I guess the honeymoon is over. So much for my analogy of the happy island archipelago of the World Equestrian Games tents floating in the sea of green Horse Park fields. Just as WEG is set to wind down to its last day, we're forgetting that this major horse event has been rather blissfully devoid of the tragedies and controversies that have lately swirled around equestrian competitions like a black tornado.
Quick! Run for the cellar, there's a twister coming!
We haven't had riders killed in rotational falls. No medical helicopters interrupt the pastoral splendor out on the marathon course today. No horses seriously injured, much less dead because of heart attacks, bad falls or even, as far as we know, bad colic. No political protests. No animal rights demonstrators. So far, no horses have been disqualified for medication violations. No riders, either.
Everyone has had plenty of leisure time to complain about things like directional signs, sore feet and where the monitors were (or weren't). When you hear those complaints for two weeks, you know there's not much else going on.
The worst thing that happened, in my book, was Parzival's pink mouth dressage. A cut on the tongue is nothing compared to what McLain Ward went through in Geneva or a Le Samurai Rolex finish or a Courtney King-Dye tragedy. Complain all you want about the price of a sandwich: that means nothing really bad is on your mind.
Until today. And once again, the Dutch team is at the center of the controversy.
Today we received bits and pieces of news about a bizarre discovery in the Dutch driving barn. I heard about it from the Dutch team farrier, who was also crewing for Chardon today. From his account, I graduated to the Dutch press and the Kentucky State Police. Here's what might have happened:
In preparation for today's marathon phase of the FEI World Championship in Driving, Dutch driver IJsbrand Chardon brought his team of four horses out to hitch them to his marathon vehicle. When the team went to get it from its storage place, they discovered that it had been vandalized--and the vehicle next to it, belonging to another Dutch driver, was left untouched.
Not much is being said about the extent of the vandalism; interviews with Chardon in the Dutch press made it sound much worse than it is being reported in the US press, so you can choose your news source.
What is being reported by the Kentucky State Police tonight is that there was a marked discrepancy between the reported time of the discovery and the time when anyone from the Chardon camp apparently actually notified security of the breach.
The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games issued a statement on Saturday
night that is devoid of a.m. or p.m. designations for times listed in the statement.
According to this statement, if read logically, the Dutch reported a problem in the parking lot of their stable around 1 p.m. Saturday. A detective with the Kentucky State Police was dispatched at 12:57 p.m. to go to the Dutch barn; he or she arrived there at 1:20 p.m.
This means that the Chardon team or the Dutch chef d'equipe may have waited almost two hours before notifying the Horse Park and Games security forces that a breach had taken place.
"The Dutch team reported to us that they had discovered the damage to the carriage at 11 o'clock this morning," Lieutenant Jade of the Kentucky State Police said.
The lack of a.m. and p.m. designations in the statement is confusing because it might also mean that a previous security call had been made around 1 a.m., but I don't think that is the case.
Chardon's carriage had padding slashed and damage to the brake lines that caused the fluid to leak, according to Dutch reports. An offer of a loan vehicle from another driver was refused; the Dutch intead petitioned for Chardon to go later in the day than his scheduled time. Damage to the padding is clearly visible in the photos I took of the vehicle.
Chardon's statement today included this quote:
?It was a truly bizarre marathon for me. Before we started the last phase of the marathon I tested the carriage once more. The brakes worked different than usual, but I felt I had to continue. As soon as we started I cleared my mind and I focused on the obstacles. Luckily it went well from the first obstacle and I had a good feeling. Just before the last obstacle I noticed my horses got a little tired and told my son Bram and my wife Paulien who are my grooms that I wanted to take the long route. Bram however told me not to give it away now and to take the short route. I am happy he told me this otherwise I would not have been able to win the marathon and to come so close to Boyd.?
Chardon is also quoted in the Dutch press as saying that he has no enemies in America and believes he is well-liked in the international driving community. He attributed the incident to "some idiot", although the idiot would have to know quite a bit to discern his vehicle from the other Dutch vehicle and how to locate the brake lines.
Chardon is quoted in the Dutch press as saying that stable area security cameras did not cover the area where the carriages were stored.
In spite of his stressful day, Chardon won the marathon phase of the competition and pulled closer to the overall leader, Australia's Boyd Exell.
Driving continues Sunday with the obstacle course and presentation of team and individual medals.
All photos accompanying this article are ?? Fran Jurga 2010 with the exception of the photo of the Chardon team in the marathon. DiscoverWEG photos may not be re-used, re-posted or transferred/downloaded from this site.
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