Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Au Revoir

This French phrase usually is used to mean "goodbye," but the literal translation is "until we meet again."

It seems a fitting way to end both this blog and the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, for the equestrians of the world will of course be meeting again in four years, at the 2014 WEG in Normandy, France.

With the Lexington, Kentucky, Games now behind us, we take stock of the event, and we recall the highlights and the indelible moments. For American dressage enthusiasts, no moment could have surpassed that on Wednesday, September 29, when Steffen Peters became the first US dressage rider to win an individual medal at a world championships. His joy and emotion at the achievement, and his elation at the superb performance of his mount, Akiko Yamazaki's Dutch gelding Ravel, in the Grand Prix Special, will stay with me always.
Breaking on through: Steffen Peters and Ravel smash the glass ceiling to become the first US dressage WEG individual medalists, in the Grand Prix Special

Only slightly less burnished was Steffen's second individual bronze two days later, in the Grand Prix Freestyle. In the first few seconds after a competitor's final halt and salute, the facial expressions and body language express pretty plainly how the rider felt about the performance. In Steffen's case, the smile was not quite the grin of before, and the body language showed that he knew his freestyle hadn't quite matched the heights of his previous test. But the pride was still genuine and the performance was still world-class.

My one WEG regret is that I was not able to stay in Lexington for the second week of competition. I so wanted to see the para-equestrian dressage competition. I watched some of the para competitors schooling while I was at the Kentucky Horse Park, and I was awed at their skill. On the other hand, had I attended the para events, I wonder how well I would have been able to maintain my facade of journalistic impartiality. Watching some of the para competition highlights on demand back home on my computer (they're archived on the US Equestrian Federation's online network if you missed them or other WEG events), I got a lump in my throat. Heaven knows what sort of state I would have been in had I seen them in person.

Our US para-equestrian competitors did us proud. Grade IV rider Susan Treabess, of Winters, California, was the highest-placing American, finishing tenth individually in her freestyle class with a score of 69.65 percent aboard Moneypenny, owned by Katy Peterson. The US para-equestrians finished eighth in the team competition.

Owner Akiko Yamazaki had already had her share of emotional moments with Ravel's medals. She was in for another heart-tugging day when she watched her other WEG horse, the Dutch gelding Kranak, complete his final test with US para-equestrian Jennifer Baker, of Loveland, Ohio. Kranak, Yamazaki's former Grand Prix horse, had come out of retirement when Baker's intended WEG mount sustained an injury and was unable to compete. His Grade IV individual freestyle test with Baker was his last, as he's headed back to a well-deserved retirement.

Of course, there were many other shining moments for US competitors at the WEG. The reining team swept team gold as well as the gold and silver individual medals. The driving team won silver, and Tucker Johnson clinched the individual driving bronze. And Team USA won the gold medal in the vaulting competition.

I hope you have enjoyed following this blog as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you weren't in attendance in Lexington, I encourage you to consider attending the WEG in Normandy. This region is perhaps best known as the site of the D-Day Allied troops invasion during World War II, and no visit would be complete without a trip to the beautiful and moving American Cemetery and the famous beaches on which the landings took place. What you may not know is that Normandy is France's horse country -- its Lexington counterpart, if you will. The region is home to famous Thoroughbred farms and the French national stud, Haras du Pin. It's gorgeous country (I know; I have family there), and the French are determined to put on another WEG for the memory books. They got off to a good start at the Lexington WEG, cooking up a storm and offering all manner of French delicacies at the "Rendez-Vous in Normandy" booth.

Au revoir!

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