London, Day 2

Aug 7, 2012 - 12:17 PM

What a day, what a day, what a day! Historic, monumental, WICKED inspiring! Where does one begin to account such a day? At the beginning, I guess.

Mom and I headed out to the park more than an hour early after much deliberation about how early to go, and we were spot on – security took a while, and then it was a 15-minute walk to the arena itself. We sat down (in the wrong seats, whoops) with minutes to spare before the first rider came down centerline.

The morning was filled with the bottom-placed teams and a handful of individuals, some of which were great, none of which were amazing, but also (fortunately) none of which were calamitous. Jan and Tina put in nice tests, and Steffen gave us all a riding lesson (except for one accident in the ones), and we finished up a nice fifth, which is pretty much where we all thought we’d end up. For the Canadians in the crowd, Ashley couldn’t have smiled any bigger down her first centerline, and produced some lovely work.

Things got going right before lunch, when the best of the lower teams came up. Ravel was great. Tinne had a brain fart and started to canter half-pass instead of the ones, then bungled the ones she did get. Fuego was FANTASTIC, and I thought he should have beat Steffen. (Sorry guys!) Scandic showed a beautiful long neck and some killer piaffe and passage.

After lunch, Valentina’s Eremo did some good spooking both before and during her test but showed some nice work. This was one of my favorite pairs from the Grand Prix, and I was sorry to see them have trouble today. Rubi, this charming little PRE-looking creature, got the best scores on piaffe of the day to that point.

And then the Germany-Great Britain showdown began. Dorothee Schneider took a commanding lead on 77.54. Then Carl said, nope, down with you lot, 80.54. The crowd went BANANAS. Next up was Anky, who, let us all remember, is taking this horse to his third Olympics with a whole mountain of gold behind her and climbed up from a ghastly 46 percent start to almost 75 percent. Hello.

Kristina Sprehe left the door open by having some leapy moments in the passage, and just as Laura and Alf entered the ring, the clouds opened up, and it started to drizzle, which meant everyone in the stands started putting on ponchos. Alf is known to be a hot head, and we all were just waiting for him to do a nutty… and he settled right in and got to work, bungling the ones AND twos, but making light of everything else.

Anna Kasprzak was next for Denmark, and in spite of blown tempis, a halty-walky step into her first piaffe, and a blown canter pirouette, still knocked out a 73.952 percent, which should tell you how good everything else is. Edward Gal got, in my opinion, underscored for his fantastic piaffe and transitions on Undercover, and then in came Damon Hill.

I watched them online in the Grand Prix and said to myself, “Oh man, I would kill to learn how to ride the piaffe and passage like this.” The work, of course, is brilliant, but Helen has this amazing way of creating and then managing energy in him, because he doesn’t look like a hothead lunatic sort of chap. He looks like a normal German horse, and since I ride a normal German horse, this is a skill I want to possess.

And it was stunning today. At any other games, she would have been hard to beat. But you know? I think that for years, the Germans and the Dutch have been on top, and I kind of wonder if, at this Games, in these troubled times, if everyone on the judging panel (and, indeed, pretty much everyone in the crowd who wasn’t wearing orange or eating a schnitzel) wasn’t thinking, “It’s time for a change.”

Because then Charlotte came in, and everything went still.

The horse is unreal. So compact, so forward. There was a mistake in the ones, but it was practically forgiven. And she finished her test and brought the house DOWN.

I felt bad for poor Nathalie and Digby, who are so charming together. How do you follow an act like that? They did, and did well, and the sun came out from behind the clouds, and they got 75.857.

And I have to say that I LOVE Parzival, and that they did a much better job today than in the Grand Prix, with a much longer and lower neck, and that if it’d been up to me I actually would have seen her on top (sorry, again!). But I really think that everyone loves the hometown heroes, and that it was time for someone else to win.

So it was gold for Great Britain – their first medal ever in dressage, hellova thing. Germany took silver, the Dutch took bronze, Denmark fourth, Sweden fifth, USA sixth, Spain seventh. I don’t know exactly who moves onto the freestyle, though I know Steffen is one of them, so the cutoff must have been below 76, which is pretty impressive, considering that Isabell Werth and Satchmo WON the Grand Prix Special in Hong Kong on 75.2 percent.

I get the failboat award for taking both of these videos with my iPhone vertically and not horizontally, so they aren’t great quality, but here’s a clip of the crowd going absolutely gazambas over Charlotte’s ride (does not accurately capture the complete pandemonium – it was NUTS!), and then another video of the crowd doing one round of MANY “Mexican” waves (not sure what makes a wave Mexican, but there it is).

Mom and I wore our foam fingers and tiaras with pride, ran into lots of friends, made some new ones, and generally had a preposterously good time.

Tomorrow, we get to do a little exploring, since we couldn’t get tickets to anything else. And then Thursday it’s freestyle time.

WOWOWOWOWOW!! Inspiring, inspiring, inspiring! Poor Midge, Ella and Fender, they’re not going to know what hit them when I get home.


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