As we wrap up the first day of dressage at the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials it’s been a day of mixed fortunes for the USA. First out for us this morning, Liz Halliday-Sharp made the most of Fernhill By Night’s big movement, making only tiny errors — she is kicking herself for getting a bit stuck on the first turn on the haunches, wondering if perhaps her studs were too big, perhaps she asked for too much in the trot lengthening she told me, he almost struck off to left canter from the walk… but overall it was a consistent test and she is the best of the Americans lying 9th overnight.
Lauren Kieffer did a beautiful test on Veronica and was harshly marked for a score of 46.2. Period. She lies in equal 10th place at this stage.
Jen McFall and Will Coleman’s horses both fell victims to the atmosphere and mistakes marred their tests. High Times rather lived up to his name, a bit to Jen’s surprise as she said he’s been somewhat subdued here up until now, but he jogged in the walk, took the wrong lead in canter, and changed in the first extended canter.
Jen was one of the few riders who said she noticed the music — she was unlucky enough to have some high energy ’80s Gloria Estefan (“Dr. Beat!”) for her test while conversely this morning William Fox Pitt and Cool Mountain for example had a classical rendition of “Greensleeves,” snore — hmmm! (and Will Coleman: Pulp’s “Common People,” Micheal Ryan: Adam Ant’s “Prince Charming” — Seriously….?!)
Will Coleman’s Obos O’Reilly can either be pretty stunning or very naughty, and he found it difficult to keep a lid on his nerves this afternoon, despite Will’s tactful handling — after the first halt he moved off sideways to the right and broke into canter, but then Will managed to get him back on side and salvage the test without any more major errors, just a lot of tension which is a shame as he’s such a nice horse.
Sandra Auffauth will be the overnight leader on Ispo on a score of 37.2, still the only one to score under the 40s. Sandra of course took over the ride after Benjamin Winter’s death at Luhmuhlen last year, and said that it was a difficult and emotional decision but that his mother has come over from Germany to watch her ride this weekend and Ispo is now best friends with Opgun Louvu. Ispo spent the week up at Blair Castle with the German team so that she could ride him, stopping again at the Yorkshire Riding Centre on the way back down to Blenheim; this is her first visit here and she’s very impressed, “It’s a really nice park and beautiful cross country, I think it’s not the last time I’m here!” Sandra and Ispo have won one and been placed in a CIC3* in Germany.
We have lots more to look forward to tomorrow, we ‘re hoping for a big test from Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen, and as the judges are familiar with him perhaps they’ll give him really good marks (!).
We’re also looking forward to Lauren’s second test in the CIC3* on Vermiculus (she lies equal 7th in the CIC3* on Landmark’s Monte Carlo), Emily Beshear on Shame on The Moon and our adopted American, Aussie Kate Chadderton.
I caught up with Kate after she’d walked the course and asked her what she thought, “It’s huge! It’s really big, it’s technical enough. I think the water’s massive, (the jump in at 13AB) the A is on a bit of an angle and then it’s quite a decent two strides, and a very tall, very big jump in to water. I think that it will be really good on a scopey horse, mine’s very quick and has plenty of scope but it’s still a tough enough question. The mounds at 9AB is tough enough as well, I think that’s going to require a big, strong jump in and then a very quick right hand turn back to B and I think that’s going to be quite a challenge for my horse because he likes to take on the fences and he’s very, very bold so to get him back enough is going to be a challenge. Both that one and the first water are the big questions for me so far. Everyone had said it was big, Boyd had said it was really big, so I’m not surprised, I’m definitely very, very respectful. I didn’t expect it to be small, I didn’t come here to jump a small course. He did Bromont which is also big enough but this is another notch up again from that. He jumps a big fence better than a small fence. Fair Hill is comparable definitely but there you go up the hill and back down, here you’re going up for a really long time, and then you’re going up and down and up and down, I think it’s tougher than Fair Hill. The questions are about the same but then with the terrain it makes it all that bit harder.”
Kate, as we know, came here to Blenheim off her own steam, fundraising some of the money to get here, selling one of her horses, and thanks to the generosity of a couple of very kind supporters, and they’re still struggling, and although she admits it’s been tough, she can’t recommend the experience highly enough, “This is definitely, definitely a step up in every respect, just walking around here there are five or six different shows going on that we don’t even know about; it’s a whole other world and I think that anyone who’s serious would really benefit from the experience, for sure.” Wishing Kate the best of luck, she’ll go last of the day tomorrow at 16:37 GB time.
Emily Beshear has a large, purple-attired (Deep Purple Eventing) fan club in attendance here with her at Blenheim so I thought she’d be pretty easy to spot, but I haven’t bumped into her all day, and I was sorry not to catch up with Elisa Wallace either. I hope all the U.S. contingent have fun at the cocktail party tonight, but not TOO much fun, and yes, it IS in the palace, and no, I don’t have an invitation! Thank God for sunshine today, and no more bloody rain.
Thanks to all the riders for chatting to us, to all the grooms who wait so patiently while we do so after long, long preparations already, to all the families and support crew who smile, and hug and…support! And thank you of course for making Eventing Nation part of your day. Keep checking back for more from Blenheim, and Plantation, and also make sure to keep checking Shannon Brinkman’s site as she’s adding stunning shots all the time. Going to find some wine and Go Eventing!