Can’t Miss Quotes from Dressage Day One at Kentucky

Lots of love for Unmarked Bills. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

There can be a lot of woulda, coulda, shouldas, going through a rider’s mind after coming out of the sandbox, and we saw an interesting cross section of rides today. Some riders triumphed with personal bests and other wished things could have gone a little differently — but that’s eventing, you never know quite what you’re gonna get on the day. Scroll down and read on to hear what today’s riders had to say plus find out which two riders in today’s sections were toughing it out with broken ribs (Maybe don’t do that at home, kids.)

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On their dressage tests…

Liz Halliday Sharp (USA): “I’m really pleased with Deniro. It’s never great to be third to go on a classy horse, that’s not where any of us want to be. I mean he tried really really hard. The flying changes are our biggest nemesis and they bit us in the ring, which you know, that’s where’s he’s at, but look, I was really thrilled with him: he pushed hard, he worked hard, he tried his guts out.  I thought the mark was a bit unfair, like because I think he did enough good things to have hopefully been in the 20s, but that’s where we are so I’m disappointed in the mark, but I’m pleased with the horse.”

“That was the best he’s probably ever done in the trot work — he tried his guts out. I’m trilled with him, couldn’t have asked for anything more. The changes are what they are, he finds it really hard. It’s his one thing. He finds everything else pretty easy and this is one thing. I think every brilliant horse is allowed one thing they have to work on, right? Yeah, I’m disappointed with the mark, but I’m thrilled with the horse.

Caroline Martin (USA): “[Islandwood Captain Jack] is quite a green horse. This is his second year at Advanced and I’ve done a lot of work with him the past couple weeks on his dressage. He didn’t show all the homework that we did, but he didn’t really care about the atmosphere and stuff so it’s a good building block.”

Hannah Sue Burnett (USA): “[Harbour Pilot] was a little bit more exuberant in there than I hoped for, but I guess he’s ready for the cross country. He warmed up pretty well and he’s normally quite good in the ring, he’s just feeling very fresh I guess. He’s been here – this is his third time – I do find that with the little bit older horses the more often they go to a venue the little bit crazier they get because they know what’s coming on. You win some, you lose some I guess.

Mara DePuy (USA): “My horse is obviously very green at this level and very excited to see the crowd. So there were parts that were brilliant and parts that need work. He kept looking up at the stands on the right side. So a work in progress for sure, but I know it’s in there.”

“Some of his changes actually were very good, his canter work was very good. Honestly, I had moments where I had him through and I had his attention both in the trot and in the canter and then I would lose it. Like I said he’s green and he gets distracted. Obviously he needs to be more through so that when he gets like that I can get him back quicker.” 

Hallie Coon (USA): I think I could have ridden a couple of things better obviously, planned ahead a bit more for the movements, but overall I was really happy with the horse and I think she’s got a better score in her so onwards and upwards. It’s hard to rev her up enough to do this level. She likes her naps and is very cranky if she doesn’t get a morning nap in before her dressage. Luckily she had a 20 minute one this morning. But she’s just very cool and collected about everything and nothing ever seems to bother her, it’s really interesting.”

Joe Meyer (NZL):I think if I had ridden better centerline I might have gotten more marks, but [Johnny Royale] is young and really green at this level so actually I’ve got to be pleased. I’m slightly disappointed in the marks, but its because I didn’t earn them, you know what I mean? He swapped behind before I went in the ring and I had to do a canter circle and I quickly looked up at the clock to make sure I had time to do it and I thought I had him right but I sort of got in there and went to halt and he was kind of like, ‘Do you want me to change? Do you want me to swap? What do you want me to do,’ you know? So it was just a bit of confusion. But actually, he might not have got a great score but he’s really improving at this level and he’s a good boy. He did three out of four changes clean and last week it was always fifty fifty so that’s great and I know what we have to  fix him and it’s just the time and training.

