September 27, 2010 -- I probably could have stayed home and written the story about the first day of dressage at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
This one was as predictable as the U.S. winning the reining gold. Just the way everyone who knew anything had it figured, the Dutch lead the standings with 145.702 percent, followed by Germany (140.340) and Great Britain (138.341).
The good news is that the U.S., rather than Canada is fourth, but not by much. The Americans have 136.170 percent to 135.702 for the north-of-the-border folks. Why is this important? I've told you before and I'll tell you again, but further down in my postcard. Don't want to break my rhythm...
It rained today, which meant the backdrop on the non-covered side of the arena was plastic raincoats and empty seats. On the other side, which has a roof, there was a decent crowd for a Monday in September. For many of the spectators with whom I've chatted, the WEG is a big deal, the one time that they'll be able to see in person the horses and riders they've read about and watched in videos, so they're not discouraged by the weather (if they happen to have seats that are covered.)
The stronger riders compete tomorrow, with the USA's Steffen Peters in the enviable position of going last aboard Ravel, so maybe America's fortunes will improve. But even the Dutch agree they look unbeatable, though as they noted, "We still have to ride." Yeah, don't cut out for a beer down at the Alltech Experience in the trade fair or anything like that.
If they show up, the odds are that they win, since their anchor is the superhorse Moorlands Totilas. Today, rider Edward Gal presided at a book party for a new volume on the black stallion, or as it says on the cover, "The Living Legend."
The end of that story hasn't been written--stay tuned for the next chapter tomorrow--but it's already sure to be a big seller among the Dutchbred's many fans.
This afternoon, Edward's teammate, Imke Schellekens-Bartels, was his placeholder on the leaderboard with a 73.447 percent test on Hunter Douglas Sunrise, vastly improved in the last couple of years. And the Hanoverian mare was pretty good to begin with! Her only big mistake came in the canter zig-zag, when Imke leaned the wrong way and Sunrise zigged instead of zagged, or maybe it was the other way around.
It's also possible that her spot in the rankings will go to another of her teammates, Adelinde Cornelissen with Jerich Parzival, the only horse to have beaten Totilas at Grand Prix.
One of the German young guns, Christoph Koschel, nipped into second place with Donnperignon in a very impressive test, marked at 72.638 percent. The Germans aren't at their strongest, not like the days when they dominated the discipline, but they know how to dig in their heels and fight.
Third is another Dutch rider, Edward Gal's partner, Hans Peter Minderhoud with Exquis Nadine (72.255), followed by Great Britain's Fiona Bigwood with Wie-Atlantico de Ymas looking quite fancy, or fancy enough to be marked at 70.128 percent.
And now the good news--wait for it--the USA's Katherine Bateson Chandler is fourth with veteran Nartan, just missing 70 percent. She had a couple of bobbles, including an extra change in the one-tempis, but her effort was still worth 69.617 percent. What's really cool is that Katherine used to be the groom for six-time Olympian Robert Dover, so she's been at the WEG before; just not in the saddle. It's quite a story; maybe someone will write a volume about her, too, and she can have a book party at the next WEG.
She has worked very hard to get here as a rider, and it's been a special challenge since she only got together a few months ago with Nartan when her sponsor, U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation President Jane Clark, bought the 15-year-old gelding last spring. She's worked hard and it's paid off. We talked about what it's like to have reached her destination.