August 24, 2006 -- Greetings from Aachen. I know you are following the results on the Internet, so I won't bother much with the placings. But you know you are at the World Championships when riders from three different countries stop you and say, "Wasn't that too bad about the British rider, blowing up in the dressage ring like that?" And all the time you can hear them thinking, "Oh yeah, I'm in with a chance!" They will worry about the human cost next week, but for now, someone else's misfortune is an opportunity for them. It is a tough world here, but we are at the World Championships, right?
By now I would have flunked out of the Journalists' World Championships, for forgetting to tell you yesterday that one of the Irish horses was eliminated at the first vet check, and the one with the best name in all of eventing, too--Drunken Disorderly. His rider, Mark Kyle, will be the life of the party for sure. He's got nothing else to do for the rest of the week. Bummer, dude.
The rain that was in the forecast has held off so far, which is a good thing if you like Scandinavian-type girls. No telling what some of these Britney Spears wannabes will show up wearing (or not wearing) tomorrow. I'm keeping a list of the pick-up lines I have heard in the bar, and I'll share them with you later, but I know you would rather talk about dressage right now, not those hussies walking around looking like an 8-ounce muffin in a 4-ounce cup.
So far, the dressage is not as good as I had thought it would be. There is not a lot of atmosphere in the arena, and the stands are only about half full, but most of the riders are riding a little tight. There has been some rumbling behind the scenes that the footing is a little slick and so on, but my own experience is that nervous riders get tight and make their horses slip, and aggressive riders go forward and make their horses stick their feet deeper into the turf. Phillip Dutton came in this afternoon on Connaught and never slipped a bit. Of course, he was most definitely going for every point out there, and his score showed it. There are some good horses still to come, so we have not seen the best of it yet.
They have done a good job of putting things close together here. The main stadium is right next to the eventing and the third arena, where the vaulting and reining will take place, is just beyond that, while the cross-country course is right across the street.
Cute story about vaulting: One of our vaulting team is only 10 years old, about four-foot nothing, and maybe 50 pounds in wet Spandex. So she comes up to Jim Wolf, who is in charge of all the disciplines here, and says "Mr. Wolf, can you ask them if they can raise the roof here in the stadium?" You need to know that the bleachers and ring are permanent, but the roof has been put in so that the vaulters and reiners don't have to worry about the weather. So Wolf goes off to the nightly Chef du Missions' meeting last night and asks them to raise the roof, because our vaulters are so strong and getting so much loft in their tosses that they are going to hit the ceiling otherwise.
Welcome to the 21st century, where even 10-year-olds know how to talk trash and get inside their competitors' heads. It is working so far... last I heard we were in the lead for the vaulting compulsories!
I had a chance to get out and look at the cross-country course and nobody feels like they are wasting their time here. It is big overall, and technical in places. Every course has its own feel, and this has a very country, natural feel, even though it is on the outskirts of Aachen. It is on a working farm, so as you walk out to the start, you go past several paddocks full of horses, who trot up and down just beyond the electric wire, obviously enjoying the company and all the buzz from the other side of the street.
The dairy cows in the barnyard don't pay any attention, as they are too busy chowing down on the fresh silage that has overwhelmed your olfactory nerves by now. That stuff is strong over here! It is probably a good thing I did not bring my Labrador, Nacho, over here, as he would have been on those barnyard ducks like Martha Stewart's parole bracelet, and the Organizing Committee would have airmailed both of us out of here by now.