End-of-the-Day Thoughts on Bromont Cross Country

Allie Knowles and The Dark Mark. Photo by Leslie Wylie. Allie Knowles and The Dark Mark. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Could it have been a more magical day for horse sport? I’m still in disbelief that a real live Triple Crown winner is walking the earth.

Like the Bromont eventers we surveyed yesterday, I was hopeful but braced for my heart to get broken by another oh-so-close Belmont bummer. We watched a page in the history books get written tonight, and that’s an experience we’ll carry around in our life satchel forever. Go American Pharoah.

There was a touch of je ne sais quoi in the brisk Canadian air today at Bromont as well. The sun was shining and the birds were singing and the horses were doing what they were supposed to. Bromont and the people circulating about it this weekend are clearly doing something right. So what is it?

Course design

This year’s Bromont track had the respect of even the most seasoned eventers: It was plenty big and plenty demanding, asking tough-love questions from every possible angle. It reshuffled the scoreboard in a way that was fair, not flukey. It was breathtaking to watch, but not in a thrills-and-spills sort of way. Rather, it was because each and every jump did such an excellent job of spotlighting what our amazing equine athletes are capable of.

Most importantly, every competitor walked back to the barns safe and sound, a testament to Derek di Grazia’s skill, tact and experience. Let’s not be afraid to ask hard questions of our horses, but let’s frame them in a way that makes sense. Safety will follow close behind.

Sinead Halpin and Topgun, 11th place. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Sinead Halpin and Topgun. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Hospitality

Whether you’re a competitor, official, spectator, sponsor, journalist, vendor or volunteer, Bromont rolls out the red carpet to ensure that everyone feels like they’re part of something special. The organizers and officials are among the friendliest in the land, and that in and of itself carries incredible value.

After Marilyn Little’s dressage test on RF Overdressed, with whom she is in the CCI2* lead, she expressed how excited she was to have all of the horse’s owners at the event. One of the owners is Robin Parsky, who has been quite involved in show jumping — she owns Kent Farrington’s superstar mare Blue Angel — and is now dipping her toes into the world of eventing. Bromont might not be a Grand Prix in Paris, but between its spectacular natural beauty, artful courses and accomodating atmosphere, Marilyn said that she felt confident Robin would come away from the event feeling excited about the sport.

We all play different roles but every piece of the eventing puzzle is important. It’s lovely, and refreshing, to be treated as such.

The Jaguar Land Rover Cross Country VIP Tent. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

The Jaguar Land Rover Cross Country VIP Tent. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Heart

To less experienced pairs, today’s startbox must have felt like one of those butterfly conservatories, filled with the bright, fluttery magic of possibility. Others came in seeking redemption from a season that veered off course, or a stiff challenge worthy of the hard work they’ve been putting in. Everyone sets out on course with a different goal, and it’s exciting when the mark is met — whatever that may be.

As I talked about in this morning’s course preview, Bromont favors competitors are mentally and physically prepared to fight all the way to the finish. There were a lot of fighters out there today.

Exhibit A: CCI2* competitor Madison Gallien had a white-knuckle moment at fence #4B when her horse stumbled on the landing, nearly unseating her in the process. Watch her react, buckle down and get right back to business to finish her course jump-fault free.

Horsemanship

Horsemanship, and sportsmanship, have a trickle-down effect. We’re all in this together and it’s our collective responsibility to set a healthy precedent, but leaders of the sport, with their influence and visibility, play an especially critical role.

Examples today abounded. For instance, after her winning CCI3* dressage test yesterday Selena O’Hanlon explained that her goal for today was to give her horse a confidence building round — not chase a ribbon. “Too much is riding on this and I really more than anything just want to go clear tomorrow,” she said. “I don’t care about the time so much.” She went out on course today, stuck to her plan, and even though she dropped down the scoreboard a few places she achieved her goal. That’s horsemanship, and the more it gets spread around, the better.

Selena O'Hanlon and Foxwood High. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Selena O’Hanlon and Foxwood High. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Can’t wait to see how everything shakes out in the show jumping! The jog starts at 8 a.m. and we’ll be back on the grounds bringing you all the latest. Until then, Allez Concours Complet!

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