As is always the case with DQ Land’s annual international shindig, there was the good, the bad and the ugly this year, and none of it (well, almost none) was boring. I thought I would introduce an emoticon-based system of rating the presentations this year, you know, like, to maybe attract more young readers to the blog. So here goes my take on Day One of GDF 2013.

Richard (Ricardo) Davison and HRH Princess Benedikte of Denmark – Opening remarks

What’s not to love about two long-time cheerleaders for the GDF? Richard is a witty shepherd of the presentations, and Princess Benedikte is charm itself. They kept it brief and to the point, so extra bonus marks to both of them.

Trond Asmyr – FEI ‘Developments’ (quotation marks mine)

Admittedly, I was probably the single-most engaged person in the room for this one, and the moment Ricardo opened the floor for questions, up shot my hand. I was given only one question, so the debate continued in the break at what is known at the GDF as ‘question corner’. We were probably only about 30 seconds in when Trond’s almost-permanent smile (half Mona Lisa, half Cheshire Cat) packed it in. I don’t like to put words into other people’s mouths, but I would bet you an umbrella drink that Trond was as frustrated by me as I by him. I can’t even say we agreed to disagree. We just disagreed. Profoundly. I’ve already blogged about this over on Straight-Up, so if you are interested in the thesis and antithesis that produced no synthesis, just click here and be instantly transported to the duel.

Jan Dierens – Mental Aspects of Dressage

I did not find this ‘brain game’ presentation terribly fascinating, but I don’t think that was the fault of the presenter, who was quite engaging and brought along some fun exercises for the audience (except for the sitting on balloons thing which I HATED. Ever since I was a wee one I have detested balloons for their burstability, so I was not at all keen on all the people around me sitting on inflated ones). But in 40 minutes, how far can a sport psychologist drill down to what it means to dressage? He touched on all the major points of imagery and not trying to consciously be a winner, but I’d bet money there weren’t many people in the audience who hadn’t heard it all before.

Laurent Cellier – WEG 2014

Monsieur Pantry! Did you know nothing about the people to whom you were speaking? I very much admire what was surely a gargantuan effort to deliver your presentation in English, and I did find ‘zee orsies’ as cute as the next person. Goodness knows if I had tried to give a similar speech en français I would have done much more poorly.  But seriously. That was the lamest presentation I have EVER seen at the GDF. And given my opinion of Monty Roberts, that’s quite a record to hold.


Isabell (we don’t need the last name do we?)

Oh, Isabell. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

1. You are gifted, and a gift to any horse lucky enough to attract your desire

2. You are charming and natural as a speaker, un-selfconsciously struggling to say ‘elasticize’, and freely admitting when you did a lousy flying change (‘that change was shit’ you said, and Monica Theodorescu, whom I also adore, said ‘that was also a shit place to do the change’)

3. You are both brave and a genius for showing us your problem child, the talented, naughty and complicated Don Johnson. Never again will I take the wrong message from some nasty photographer’s published shot of what looks like a battle but is really just playfulness.

4. You stood up to Mechant Maurel with grace when he dredged up Hong Kong. Apparently it never occurred to him that the real villains – if there are any – are his own colleagues, since it was they who awarded you with your silver medal. You just did your best in less than optimal circumstances with your other naughty bay. As for Bernard Maurel, he realized he had stepped in it at some point after he raised the specter of 2008. He tried to suck up to you afterwards, but the odor of the merde on his shoe would not go away.

5. You like to take raw talent – sometimes talent that others have overlooked – and make it into the best thing you can.  An inspiration to every young rider who isn’t made of money, but who has the ability and work ethic to take the horse he or she has and do it proud.

6. You have sound effects. As you rode Johnny in front of us, guiding him away from being Bucky the Wonder Horse and toward being all that he can be, you talked to him all the time, not in words but in sounds and intonations that clearly reached him.

7. You are humble. That’s not to say you are never grumpy or indignant, like when the German Federation decided to extend the suspension the FEI gave you for Whisper’s positive fluphenazine test, or when you believe you have been given the short straw by judges. But that’s part of your honesty. You won’t remember this, but I once interviewed you on the phone. You were walking around on the back of a four year old, and unlike another dressage star I interviewed for the same article, you never asked me how much longer I would be. You answered my every question with the same care and attention as if I were the most important journalist in the world. Which I wasn’t, am not and never will be, but when I hung up the phone I felt you had answered all my questions with as much thought as anyone I have ever interviewed.

And on that slobbery note, I will leave you until tomorrow, at which time I will bring my Day Two emoticon ratings.

Check out that slicked back doo on Isabell’s in-hand maestro, Jose Antonio Garcia Mena