Chelan Kozak, a four-star rider, former Canadian Olympic and WEG rider, Eventing Nation guest writer, and generally one of the coolest people in eventing is kind enough to share her thoughts on all things WEG from Wednesday and Thursday with EN. Thanks for writing this Chelan and thank you for reading.
Chelan with Hamish and Dave
The Jog: So where to begin! Wednesday was such a whirlwind, it's hard to know where to start. Obviously, everyone's heart goes out to Kim. Such a vicious twist of fate. I sincerely hope that Paddy is good as gold as soon as possible.
Speaking of upside, and mind you only a tiny, slender one, but Kim and either Amy or Alison didn't have to wear the cowboy hats at the jog. John is on the fence about the look, I think they were an odd choice. Also, if you are GOING to wear a cowboy hat, gentlemen, (for future reference) it is not with a suit, but with jeans, suit jacket and a big belt buckle. Further, straw as opposed to felt hat this time of year is flirting with the similar 'white shoes after labour day' rule. I'm just sayin'...
In additional fashion news, I was loving the Canadian ladies look at the jog--see John's pictures. Right down to the perrrrfect shade of red lipstick for everyone. Hawley Bennet grabbed those reins and ran with them. Nicely done, fashionista, nicely done! Although, that shade of lipstick on Kyle clashed with his tie a little, don't you think? Better luck with another shade on Sunday morning.
The Adequan plane: The plane circling overhead 24/7 with the Adequan banner has a funny story behind it. John referenced this airplane in the Boyd video yesterday. Apparently the Adequan people wanted to sponsor the horses at the event. Alltech said no, presumably because they have a similar product? I don't know that for sure, but I drank a $7 thimble full of Alltech bourbon flavoured beer yesterday, so they seem to make just about everything. Which, by the way, is just a teensy bit big brother-ish and creepy, but that is another story. So, clearly the Adequan people decided that Alltech might make everything from beer to horse injectables, but they don't own the airspace above the horse park. Pretty clever if you ask me (not that anybody ever does, I just tend to spout off regardless). The plane seriously flies overhead constantly!
Trade fair: The trade fair is pretty much as you would expect-everything you could imagine horse related, and a great deal of overpriced food and beer. Good food though--plenty of healthy choices. A highlight I neglected to check out thus far was the champagne bar. I'll get there, I assure you. I was pleasantly surprised, and truthfully shocked to see THREE different bins for garbage (you yankees call it 'trash'). Anyhow, a nice lady in latex gloves sits beside a row of three bins and takes your trash, separates it into compost, recycle, and trash. WOW, as a Canadian recycle freak who takes all of her cans and bottles back home from events to recycle them, I was suitably impressed. And yes, we are really into this stuff in the Pacific northwest.
The other cool thing that happened Wednesday was that after the course walk with David, I was able to watch the last 8 or so rides of the Grand Prix dressage special. I am in awe of the level of training and incredible amount of detailed knowledge that those horses and riders have. Seeing Totilas do his winning ride was fantastic. Having said that, I bet many of those horses can't jump a stick. Our event horses score up pretty high on the cool-o-meter. Go eventing!
The course: Ladies and gentlemen this is NOT, I repeat NOT a dressage show... Okay, for some riders on fatter fancier horses it is, but not for the eventers! The course is comprised of 45 jumping efforts, with an optimum time of 11:14. It is completely different from Rolex this spring, different track, and all but two of the jumps are different. The long route hedge into the water, and a ditch and wall are the only two jumps the same. What is the same, and what we locals (aka the Americans and the Canadians) like to refer to as home field advantage, is the terrain. Most of the riders all of the riders on those teams except one has ridden on these rolling hills on at least one occasion. Then you have the likes of Karen O'Connor who would need a calculator to figure out the number of times that she has ridden here! Regardless, knowing the lay of the land and what it does to the horses, is definitely an advantage. To add a little more fun history, the stone jump corner is the only original remaining jump from the original World's in 1978. It was fence two back then. One of our Canadian selectors, Juliette Graham was a part of the Gold medal team in 1978, so we feel like maybe there is a bit of god karma there. Many of us have jumped it over the years since then, myself included, but it has not been used for several years now.
