! FUN !
What could be more pleasant on a warm Florida evening than sitting watching some of the best dressage riders in the world and their horses dance to music under the lights? It is a magical evening. Global has their dressage evenings on Friday and the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF)has their jumper and hunter “under the lights” on Saturday. There is a relaxed party atmosphere at both. WEF has live rock bands playing during the breaks and ringside jugglers and fire eaters! Global has string quartets and singers from Opera Fusion.
The Freestyle evening for the CDIO Nations Cup, the 7th CDI and final CDI of the Global 12 week season, took place on April 1st and the individual medals were awarded to the competitors at the Intermediare 1 level and the Grand Prix. The VIPs enjoy their dinner and drinks in the pavilions and there is food and soft drinks available for the spectators as well as a bar for something stronger.
The Intermediare 1 competition had begun in the afternoon and the first rider of the evening group at 7pm was the rising Spanish star Juan Matute Jr. His horse Dhannie Ymas showed some tension and did not want to give us his walk but preferered to show us some piaffe steps. Juan tried to settle him with a pat on the withers but he persisted. But the judges agreed it was good and awarded him a 74.55%. That score was not beaten and he received the gold medal.
At 8:30 we began the Grand Prix freestyles. The first to go was Jacquie Brooks and De Niro. This horse is such a sold citizen. He may not be a flashy and fancy mover but he goes in and works his heart out to do his best with every movement. He is not asked to do choreography that is beyond his abilities and he executes everything with such a willing attitude. I was pleased to see that the judges awarded him a score of 71.8% The evening continued on with a total of nine riders. It is a sparkling affair with beautifully groomed horses and perfectly attired riders performing under the lights. Some rides had a few problems and others were mistake free. Casey Perry -Glass and Dublet threw down a marvellous challenge to the remaining three riders. Casey was delighted with her ride and her horse and the judges gave her an 81.32%. The cheers went up around the stadium. However at that point I knew exactly , barring something completely unforeseen, how the rest of the results would play out.
! FRUSTRATION !
Several years ago I was at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto watching a Hackney Pony class. Next to me a couple with their two grandchildren told me that their daughter was in the class. “That’s our Mom,” the little girl told me as one of the ponies and carriages went by. I asked the Grandmother to help me understand how the ponies would be judged. She told me a few things to look for and then said :” I can tell you now the first five placings in this class.” I looked at her in amazement. ” Our daughter will come in 5th.” She explained that knowing who else was in the class,who the judge was and that this was the final competition of the season dictated how the line up would be decided. I thought that must be frustrating for their daughter.
So at the Global Freestyle evening once Casey Perry-Glass had a good score and a wonderful ride I knew how the rest of the results would play out. Laura Graves had a very good ride. I admire her skill as a rider on a very talented but highly sensitive horse. The choreography of her freestyle is interesting and a step up from their Pan Am Games freestyle. There was still some movement forward in the piaffe but I feel that Laura makes this compromise for the sake of the rest of the test. I knew they would have to score higher than Casey and they did 82.8%
The last rider to go was Belinda Trussell. I should say now that firstly I am Canadian and secondly Belinda is my coach in Canada. But despite this potential for bias I think this freestyle is has very high degree of difficulty: half pass in passage that transitions to trot, canter transition directly into piaffe, a piaffe passage zig zag down the final centerline with piaffe one handed. This is seriously difficult stuff. All of it was executed to perfection. Her score……76.35% One judge had given her only 72.875%. Hmmmm…….. I know there is always the argument that the judges are situated in different places in the arena and one may see something another does not but a difference of 5.57% between the highest score Belinda received and this lowest score is curious.
The gold medal was awarded to Laura and Verdades, the silver to Casey and Dublet and Belinda and Anton were the bronze medalists. All three riders seemed very happy with their results in the award ceremony.
Dressage judging has been a hot topic lately with scores in Moscow under scrutiny and scores in Ukraine thrown out for “nationalistic judging”. Dressage observers know only too well that in an Olympic year judging comes under considerable pressure from within and without. It is my sincere hope that dressage judging will not descend into the hackney pony level. All of these top riders work so hard and at a cost that is personal as well as financial. For the riders and for their horses I want to see them get the best and fairest judging.