Apologies for the lack of "reporting from the front line" over the last few days. My mind is in a state of confusion and I think I have the order of events in a little bit of a kerfuffle. In my (slight) defence, I am constantly on the move, take photos with my camera, which then have to be downloaded on to my laptop, which is in my Hotel Room but tend to write the Blog on my ipad (as I am doing outside my mobile home in eventing land) but also take some photos with my Blackberry which I then email to myself and save & rename on my laptop...which is in my Hotel room. Clearly I will never make a journalist!
I am now back in what was Dressage land and is now Jumping land but soon to be Jumping and Eventing land! As this is such a straight forward WEG, with no logistical challenges, some bright spark thought they would give us another challenge and hold the jumping phase of Eventing in Caen rather than Haras du Pin, where the dressage and cross country took place.
I will try to cast my mind back over the last few days. I often heard people say that sport is a series of Highs and Lows. We have experienced both to the ultimate extremes.
The Endurance race was tough and needed careful riding. By tough, I do not mean unfair. Team GBR were in contention for a Team Medal until well in to the competition and to get two home (only for one not to pass the final inspection on heart rate) was a good achievement given the conditions. I am not an aficionado of Endurance but there was a very different look about the Vet Gate - in the past some Nations have been allowed far too many grooms / crew in the restricted areas and it has often resembled a pitch invasion with horses being swallowed up in a sea of humanity. This time, numbers were strictly limited and it made for a far fairer playing field (without pitch invasion!).
Manic Friday started with the Para-Equestrian Dressage Freestyle competitions. Team Gold was already in the bank and a clutch of Individual medals led by Lee Pearson who is back to his very best form. They head home with a bag full of medals but I am sure there will be those worrying that there were not as many Golds as at the recent Championships / Games. This hasn't been the easiest build up to a Games for the Paras and it is a little bit of a transitional time as there are some very promising young horses sitting in the wings that I am sure will be dancing to glory in Rio. Under the leadership of Saville Row Hunter, I am sure that GBR Para-Equestrian will be a force to be reckoned with for many years to come.
And on to Dressage. Now for one of those aforementioned Highs. The Team GBR Dressage Team DEEEEEELIVERED! I managed to watch Carl before hot footing it to Eventing land where I followed Michael and Charlotte's coup de grace (sorry, am on an ipad so cannot do accents). As a Team they have been outstanding and Charlotte & Valegro deserve their clean sweep of Golds (Olympic, European, World Cup, World Champion) as do the team that have supported and guided them, led by the phenomenal Carl I'm out of Here Hester - the FEI should create a special Award for Mr Hester that recognises his achievements as Coach and Athlete.
I think I was rather popular in Eventing land as the sun followed me down the motorway! This is a Venue that has been under siege from the weather and bore the scars of battle. The cross country had been altered to take account of the "going" which was clearly going to be testing. It is an interesting debate as to whether a slightly longer galloping stretch can give horses the opportunity to take a breath and get a second wind. We would perhaps have liked to be closer after dressage but William Fox-Pitt was sublime and it was very clear that this would never be a "dressage" competition.
Saturday dawned, some clouds but rain seemed unlikely. From the off the predictions were proven correct. This was most certainly a teach, where riders had to ride with their brains. Horses were getting tired and the last water posed a very serious question. Team GBR plans were to send Zara out early to get "one in the bank" and let William have an early run with perhaps better going than if he had run later. Tina and Harry both had the pedigree to deliver clears should we have had an early blip.
The British rode like superstars and gave a master class on how to "make it happen" and how to cope with very challenging conditions linked to a very challenging course.
So to a low, a real low. The loss of Wild Lone was a kick in the teeth for the whole team but of course for Harry, his owners and especially Jess who has looked after Wild Lone for many years. It is tragic when something like this happens; Harry had had a wonderful ride Cross Country and was kicking himself for not going a little quicker as he felt the horse had plenty of fuel in the tank at the end of the course. Everything that could have been done was and our sympathies go out to all. Harry was a true superstar in the way he handled everything and volunteered to speak to the Press and BBC. Wild Lone will not be forgotten and the Team head to Caen ready to fight to win medals in memory of a true champion.
Another low has been the need to substitute Ben Maher and Cella. Unfortunately Cella overreached slightly and it would not have been fair to ask her to jump three Championship rounds. Jessie Drea gets the call up and subject to the training competition tomorrow going to plan, the Team will be Michael, Spencer, Joe and Scott.
I travelled back to Caen last night while the final of the Reining was going on, where Josh Collins was flying the Union flag in the Individual Final. He has had an outstanding Games and has shown that he might not be that experienced but he sure has a future ahead of him. A great week for the Reining team...ye hah!
So today, Reining packing to leave. Para-Equestrian Dressage, Endurance and Dressage have left. Jumping have arrived. Eventing are on route from Haras du Pin to Caen. Never a dull moment in Normandy!
During the Endurance competition I got chatting to a couple of ladies from Kazakhstan. They were enjoying oysters perched on the back of their car and trying to open a bottle of wine... I was able to assist with the latter as I have some experience in this department. It puts it in to perspective how lucky we are in Western Europe. Their horses will be on a journey of nearly six months in order to compete at the WEG. They didn't medal and did not complete but taking part in the WEG was their aim. Total respect for their commitment.