While it's always a thrill to watch our country's top horses and riders, this spring I took special pleasure in seeing Karen O'Connor ride the diminutive Theodore O'Connor around some big advanced tracks like Red Hills (Fla.) and The Fork (N.C.).
It's not just seeing the incredible jump and bounce that "Teddy" embodies--and he does have an unbelievably athletic jump and great heart. It's also the enthusiasm that Karen brings to the job of riding a mount who isn't exactly slated for this year's World Equestrian Games selection.
It's Sunday morning at a three-day event, and even before the sky begins to lighten, headlights are pulling into the temporary stables, the sound of diesel trucks mixing with the banging of buckets and tossing of hay and grain. Riders and grooms unwrap bandages, handwalk horses under wool coolers, ice legs, and jog horses before the critical eye of vets and trainers.
Earlier this summer, things weren't looking too good for the U.S. Eventing Association Area VI teams. Jennie Branagan, who was short-listed for the one-star, lost her horse to colic in July, and two-starrider Rachel Lathrop lost Country Toad in a freak cross-country accident this spring. But the remaining riders pulled together during training sessions with Bea and Derek di Grazia to have one of the Area's best showings ever at the NAYRC.
For Jessica Pye, this year's CN North American Young Riders Championships CCI** competition couldn't have gone much better. She and Carte Blanche led
from the dressage and never surrendered their position, also leading the Area V team to the gold medal.
But as she took an impromptu victory lap after the completion of her winning show jumping round, pumping the air and patting her horse, she just couldn't fight back tears.
Despite the bad publicity of the event and his own misfortune, Phillip Dutton likes the concept of Express Eventing. The problem, he said, was just that the courses weren’t appropriate for the arena.
“The timing of it at the end of the year was quite good. I think it’s important to get good horses and riders,” he said. “It was not a pretty sight to see some of the best horses having trouble. My horse was great—I just went off course, which was embarrassing.”
The breeder of Theodore O’Connor has always known exactly what she wanted to produce.
Try to peg P. Wynn Norman as a certain type of horseman, and you won’t get far. She’s bred a national pony hunter champion but doesn’t consider herself a pony hunter breeder. She’s bred a four-star eventer with international medals but doesn’t consider herself a breeder of event horses.
Driving to work the other day, I heard a segment on NPR referring to the struggles we’re all facing in this economic climate. They mentioned the old saying that tough times don’t last, tough people do. It certainly applies to our economic challenges, but I think many horse people especially live by this motto.
The college student and her Morab earn second-level wins in Iowa.
When Morgan Williams purchased Sahara’s Starr 11 years ago, she was really looking for a Quarter Horse for trail riding. She didn’t have a high opinion of Arabians, but she was still persuaded to go look at a 2-year-old filly out of a mostly Arabian dam.
“She was the sweetest of all the horses I tried. I really got her for her personality,” said Williams, 25.
But Anky van Grunsven prevails in the individual showdown.
A small chink appeared in the armor of the impenetrable German dressage team last fall at the European Championships. With a win there, the Dutch garnered new hope for the 2008 Olympic Games—they had proved that their old rivals were, in fact, beatable.
But they were only beatable with the Dutch at the top of their game in Hong Kong, China, Aug. 13-19, and those perfect Dutch performances didn’t quite materialize.