Aachen, Germany, August 25, 2006 -- As so often has been the case, Kim Severson and her reliable mount Winsome Adante, better known as Dan, found themselves in the unenviable position of having to save the day for the USA eventing team this afternoon. And so they did.
Will Faudree, taking his first ride on the squad after being an alternate at the 2004 Athens Olympics, had trouble in the counter-canter and hence the subsequent flying change. The lateral work wasn't great either. Noise from the adjacent Stadium 1, where the Grand Prix Special was in progress, apparently wasn't music to the ears of his horse, Antigua. He finished 53rd with 63.3 penalties.
Dan, however, appeared unaffected by the atmosphere and had his attention on Kim. These two have been together so long that they share the same thoughts. That mindset was evident from a smooth, unflappable performance that put Kim in a tie for third on 40.9 penalties with Andreas Dibowski, riding as an individual for Germany.
At the top of the heap, as usual after dressage, was Germany's Bettina Hoy aboard Ringwood Cockatoo, with 36.5 penalties for her patented flowing test on the rangy gray gelding. Bettina, you'll remember, is the one who went through the start line twice in the show jumping competition at the Athens Olympics, losing gold for both herself and her team. So she has a lot to prove here and is off to a great start.
To show her patriotism, she has put black and red streaks in her blond hair so her head has the German national colors. It isn't a particularly attractive fashion accent, sad to say, but that wasn't the motivation.
Teammate Ingrid Klimke (daughter of the late dressage great Reiner Klimke) is second and not surprisingly, Germany leads the standings on 122.5 penalties. Australia is second on 136.1 and Great Britain in third has 138.6, while the USA is fourth with 142, staying ahead of the New Zealand Kiwis (149.8).
The highest-placed Brit is European Champion Zara Phillips, fifth on Toy Town, a lovely chestnut with white speckles who she was successfully able to keep on track despite his obvious exuberance.
Zara is the daughter of U.S. eventing coach Mark Phillips, who has his hands full here, as he is also the husband of dressage competitor Sandy Phillips.
Zara's mother is Great Britain's Princess Anne, a former European eventing champion herself, who was on hand to watch her daughter. The Princess, wearing a backpack over her Great Britain team jacket and looking like any other matron out for a day at a horse show, had a great time visiting with old friends such as Hugh Thomas, the director of the Badminton Horse Trials, and EquiSearch.com's own Jim Wofford.
The horse world is obviously the Princess's preferred milieu, and she couldn't have been more relaxed, swapping stories and generally having a jolly time as she also chatted with her ex-husband.
Tomorrow is the endless day, with cross-country starting in the morning followed by the freestyle at night, wrapping up just before midnight and followed by a medal ceremony. Since I have been averaging four hours of sleep a night, I am going to cut this off and go right to bed so I can be bright-eyed on the course tomorrow.
I'll be very interested to see how this route rides, with all its technical fences that invite glance-offs and demand utmost accuracy. (Read Jim Wofford's take on the cross-country course.)
"There's a lot to do," said Kim. "I've got to go do it. The footing's going to be a real question, and the time, and obviously, how jumpable the jumps are."
But if anyone can jump them, it's Kim and Dan. Let's just hope the rest of the team can do the same.
Read Nancy's dressage coverage from today: Peters Misses Medal in WEG Grand Prix Special.
Plus, visit EquiSearch's WEG section for more stories, blogs and online diaries, and chat about the WEG with fellow fans in the EquiSearch Forum.