Hazel Shannon (AUS): “It felt pretty good. It was tense, but he kind of held it together. There was nothing hugely wrong with it, but it would be nice to get a bit of a low score. He’s been feeling fresh. I mean, hopefully that’s going to help me on cross country but it doesn’t help so much on dressage day. He did a really good test last Adelaide so I don’t think it’s as good as that one, but he did a much better test that the Adelaide before. We’re slowly getting a handle on it.”

Felix Vogg (SUI): You never know what get’s out at the end of the day, but I tried something new with him. We didn’t want him really up, I just came here 10 minutes before and that worked quite well and maybe even better than when I warm him up, so yeah, I’m pretty pleased. He doesn’t take these atmospheres too serious so you have to trick him a little bit and I was quite lucky that Hallie before me got some applause that he wakes a little bit up. That helped him a lot.”

Chris Talley (USA): “He was incredible in there. He struggles with tension, but he actually stayed really relaxed and walked the entire time. We had one bobble getting the wrong lead coming into canter, but I can’t fault him for that, it was probably my fault. He didn’t really notice the crowds until they cheered for him in the end. It was pretty special.”

On the cross-country course…

Liz Halliday Sharp (USA): “I think Derek [di Grazia] has done a great job, a lot of good questions. I always enjoy his courses. I’ve obviously only walked it one, so I need to get my head around it a bit more, but it looks like a good test and a good challenge ahead so we’re looking forward to it. I think this track will suit [Deniro Z] more than Luhmühlen did because he’s a big galloping, big striding, big jumping horse, so I think a big open course like this will suit him more than the last five-star he did.”

Caroline Martin (USA): “I like being out first. I like walking the course and making my plan and then sticking with it and riding more off instinct than worrying about what someone else did the ride before or something like that. It’s good for me to go out there and just take a crack at it”

Mara DePuy (USA): It looks doable. I know I can jump every jump out there it’s just putting it all together and having a horse at this level for the first time, you never know how they’re going to feel at the end of it. I do think that the course suits him, actually that’s why I’m here. He’s a very bold galloping horse and very careful jumper so it’s just for me the adjustability but also not wasting too much time in that adjustability.”

Joe Meyer (NZL): It seems skinnier than I remember it. There’s a lot of accuracy questions and things. I may take an option, I’m not quite sure. I have to go and have another look at it again. Yeah, there’s a couple of questions that are quite hard. He’s a nicer horse to ride because he’s a lot braver than the last horse I’ve ridden around on, Clip Clop, it makes a big difference. And the course starts off nice this year. There’s a couple big scary pole oxers early on, but it’s not like I think it was last year when we went up a bank to a horrible tall vertical and it was a real test, you know, this get’s it more rolling and going better at the start. So I think that’s better, it’s got a nice start to it. You can get a rhythm and  get going and stuff. I’ve got to remember turn left here instead of right to the lake.”

Hazel Shannon (AUS): “I’ve had one walk. It’s tough. I think it’s a different sort of course than what Mike Etherington-Smith has built at Adelaide. Some of the combinations that Mike has built, walking them have kind of felt like this isn’t going to be possible, but they always are possible they’re just really tough. Whereas these I can see how everything can be ridden but there’s just so many questions and it just never lets up at you right until the end. If you take your mind off the jog for a moment you’re going to end up with 20s everywhere.”

Felix Vogg (SUI):I think it looks like every year quite nice, but it’s still challenging.  Especially I guess again the time will be quite tough but I’m happy to go out there and do it.”

Chris Talley (USA): “It looks big. It looks like there’s enough to do out there, but he’s such a great cross-country horse, and I’m so excited to be sitting on him going into Saturday.”

