night.