(NB: Today’s post will consist entirely of cliches) Raise the flag for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, who won team gold over previous Dressage Captains of the Universe Germany and Holland! Lower the boom on FEI TV, which crashed and burned this morning, leaving thousands (surely thousands, no?) of salivating dressage fans – some of us bleary eyed and sleep deprived, having arisen in the wee hours to watch the live coverage – clicking ‘refresh’ over and over in the vain hope that the video stream would materialize. You know that sappy Hallmark-y one about it being better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all? It’s crap. If I hadn’t enjoyed edge-of-my-front-row-seat excitement during the team competition on Wednesday and Thursday (also at ungodly Pacific Daylight Saving hours) I would not have been so crushingly disappointed when I clicked on FEI TV this morning and saw Google apologetically telling me “oops!” The site I was trying to access seemed to be unavailable. No Uthopia with early morning coffee for me! Or for anyone else who wasn’t warming a seat in Rotterdam. Of course now FEI TV is back up – now that it’s all over for the day – and in typical FEI TV fashion I’m sure the on-demand video will take long enough to go up that we’ll all have got our dressage rocks off already by watching pirated videos on YouTube.
I was just kidding about the cliches, but I did enjoy using lots of them just now. It helped soothe the headache caused by live-dressage-withdrawal. I guess I’ll talk about the part of the Euro Champs I WAS able to watch, the team competition. And what a competition it was. Holy horse show mothers it was fantastic sport. Watching all that live coverage on a TV-like screen has given me a short attention span, so here are a few impressions I took away from all those early morning hours spent squinting at my monitor. I call this segment “As witnessed on FEI TV…while it was working”:
1. Richard Davison’s new favourite word: ‘uphill’. I know that having commentary is an important tool for making the sport less weird and more accessible to all those idle early-morning web surfers who stumble across dressage and don’t have a clue about it, but does it have to be quite so constant and so hair splitting? Ironically, Richard, only those of us who have at least a basic grasp of dréss-age actually understand when you talk about a horse being uphill. I can just picture all those regular folk tilting their heads 45 degrees to the left in an effort to understand why you are telling them the horse is traveling uphill.
2. speaking of uphill, here’s a horse that was decidedly not so much in the team GP: Donnperignon, a horse whose name I sincerely hope was misspelled deliberately. I see Christoph hasn’t lost that oddly side-to-side way of moving, but no amount of sashaying could get his horse’s face to approach the vertical. I know I’m not the only one to have noted this not-uphill tendency, either. One quite delightful feature of FEI TV (when it works) is that in between the rides the cameras follow competitors back out to where the stewards stick their fingers in mouths (no doubt a conscious effort at transparency as per the FEI Dressage Committee). The cameras also follow other persons of interest around when there is no action inside the white rectangle. There was a nice bit of video of Christoph’s dad Juergen giving his son an easy-to-interpret wordless message. He made eye contact, then held his closed hands in front as if holding reins and gave a sharp backward jerk of the shoulders, bringing his hands up at the same kind. I guess Christoph got the message (I don’t know because FEI TV was DOWN) and got his pony’s nose out today, judging from the significantly improved score.
3. on the topic of FEI TV’s behind-the-scenes footage between rides – I say two thumbs up to this development, even if I did see a bit too much of Sjef’s hair. I’m reading Anthony Bourdain’s newest (and highly recommended if you don’t mind the f-bomb) book and marveling at how a formerly obscure profession known as cooking has reached stratospheric heights of popularity. Now, the cooking world is notoriously full of misfits, drug addicts and enfants terribles – which certainly has helped sell it to a public that is increasingly hard to keep entertained. But I believe dressage could be the next greatest thing since sliced bread (just one more cliche, ok?) if it were only marketed more toward showing what everyone can appreciate, even if they can’t tell a horse’s cake hole from its poo hole. Sadly, that grabber of the limelight isn’t going to be the horses. It’s smut and scandal. But if we can entrap the public with the stuff that happens behind the barn (I’m talking about naughty human activity, not horse beating), they will learn to appreciate and even love the horses – even if it’s only in the way Pavlov’s dog loved the bell because he knew food was coming whenever he heard it.
So come on Adelinde, show us a little dirty laundry. Unlike Kim Kardashian, you actually do something worth admiring, but if you want to be a star outside your own country (let’s give two hands clapping to the Dutch, whose top riders are celebrities even outside the cloistered world of dressage) you’re going to have to share a couple dirty little secrets.
4. another familiar face that appeared on FEI TV’s screen during the Euros is that of Paul Schockemoehle, who had on his best Dr. Evil expression while he watched Matthias warm up for the GP.
And now I’m going to confess to a dirty little secret of my own. I am glad the Brits won gold not just because of my Anglophonic heritage. They won it fair and square with top athletes and top sport. But I’m also glad for a less noble reason: if the Germans bought Totilas because they thought that would get them a gold medal (and if you read my posts from last fall when the sale took place you know I believe that) then the emergence of a new force to be reckoned with (last cliche I promise!) in the form of Britain is doubly sweet. Yes, I am confessing to being happy about the winner because of who lost, but I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.
If FEI TV goes down again for the freestyles tomorrow, you can expect to find further tirades on this blog next week. Otherwise, the next post will be dedicated to those wonderful people who sometimes love to hate me, the judges.