On being at Kentucky…

Mara DePuy (USA): It’s amazing. It’s like a fairy tale, it almost doesn’t seem real because I didn’t think I would be riding here again but it’s great, especially with horse like this who I’ve brought up. I’d had him as a six year old and brought him up so we know each other very well so he’s like my best friend. I wouldn’t want to be here with any other horse. “

Hallie Coon (USA):It felt amazing. It’s an atmosphere unlike any other. I’ve done a five-star before, but Pau wasn’t quite like this. I was really happy with how she kept her cool in there and I was just generally really pleased. It was a great experience.”

Hazel Shannon (AUS): “It just felt like a dressage test. Dressage arenas are kind of all the same and I tried to ignore everything else around it.”

I’ve done Adelaide four times now so I wanted to do another five-star and if you want to represent Australia you’re gonna have to leave the country so this is kind of building a bit of experience for that.”

Chris Talley (USA): ““I’m not entirely sure [how it feels]. I don’t think it’s reality yet. It feels so surreal, but so many people have put in so much to get here, and he is such a special horse that it makes it all the more special.”

On trials and tribulations leading up to Kentucky…

Joe Meyer (NZL): I didn’t actually feel [my broken ribs] once I got in the ring which is good. It’s the end of the breath and coughing it still hurts. I rode two weekends ago in an OI and it wasn’t unbearable and this is going to be twice as long, but it’s been two weeks after. It’s just one of those slightly annoying things.”

Daniela Moguel (MEX): “I don’t know if it’s broken, or twisted, or punctured, but I have something in my ribs that I cannot breathe. Doing this (*takes a deep breath*) hurts. I fell off last Thursday from another horse jumping a cross rail. He stopped at the cross rail and he said it was too spooky and he popped me off. So I land on my neck and everything. And I was fine until I was loading Cecelia Monday morning to come over here. I stretch my arm and I swear to God I heard (*makes a popping noise*) and I felt it. And I said to my husband I think I broke a rib. And he’s like ‘Oh, don’t be ridiculous, get it the car.'”

I really wanted to get over this and now I’m ready to go walk cross country. I think I’m gonna be able to ride. I wasn’t sure because of the rib, but yeah, I think I can.”

Caroline Martin (USA): So this year has been definitely a tough year. My parents who 100% support me, my parent’s company isn’t doing so well, they work in Central America and there’s been a lot of unrest in the countries. So they told me in December that I need to be self-sufficient so I sold Spring Easy, I sold The Apprentice, I’ve sold 15 horses since January to make a living, so yeah, it’s definitely a different year.”

“Normally in the past I would just 100% focus on being at the top and getting as much lessons as I can. Now my main focus for  the season was making money and focusing the top three horses. Currently I only own three horses, I have these two and Cristiano Z. You don’t know if you can make it in this business and it was a bit of a sink or swim the year. They gave me the option: I could sell everything and do something else as a living  but I like this sport too much and I want to be at the top. We did also syndicate the three horses that I have left. We’re going to announce it this weekend, so if there’s anyone that wants to support me and these horses that would be great or they might potentially be on the market soon, it just depends.”

Hannah Sue Burnett (USA): [Harbour Pilot] has definitely been more excitable than before (after having a year off), but he’s a pretty hot horse in the cross country and the show jumping, normally in the dressage he’s really reliable and very workmanlike.  This year he’s been pretty good, I don’t know, he’s just excited. Can’t blame him. I was a little nervous too, but I felt normal. They have brains of their own. Oh well, it happens!”

Mara DePuy (USA): “[Congo’s big jump] has gotten better over the last year/ year and a half as we’ve gotten more speed in the cross country because he’s started to not jump up so high, but absolutely we waste some time in the air for sure. He’s, thank goodness, very bold because he could easily scare himself I think because he is so careful if he wasn’t so brave and confident in himself for sure. The hardest thing for him cross country, aside from jumping too high, is jumping in to water because he jumps very big into water and especially if you only have three strides to another jump he lands kind of almost not going forward enough. S we’ve been working on that a lot and I think it’s better but we’ll see what happens on Saturday. But we’re ready.”