Thursday, October 7, 2010

WEG Redux: Cross Country!!

(Meet your winner: Michael Jung (GER) and La-Biostheque Sam; they were simply lovely to watch)

So obviously, this was really the reason I wanted to come to WEG. Yes, the eventing dressage was enlightening and the pure dressage was entertaining, but I don't event because I particularly adore dressage (though I've certainly been enjoying it a lot more of late!). I event because I love cross country!! And the WEG cross country, both in terms of the difficulty of the course and the incredible quality of execution was far beyond anything I'd ever experienced before. I walked the course a few times before cross country started, and spent most of my time at every combination wondering if it would even be physically possible to fit a 1000-pound animal simultaneously between the flags and over the rails, let alone easily. Then of course, Saturday rolled around I got to watch nearly 80 horses make it all look like a stroll in the park. Talk about inspiring!

(I'm 5'9" - this is NOT a small drop!!)

(CRAZY wide corner, and look how narrow the face is!! I admit, I didn't totally believe that this was doable... and then I sat down and watched horse after horse make it go like clockwork; just goes to show how amazing horses are =D)

(Another sick corner; here Pa is walking the distance from the average take off to the average landing, which we calculated as just over 15' feet. This was over 2/3 of the way through am 11:15 course; how amazing is it that all of these horses would still have enough in the tank to make an effort that enormous look totally effortless?)

(Seriously, is this real?? This was the jump into the head of the lake, which I thought looked totally insane. As far as I know, though, it didn't cause any problems all day! Shows what I know)

I'm a bit short on words at the moment (exhaustion/stress/school craziness continues), and so don't really feel up for giving the whole day justice. Needless to say I was really proud of the American team, who proved themselves to be some of the best cross country riders in the world (though watching Buck's stop in person was totally heartbreaking... especially as I could see it coming halfway across the field before it happened as his horse barreled along on its forehand without even turning an ear to his full-body half halts). It was a great day to be carrying an American flag (or two), to be sure =).

(Boyd set the tone for the Americans, who started on course and never looked back, putting in some great rides and moving up 5 spots into the silver medal position)

(Buck had a disappointing ride all around, including at the fence we saw him at, where he was clear but pretty sketchily so. A shame.)

(Karen looked awesome when we saw her through the coffin, which was one of the trickiest and most influential parts of the course)

(Comet has one of the best gallops I've ever seen - watching him go is like experiencing viscerally an ode to the American Thoroughbred!!)

(Phillip and Woodburn made all the jumps look easy, though I was a bit surprised they didn't make the time)

Even more exciting than getting to watch the Americans reclaim ground was getting to see, for the first time in my life, many of my childhood heroes in the flesh. Pippa Funnell, Mary King, William Fox-Pitt, Andrew Nicholson, Mark Todd (!!!!), and so many more hallowed names galloped mere feet away from me on Saturday; as they passed, I had to seriously remind myself that, in fact, this was real and not a dream. I remember growing up and watching Burghley and Badminton tapes on repeat, loving these riders but never imagining them occupying any part of my vision more than a blurry image on a television screen. To not only see them in the flesh, but to hear, feel, and even sense them so close was absolutely unreal. It's a rush I'll never forget.

(Trailblazers Nicola Wilson (GBR) and Opposition Buzz, who together had the best and most exhilarating rides through the Head of the Lead that we saw - I could actually feel my adrenaline surge as they powered through!)

(Near miss!!!)

(MARK TODD!! Universal eventing hero and all around badass)

(Peter Atkins and Henny!! I can't wait to watch their helmet cam on Youtube =D)

(William Fox-Pitt gives his horse a pat after the sunken road - love it!)

(LOVE. THIS. MARE. I felt like actually making grabby motions at her every time I saw her; she was seriously special)

(Concrex Oncarlos and Tim Lips (NED) make the INSANELY NARROW AND ANGLED corner at the stone walls look like no big thing)

(Here's that same ridiculous corner from the side with an Australian rider whose horses' owner's friends (yes, very weird) I met on the airplane from San Francisco... small world.)

(Tina Cook (GBR) and Miner's Frolic, who I was really eagerly anticipating getting to see; here they are making the improbably large brush corner out of the coffin look easy)

We spent 10 hours outside, all got vicious sunburns (though I, as an unrepentant non-sunscreen user, faired better than my two normally more protected parents - one of the few perks I'll enjoy before contracting skin cancer, I suppose), and at the end of the day still couldn't wipe the grins off our faces. I really hope I can go to Badminton while studying abroad next year, so that I can get a chance to do something like this again!!


Kate said...

Great pictures! Thanks! I used to event many years ago and still remember the adrenaline rush.

Amy said...

Great update! I was supposed to be there but couldn't end up making it :(. It was cool to see this though a little heartbreaking I missed it.

Jess said...

Absolutely phenomenal!!! Thank you so much for sharing!!!!!!

jenj said...

Those fences are INSANE. I can't even imagine jumping a single one of them...

Heidi said...

Are you a fan of Run Henny Run on Facebook? Peter is asking for pictures from people, and yours is really good! Check it out if you already haven't...

Leah said...

Loving your WEG posts and pictures!

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