Lexington, Ky., September 28, 2010 -- I'm still stunned after the shocking elimination this morning of Dutch dressage medal contender Adelinde Cornelissen and her fabulous horse, Jerich Parzival, from the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
Adelinde was only a few movements into her test, working on a score over 80 percent, when the judges rang the bell that could signal an error in the test--or worse. This time, it was worse. Parzival had blood on his mouth, grounds for instant elimination. Adelinde, who had come into the world championships with the prospects of three medals--the team gold and two individual--left with her hand over her mouth and disbelief on her face.
An FEI rule concerning the welfare of the horse makes elimination mandatory. But the bleeding stopped on the way back to the barn and when the Dutch team's veterinarian, Dr. Jan Greve, examined the horse, he found only a tiny dot on the tongue, nothing more. He didn't know how Parzival had nicked himself, but it didn't matter. Thankfully, the horse was okay, but Adelinde was out. There is no hope of re-examination and getting another try in this instance.
We still expect the Dutch to win the team gold this afternoon after their best horse, Moorlands Totilas scored, an incredible 84.043 percent, and only three scores count.
Adelinde handled it well after the initial hit wore off, appearing for a press conference and being gracious enough to talk with me. Here's how she sees things.
Trying to look on the bright side, Dr. Jan said, "maybe the good thing of this is that they change the rule."
I thought that there should be the possibility of a re-examination in such cases in the future, and he agreed.
I was chatting with U.S. show jumping coach George Morris and press room worker Edith de Reys about the situation, and George said what I had thought--it had some similarities to what happened to McLain Ward at the World Cup show jumping finals this year, when Sapphire was ruled unfit to compete and there was no hope of a re-exam. (That jumper rule has since been changed as a result of that debacle.)
But Edith, who is from Belgium, noted there is a political "Party for Animals" in her region that is very sensitive to any mistreatment of animals, real or imagined. Dr. Wojtek Markowski, the dressage technical delegate here at the Kentucky Horse Park, emphasized that public perception is important. If a horse was ruled fit to compete at a later time and then bled again, what would happen?
As Dr. Jan noted, a drop of blood in a bucket of saline solution turns it red, and the foam around a dressage horse's mouth is also a carrier that can make things look far worse than they actually are.
I'll be updating you on the dressage later today, but we won't be seeing Adelinde again. I was looking forward to watching this horse in action. The only other time I saw him was at the 2009 World Cup finals, where he walked in the ring during a warm-up session, went around and walked out. He was lame and could not compete. Trips to the U.S. just haven't been lucky for Adelinde.
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