Sunrise at Pau is like something out of a dream. The full moon was still dangling high above like a giant paper lantern even as the first horse inspection got underway and the sun was just peeking up over the horizon. “It’s going to be a pink one,” predicted Tilly Berendt, one-third of EN’s two-woman, one-stuffed animal 2018 Pau coverage squad, as we drove onto the grounds.
But first, a showing of luminescent rose-gold, and a gauzy pillow of mist plopped down over everything. As Tilly trotted off to the jog, I wandered onto the adjacent racetrack, a moth to the flame of catlike Thoroughbred silhouettes. The Hippodrome de Pau is nearing its busy winter racing season, which includes a total of 154 steeplechase and 62 flat races held from December through the end of February. As stateside eventers waft south for the colder months, so does the snowbird racing scene here, reconvening in the south of France where winters are wet but mild.
The quiet tension of a racetrack at dawn — wasp-waisted Thoroughbreds tossing their heads, waiting impatiently for their turn on the track, riders balanced lightly on their backs — is not so different than the start of an event. Over at the four-star jog equine athletes fuss and fidget, ready to stretch their legs, too fit to feel satisfied at being led around on a tether.
The sun is higher now, casting everything in gilded bronze light. Photo opp!
A quick turn on the runway …
… and then it’s onto dressage, which has just begun. Here’s to a safe, happy competition for all! We’ll report back soon.