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October 11, 2010

Things Didn't Quite Go According To Plan At The WEG

Team Sapphire! Photo courtesy of Erica McKeever.

 

Glad to be home after a very long and stressful week. I’m very proud of our wonderful Sara and McLain. Even though the week didn't go quite as planned, it was a fantastic experience. 

After arriving there on Saturday, the temperatures started to drop. It was freezing, but the horses were all healthy and fresh. Sunday morning was the jog, and the U.S. horses all jogged perfectly. Then we had to wait for Sunday night for the warm-up, which started at 7:30 p.m., and team USA went near the end close to 11 p.m.

Some horses jumped a couple of jumps in the ring, but Sara just made flat work. Monday came around quickly—the first round started at 10 a.m., so some of the horses that went early didn't get much sleep.

Sara went last for the team in the 120s, which took hours and hours. McLain’s plan was to be in the top three. When he went into the ring Mario was leading. Sara jumped beautifully and finished in second place, so U.S. riders were first and second, which left the U.S. team in the early lead.

Then the pressure began. It’s a wonderful, happy feeling leaving the barn knowing your horse is in fantastic form competing with the best in the world. 

Tuesday was another cold day. There was a lot of team spirit, which was great. Again, the class started at 10 a.m., which meant hours of waiting. That's when I get really nervous—once we leave for the ring my nerves settle, but it’s hard to watch until she walks in the in-gate.

When Sara and McLain walked in the ring, the home crowd was really enthusiastic. They often gave them a standing ovation. The pressure on the riders is incredible. I don’t know how they do it, but I guess that’s what makes them the best in the world. 

Team USA has a fantastic support team. Dr. Tim Ober, the team vet is always close by when the horses are at the ring, as well as George Morris, Lizzy Chesson and the other riders. Beezie was in the schooling area at the jump. Sara had 4 faults. McLain rode the water strong, and Sara was a little on the go and got too deep to an oxer and had it down. The team ended up in third place going into the final round on Wednesday, but the top four teams were less then a rail apart. I didn’t sleep much that night.

On Wednesday afternoon some of the lower placed individuals came back. Then in the evening, the top 15 individuals, and top 10 teams went. I wish we had gone early. Lauren went first and had 12 faults. There were already a few clear rounds, so this put more pressure on.  Mario and Urico went second, and they didn't have a good night either. Laura and Cedric put in a beautiful clear that moved them up in the individual standings. Then it was McLain’s turn.

The warm-up was OK. Hickstead and Eric were in the ring when she went in. He was clear, so the crowd were already excited. I really couldn't watch, but I heard the groan of the crowd, glanced up at the scoreboard, saw the 4, and then the last jump came down.

The disappointment is hard to explain. I felt sorry for McLain, as he always blames himself. He was devastated. It was a long walk back to the barn. The Germans were celebrating their win. We finished in 26th place, not exactly where McLain wanted to be. The team finished 10th, not a great day.

When McLain came back to the barn, he hugged Sara and apologized to Lee. I said it wasn’t his fault. You know he gave 110 percent as always, but there isn’t much you can say.

Thursday was an off day, so I just took Sara for a walk and grazed her for along time. Tim went over her and said she felt great. McLain came to the barn, and he didn't look too good. But he had to go and sign Sapphire Breyer horses in the trade fair. On the way back I saw the para riders getting ready for their class. Absolutely amazing!  Everything was put in perspective; these riders and horses were an inspiration to everyone.

Friday was a beautiful day. The class wasn’t going to start until 7 p.m. with the top 30 riders coming back. The jog was at 9 a.m., and there was several re-jogs, but everybody passed. Sara looked perfect.

Laura withdrew Cedric as she felt he didn’t feel 100 percent, so Sara was the only one to show from the United States. The news from the ring was the course was big and difficult. The bigger, the better for us. Sara went sixth, which is much better then 126th. The schooling area was perfect, and there were no clear rounds so far. When Sara went in she was the first, and the crowd definitely showed their appreciation. There were only five clear rounds, and this moved McLain up to ninth place. Another flawless round bought the crowd to their feet. They finished in seventh place!

As much as we wanted to be in the top four it wasn't meant to be. They pinned the class that night, which meant Sara tied for first with Hickstead and the horse that took the silver medal. Sara led the victory gallop, a very proud moment. She arrived home very fresh and happy!

Thank you to all of Sara and McLain’s fans for all of your love and support!

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