It's incredible how quickly the two days of Badminton dressage went by. At the end of the afternoon yesterday I suddenly realized that my two days of dressage spectating were up, and that I may never get to experience it again. I know it sounds silly, but it reminded me to really try to make the most of every single precious moment of this experience. I can only imagine how the riders (especially a first-timer on their only Advanced horse, who must also realize that they may never be back again) must feel.
(How cool must it be to trot through that archway for the first time!)
(Rosie Thomas smiled through her entire test - definitely making the most of it!)
In all, the dressage was seriously impressive. The overall quality of riding was absurdly high, and it was telling that at the end of the day a mid-to-upper 40s dressage (which I would consider a huge coup if I managed to achieve that even at a CCI*, let alone a CCI****) landed you in 30th place!
(Toddy BROUGHT IT with his second ride, and currently sits fourth)
The Americans all did very respectably. The Good Witch has come a loooong way in her flatwork, and looked very much in the mix. Plus, she's just so cute! She and Jennifer make such a lovely pair.
(Very well-deserved pats!)
Buck was the first American in and I thought he did a fine job. It's interesting to realize that in the US I consider Reggie to be one of the most extravagant movers out there, but he looked almost average compared to some of the winning rides. The overall quality of horseflesh here is simply unbelievable.
(Still no slouch of a mover by any estimation)
I really liked Karen's test, though Mandiba is certainly not a flamboyant mover by any means. I was impressed by the correctness of her test and how she got a good score not by having the fanciest horse, but by refusing to give up a single point. It was a testimony as to why she's been so good for so long.
(Karen: hell of a cool customer)
The extreme of that sort of showmanship, however, most certainly came from Piggy French. Jakata isn't what I'd call plain but he's definitely not one of those types where you have to pause to wonder if their feet actually even touching the ground. But my goodness, Piggy went in a rode the most stunningly correct test I've ever seen in my entire life. She rode every stride of every movement, and got every last ounce of expression and accuracy out of that horse that she could. It literally sent chills up my spine to watch. Her perfect '10' for her last halt and salute was absolutely deserved, in my opinion, as was her straight three '9's that she received for her riding. Soooo inspirational.
(Reacting to her perfect '10'!)
It was also seriously impressive to watch Laura Collett, who is only 21 (and because she was born in August, younger than me!!), ride a beautifully relaxed, accurate, and lovely test to take an early lead on Friday morning that held until well into Saturday afternoon. Her horse had to be one of the best movers out there, but she also rode with incredible poise and skill. Awesome.
(Rayef can really move)
The Canadians had a mixed bag on Saturday (I missed Hawley's test on Friday, though apparently she did very well). Selena's test was beautiful to watch, and her absolute joy was palpable from start to finish. I love the obvious partnership she and her horse share.
Poor Stephanie Rhodes-Bosch, on the other hand, didn't have the day go as she'd hoped. I watched her at WEG and was blown away with her poise and ability, and so was pretty sure after the good North American performances I'd seen so far that she was going to really shine. Even watching her trot around the ring, though, it was clear that she didn't quite have her horse in the same lovely, relaxed frame that she'd achieved at WEG. They just seemed very tense, and it carried through into basically every movement of their test. My heart broke for her, as she looked close to tears as she left the arena. Hopefully they'll have a great today and end the weekend on a better note - after all, Badminton is no dressage show!
My favorite horse of the whole competition still has to be Portersize Just a Jiff who, at 15hh, is the smallest horse in the competition and undeniably the cutest. He's got a great little pony face, and I'd bet a good bit that he's got some Connemara in him. And, he proved yesterday that he was no slouch either! He put in a great test with some seriously horse-sized extended trots and I can't wait to see him go this afternoon.
Ok, I'm off to take one last tour of the course and decide on my shooting locations! I've got my super official photographer's bib and am going to be able to shoot inside the ropes - eeeeee! Pinch me! Let's go make the most of it!
(Young rider Emily Llewellyn looking class on Pardon Me II)