Chelan Kozak – WEG Wrap Up

From Chelan:
WEG wrap up–aye carumba-slightly delayed for obvious reasons!  Okay so is anyone else still in shock?? I imagine I am not the only one. But let’s begin at the beginning Sunday–

The jog-please allow me to cut to the chase (as I am inclined to do) with regard to Becky and Comet. I don’t know Becky, but, as John said, she has a reputation as an excellent horse woman. We know for sure that the horse lost a shoe early on course Saturday. These horses are worth far more than money. No rider in thier right mind would jog a horse and jump it if there was some sort of soft tissue or other injury that might cause further harm to the horse. Generally speaking, if a horse loses a shoe XC especially early on, the Sunday morning issue is foot soreness. This is a concussion issue, accentuated by jogging on asphalt. In many cases, the horse appears and feels good on soft footing, which is what they have to jump on. No one can make the decision to jog or not except the rider, in consultation with what are exemplary vets. I will say that if I was in a medal position at a Major Games with a horse who had lost a shoe and was only foot sore on hard and happy on the soft, I’d give the jog a whirl and hope for good luck the same as Becky did. Me and everyone else is sorry it didn’t work out for her. 

Boyd’s horse looked pretty good, but cantered 1/2 way back down the lane, and they never asked him to jog again before passing him. Phillip got lucky as Woodburn had some dodgy steps, but he was passed. Maybe that’s what you get for hosting a Major Games… We Canadians had our own heart stopping moment when Kyle’s horse Parker was held and then passed upon re-inspection, but after minutes of deliberation. Maybe Kyle should have asked Boyd or Phillip to jog for him? 

When the jumping began, it became very clear that the time was going to be an issue. Inside turns and/or no adding strides was the requirement for a double clear round.  With the team placings so tight, double clear was on everyone’s minds. 

The first of the top three British team riders whose scores counted, laid down the gauntlet early on, as did the Kiwis. In the ‘Martha Stewart turn out’ department, the Italian rider Suzanna Bordone rode well but continued her weekend sans hairnet (cringe) and the lovely horse First Lady was NOT BRAIDED. Insert European women-are-hairy-joke here…
Boyd was the first of the three necessary score US riders to jump. He and Neville showed up for work and did a lovely double clear, keeping the heat on the Kiwis, Canadians and the Brits. Our first Canadian score to count was Hawley, who went clear, ditto the heat comment. Selena, double clear, Phillip, one rail, one time. At that point, it was so close that Canada moved into silver medal contention, provided that Steph jumped well.

Meanwhile, down under, the Kiwis kept coming. The calculators were flying at this point.
Karen came in the ring and everyone was silent. She absolutely had to lay down a trademark stellar show jump round to keep the US alive in the medals. She did not, as we all now know. The rest is history. Steph had a rail, but Canada had it in hand for the silver. It’s hard to describe what happened next as a Canadian event rider. We screamed, we cried, we waved our flags, and of course, we immediately began making plans for a party at the Veuve Clicquot tent! David, our fearless Canadian leader, with his USEF president ‘hat on’ was supposed to hand out the bronze medals to the winners. He switched it up so he could hand out the silver to his Canadian team. As happy as he was, I noticed he stopped short of giving Kyle a big kiss. Thank God for small miracles. Speaking of Kyle, you’ll notice his horse was not an attendee at the ceremony. Parker does not cope well with that sort of crowd, which meant that he did not get to participate in the victory gallop. My later suggestion was that Kyle could have borrowed a few vaulting moves and stood on the back of one of the Canuck horses, just to keep things interesting. Maybe next time? Hmmm next time–she says with absolute certainty that there WILL be a next time. Before Saturday night, our Canadian goal for the Games was 4th or 5th. Of course there were whispers of a possible (bronze) medal, but we knew there were strong teams in contention. By Saturday night, our riders had their games faces on and were not going home without hardware. Silver is far and away so much more than we hoped for five days ago.

But back to the US and their troubles for a moment. I’m sure that the shredding of the rider’s performances has already begun in earnest. As an educated observer, I will echo John’s sentiment that while the final straw for the US medal loss was Karen’s round, it is a team result and as such the other mistakes came in to play.

There will be volumes written about why the US failed to win a medal on home turf, and what needs to happen next as a result. I just hope that as a Nation, the US thinks to ask the riders for input on why things did not materialize. That may be a far less popular thought than publicly stoning them. However, at the end of the day it is the riders who have to walk the walk not just talk the talk. Believe me, no one, not even the most vicious critic out there, will be harder on those riders than themselves. I’d love to wax poetic about how to fix the US system, or even if the ‘system’ is broken to begin with. But, I don’t know the system well enough to take a stab at it.

What I am familiar with is the Canadian system, which by the way, used to be really broken! It is quite ironic today to hear the murmurs of ‘shouldn’t the US do it like the Canadians?’ HA! No one would have thought to say that last week. Our system is not rocket science, there are no big secrets. I’ll lay it all out there for you–

Start with good riders who are hard working, determined and tenacious, and add their talented horses. Then a coach who is competitive and bossy, with a clear idea of how to win medals, sets the bar higher than we ever imagined, and who won’t take no for an answer. Mix in management who is unfailing dedicated, listens carefully to said coach, as well as riders, and never stops believing. Flash forward five plus years and here we are. We are small enough to keep our program tailored to the top horses and riders as individuals. Our team still has that feel of family. A tough, competitive, brutally honest family, but family nonetheless. 

This medal changes EVERYTHING for us. I see three big changes. First, finances–we immediately get more funding as a result of this medal. More government funding, and the possibility of being more attractive to corporate sponsors. Second, we have breathing room before the Olympics. Our still tipsy riders hadn’t even showered and changed Sunday night, and there was already talk of London. That’s what winning teams do–they look forward. Normally at the Pan Am’s Canada is sweating bullets and stacking the deck with overqualified horse because we need to a good result to get to the Olympics the next year. We now have the possibility of sending greener horses and riders to the 2 star Pan Ams next year to give them exposure. Third change–our coach. In the beginning, David made no secret of the fact that he took on the Canadians on as a stepping stone to what he really wanted, which was to coach the US team. He has a commitment to our country until 2012. Now I know from asking him the question directly this spring, that any move away from our team after 2012 would be pretty much a financial one. By that I don’t refer to his salary, but to the team as a whole having enough money to do things right. David likes to win, and it takes money to win. I have no idea when he will make a final decision to stay or not after the Olympics, but if I had to guess right now, I’d guess that he’s having a good time winning and will continue with us. David leaving the Canadians after London would be a little like David the rider stopping riding Giltedge and Custom Made when they were 10 or 11 year olds. But he didn’t do that, he kept on until they were teenagers and did plenty more with them. That’s my prediction, sure hope I’m right.

In the meantime, I’m flying back out west and able to press ‘send’ on this article because of the wonders of modern technology–WIFI while 30,000 feet in the air. Unless something crazy happens, the kind EN fans who appreciate my posts will have to wait until Galway, the West coast’s FIRST CCI3* to hear from me. Like I say to my non horsy husband Jason, “How can you miss me if I’m always around?”

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