Ok, it’s enough already. Really. Just stop. Can Fate please go and rain on someone else’s parade now? Only two Canadian horses into the first half of team dressage and we already have a big EL beside Canada on the team standings. I understand OLN has provided some surprisingly thorough footage today, and what with the world of social media blazing instant news via Twitter and FB , I imagine you have probably heard that David and Chrevi’s Capital were rung out part way through the canter tour.
If you didn’t see it, here is what happened. David was well into a really quite good ride. The horse was showing no outward signs of tension, until he cantered past C; I believe it was between the two tempis and extended canter. Just past C, he suddenly spun around, and then did some Satchmo-style moves. I counted the seconds with a mounting sense of dread. The FEI rules state that a rider has 20 seconds to restore order after a disobedience. I think Gary even gave David a few extra seconds, but Cappi was having none of it. I guess the horse has never jumped in his career because it really did look like the 18 inch white fence was all there was between him and a bolt across the stadium. David must either not have noticed or understood the bell (hardly surprising, given what he was dealing with at that moment) so he took advantage of a brief restoration of sanity and sent Cappi across the diagonal. Gary called out to David that he was eliminated and it was probably just as well. Cappi started his antics again down at A, and David had his hands full to get out of the ring in one piece.
David has to get full marks, firstly for cowboying up (many a lesser jockey would have been airborne and then earthbound), and secondly for keeping his cool. I’m sure he could never have imagined his test could go quite like that. I couldn’t bring myself to go to the mixed zone – I never bug riders if they have just had a major disappointment, and surely getting rung out of your Olympic debut ranks right up there at the top. But I heard from people who were there that he was calm and collected, saying that the combination of crowd noise (this would have been the horse’s first time in such an atmosphere) and the heavy rain sent him over the top. It was clear that something in the vicinity of the judge’s booth at M – and there were several items to gawk at, including a large hooded TV camera – spooked him, but it was also clear that he had mentally left the building and he didn’t feel like coming back.
So, Canada becomes the London Olympics’ first victim of the highly unpopular three-per-team format. With David’s elimination we no longer have a team. Ashley will compete as an individual tomorrow. That’s two teams down and one to go. Sound of a balloon deflating.
Now I’ll back up to Jacquie’s ride, which was the third one this morning. D Niro was an absolute super trooper. I do think he and Jacquie make a wonderful pair, and they looked very much a partnership out there. The test wasn’t just clean, it had some real highlights and the whole picture was one of a rider who had confidence in her horse, and vice versa. I saw her in the mixed zone after her ride and she was what the Brits would call ‘chuffed’ at how her horse had gone. I asked her what she thought of the fact that she was the first Olympic dressage rider in history to go down centre line in a helmet, and she said that was great too. By the way, there was only one other helmet in the stadium today, that of Finland’s Emma Kanerva. I predict we will be seeing Ashley in one tomorrow.
I would say Jacquie’s score of 68.526% speaks not to the test really deserving that score, but to the bad luck of going early before the judges have shaken off the cobwebs. Or jitters. Or whatever it is they for some reason can never shake off until they’ve used a heavy pencil on the first few competitors.
On the topic of that seven member panel, so far the judges seem to be behaving themselves relatively well, and they haven’t strayed into true WTF territory, at least not yet. I didn’t buy the super deluxe Olympic ‘gold’ internet package, only the ‘bronze’ package, so I don’t have access to the detailed movement by movement scores, except on the media room common internet stations. However, I’m coming in early tomorrow to spend some time crunching numbers, so stand by for further comment!
In other performances, I can say I was deeply impressed with the style and grace of Morgan from Spain riding Painted Black. There were a few blips but overall there was a sense of real harmony and impulsion. When she road Painted, Anky always looked like she was chasing him around the ring; the picture with Morgan is more a sense of togetherness. It may also be a sign of Painted mellowing as he ages and learning to love his job. Mustn’t forget that Anky trained him, and trains Morgan too. I actually thought for a moment that Morgan might beat her mentor before the score came up to put her right behind Anky and Salinero. But I’m still impressed with how well the youngest rider in the Olympic dressage (19) handled the scene.
I love Carl. Some people think he didn’t deserve the score that has him in the lead at the end of the first day, but I actually said to someone I thought he would be around 78%, and I was eerily close to what he really got. I know it’s a cliche, but I’m going to use it here. Carl and Uthopia are poetry in motion. It wasn’t perfect but it was supple and correct, while still managing to be breathtaking to watch. Extended trots to die for.
Apparently Laura B is spitting bullets about her second place score. Her ire seems to be more about the proximity of third placed Dorothee Schneider’s score than anything else. My advice to Laura is that she watch her video before getting too seething mad. Alf’s ones were very close behind on the left to right change. And I mean VERY. Interesting to note that she and Carl had the exact same mistake in the extended canter – a lead swap before the end of the diagonal – kind of in the same way Tina Cook and Mary King both took down the same two fences in the eventing individual jumping round. We could call it the Bobbsey Twin effect. Unless Charlotte has the same mistake tomorrow. Then I’ll have to come up with some other asinine name for the coincidence.
And speaking of tomorrow, I can hardly wait!!! Valegro, that sweet, cuddly, amazing athlete Valegro. If I were the maker of My Little Pony, I’d make a My Little Valegro, and I’d carry it around with me, tucked under my arm, everywhere I go. Right now it’s looking like Team GB is set to win gold, and it’s going to be a real nail biter for silver and bronze. In the thick of it are the Germans (can you believe it’s a team of rookies? The Germans?) Dutch (keep your tongue away from your teeth, Parzival) and Danish (I love how Donnperignon looks with his new pilot and I bet if he could talk he would tell us he likes her too).
I heard something mildly scandalous about the OLN coverage back home. A sometimes reliable source informed me that Cara said on her commentary that many in the dressage world refer to Anne and Eva as the Swedish Mafia. For those of you who might not know who that is, it’s the US Team Technical Advisor Anne Gribbons and US Team Chef d’Equipe Eva Salomon. I’m sure Cara was kidding but it did make my eyebrows climb a couple of inches up my forehead when I read the email. She did go on to say what a great job they do for the US Team…
So just when all the Royal paparazzi have finally left us in peace with the departure of Zara, upon us have descended the American mass media, in particular the democratically inclined media. Yes, because the Romney horse is in da house. My jury is still out on how good this is for dressage, but I do admire those who have embraced the jokes and turned them around. This was in the media centre today:
Finally, a quick note on Robert Dover’s rumoured role with the Canadian Team. A certain European journalist who stays very much on top of everything emailed me to ask why RD had posted on his blog that he is ‘training the Canadian Dressage Team’. I didn’t have a ready answer, since Markus Gribbe is officially Canada’s Team Technical Advisor. I asked those who know and have the authority to set the facts straight. I was told Robert is here as a personal coach to some of our team members, and that Markus is still the official TA. So there.