Well, the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games are coming to a close. The closing ceremonies are literally taking place as I write this post.
Norman, the Games mascot
In driving, the individual medals were pretty much as expected: Boyd Excell (gold), Chester Weber (silver) and Theo Timmerman (bronze). I had hoped to stay for the press conference after that event and the medal ceremonies, but the time was too tight if I hoped to catch the final four in jumping.
On my walk ‘home’ I witnessed a lot of people cutting sections out of the fabric-covered, chan-link fence to take as souvenirs. I suppose that`s another way for Alltech to become a household word.
The most popular sections of fence
By the time I was back at the hotel, there were only a few minutes before the jumping competition started.
Dubbledam (NED) did a great job riding each horse to a clear round and deserves the win. I felt sorry for Delaveau (FRA), who settled for silver, in front of his home crowd, due to a single time fault.
Cortes C was the best horse – clear throughout. But, it was interesting for me to see that he was the only horse wearing extra leg protection in the warmup sessions. This makes me think that his connections are aware that his forelegs may be at risk. I hope he gets some time off now, but I doubt it. Nations’ Cups loom.
It was also interesting to watch the other riders, especially Dubbledam, who did not allow the dark gelding to use the underside of his neck to take the weight off his forehand as Madden does. He’s a very clever horse; he compensated very well.
If he`s still sound at the World Cup Finals in April, I`ll try to get the conformation shots to show his susceptibility as well as those that show how he compensates. At least there I will not have to battle to get educational photos.
(FYI, my lip has pretty much healed now. Hint: do not eat salad dressing with vinegar when you have an abrasion on the inside of your lip.)
And now for my rant about the final-four format.
While it may be a good way to determine the ‘best’ rider, it makes absolutely no sense to me that they change saddles. Why can’t the riders adapt to the saddle that suits the horse if they are truly the best riders? Certainly, stirrups are adjustable at this level. Aren’t they?
Why don’t they change reins on the bridles for the riders’ grip preferences, if the rider is the most important part of the equation? I understand the reasons for not changing bits.
And I thought I noticed at least one exchange of spurs between riders, which was, I assume, to suit a particular horse.
Earlier this week, I spoke to an Olympic medalist (individual gold) about it, and he/she did not agree with it, saying that it is too awkward for the horse. That medalist did not want to be quoted by name, and I am respecting that.
Admittedly, the differences in horse builds were not as dramatic this year as they were in 2006 – Cumano versus Shutterfly, Piolotta and Authentic – but, still…
Maybe changing saddles has something to do with the sponsorship deals? Perhaps the riders signed contracts saying they would not ride in any other brand of saddle save the one that sponsors them? Good thing no one takes photos or video of these riders when they try out horses they may be interested in training or purchasing. I know for a fact that the riders do not always insist on their own saddles in those instances.
So, tell me; how does the industry support so many saddle fitters if saddle fit for the horse does not matter at the World Championships? Do you think that the message is that saddle fit is only important in other disciplines? Or do you think that the message is that the riders are the stars and that horses are secondary?
In an era when welfare of the horse is supposedly foremost, can’t they dispense with the changing of saddles if they insist on keeping the final-four format?