Aachen Germany, August 21, 2006 -- Grand prix dressage, which gets under way tomorrow, previewed today with the soundness jog and then workouts in the main arena for competitors.
The U.S. was first to go in the vet check and as always, the air was stiff with tension. Brentina, Floriano, Tip Top and Aragon all passed easily, and you could practically hear the collective sigh of relief in the stable area.
I looked hard at Aragon because he was stepping out in a way I'd never seen before. He looked exceptional. Rider Guenter Seidel told me the horse has had some acupuncture and chiropractic work during the time he's been in Europe this summer. Whatever, he certainly appeared far different than he did in the U.S. Equestrian Federation championships in New Jersey during June, where even Guenter concedes he wasn't at his best, despite finishing second.
Riders were still talking about Sunday's opening ceremonies as they got ready for a training session.
"It was great. The only bad thing about being in the ceremony is that you miss the things that go on before you go in the stadium," said Debbie.
She's very enthusiastic about Aachen's version of the World Equestrian Games.
"It appears they have done everything to make this a nice show. It's fun to be back," said Debbie.
She worked Brentina lightly this afternoon, in contrast to gold medal favorite Anky van Grunsven of the Netherlands, who gave Keltec Salinero a lot to do. He was even fresh with her husband/coach, Sjef Jansen, who trotted him in the jog.
Overall, the Dutch look awfully good. I might say this is the year they will overtake the Germans, but the show is being held in Germany, so that home field advantage (and hometown crowd) often make a difference in how things turn out.
With a long gap between the start and finish of the endurance today, visitors had a chance to stroll around the showgrounds, which have taken on the air of a not so mini-mall. Dozens of little shops are huddled between the beer bars and sausage stands in white tents down avenues named after famous horses, such as Starman Strasse (strasse means street in German) or Jappeloup Strasse.
There is every kind of tack imaginable (a lot of browbands in the German red, black and yellow colors), tons of breeches and helmets in a bunch of hues. Add to that horsey jewelry by, it seems, the ton; elegant clothing with a Tyrolean flair and all sorts of horse equipment and therapy items, and you can spend a lot of time browsing (or maybe even buying, though the Euro is so strong against the dollar I haven't been tempted. Okay, I've been tempted, but I haven't bought anything).
My favorite shop so far is Horsemax, which has a display of items for national rooters. As you can see in the picture, one of their best sellers is an artificial lei for 3.5 Euros in the German colors of red, yellow and black. Couple that with a 10-Euro Deutschland hat and a couple of 1-Euro Germany No. 1 buttons, and you don't have to say, "Go Team!" for people to know you're a rooter.
Nils Jacobs, the nice guy who runs the store, said the French are his second-biggest customers. I saw hats from a whole bunch of other countries, but nothing from the U.S.
Nils told me he will have plenty of red, white and blue for the 2010 WEG in Kentucky. As I was leaving, he pinned a Germany No. 1 button on my shirt. It looks sort of funny for an American to be wearing it. I don't think the U.S. team would take kindly to it. But guess what? I can't get it off!
So I'm going to work on that for awhile. Then tomorrow, I'm concentrating on the first day of grand prix dressage and I'll show up in a different shirt, sans button, now that my luggage has arrived.
Watch for coverage tomorrow of the first day of grand prix dressage and chat about the WEG with fellow fans at forum.equisearch.com.
Plus, visit EquiSearch's WEG section for more stories and the complete competition schedule.