The footing... I have not actually been to Lexington and seen brown grass before. However, it has been terribly dry here for two months. Not to worry-the good people of the WEG have thought of every detail. Not only has the job of watering the track been religiously carried out, the mowing has been a special project as well. There has been no heavy equipment on that track. No tractors for mowing, it has been done by a RIDE ON mower! For almost a year this footing has been nurtured, protected and cared for. Thank you to both the people who thought of going to these great lengths, and for the guy on the ride on mower who surely has a fantastic iPod playlist!! Not to mention, the riders and event organizers of area 8 who have had to work around the ropes all summer.
The course itself is of course masterfully designed and built, as one would expect from Mike E-S. Adding to the beauty and artistry of the jumps, is a marker at each fence with a story about how the theme of the fence is either tied into a Kentucky historical fact, or simply stating a historical fact about the State. Nice touch. Now, let's get down to business- this is not 'just a four star'. This is every inch a championship track. Let discuss fence two, for example. A max table and very imposing. That fence and every other 'galloping-here's-where-you-get-your-confidence' fence are similarly built. Big, and badass! Like every proper big time four star track, the combinations come thick and fast and never let up. A child of 5 could determine where the most influential spot on the course will be, but I'll say it anyway. The head of the lake will separate the 'men from the boys' to be sure. I predict that a number will opt for the option roll top in, as it is not that much slower (one of the only alternate routes that won't take an age), and that much safer. Either way in, there is not time for coffee breaks and hesitation. Fortune favours the brave and all of that jazz, so keep kicking! One of the first rules we are taught as a beginner rider is that horses slow down on a turn. There are two significant turning places in that fence, between the water entries, and after the birch rails, where a 90' turn to a bounce bank up means keep the pace, my friends!
This is a course for good jumping horses, and the time will be challenging to make. The footing will be fantastic, but anytime you add more combinations on a course, which is the norm for Championships, it is tougher to make time. Time gets made on these courses a little bit at a time, thinking about shaving off one second here and there. Luckily, the Americans have ten or so who go out before their first rider--Boyd. Our Canadians have our first rider Selena two later so we will have some information about the course before they go out.
Predictions: John made predictions about medals, but I am not sure I am quite that brave. I will say this, I have never been more excited about my Canadians than at this moment right now. We have all been saying for some time that the course would be big and technical, and we are not disappointed. This will suit our great Canadian jumping horses. Go eventing, and Go Canada!
Concerning the dressage: John has pretty much covered much of what I would cover. I would add a couple of observations. First, I forget how much I like the look of the Military outfits. It just is patriotic and polished looking. Second, what the heck is up with the fly bonnets? I understand that permission was given to the event riders to wear them as the Grand Prix dressage had permission to wear them so precedent had been set. The fly bonnet rule is below...
"However, under exceptional circumstances, fly hoods or shields may be permitted by the Ground Jury for all competitors, solely in order to protect horses from insects." From FEI eventing rules (p. 40)
With the breeze today, there were hardly any flies to be seen. However, there was just one fly bonnet after another on the horses in dressage. Why don't they just make ear stuffing legal and get it the heck over with? Anyhow, it will be interesting to see if this is a trend that will continue. I'm just interested in things like that.
A stand out for me apart from the two Germans was the Italian rider Suzanna Bordone. Her changes were lovely. Come to find out she rode earlier this week in the Grand Prix dressage. So obviously one pesky little change is simply no big deal. I also enjoyed the Swedish mare First Lady. She stood out for me at the jog, too. She looks fit and ready to rock. I can't wait to see her jump! There will be much talk about the dressage tomorrow as well, and of course everyone is jockeying for position. My prediction is a big shake up on Saturday.
BTW, A huge thank you to Dorothy Crowell for housing me at the last minute, and for John for getting me tickets at the last minute.