The first day of eventing dressage at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon was blistering hot, but so was the fierce competition.
Shortly after the lunch break, Julia Krajewski of Germany threw down the gauntlet and earned an astounding 19.1 with Chipmunk FRH to take over the lead. The 10-year-old Hanoverian gelding is known for his phenomenal dressage tests, and today proved to be no exception as one of the best eventing tests in WEG history.
"Chipmunk went in and actually relaxed in the arena, which was very nice," said a delighted Julia after her test. "I had a very good feeling. I was under some pressure because people expect me to do well in the dressage with this horse, so I’m very relieved that he just showed what he can do. A 19.something… I mean, you can’t go much better."
Team USA's Boyd Martin went immediately after Julia and finished his day with Tsetserleg ("Thomas") with a very respectable 27.1 to take over second. "My little Trakhener went in there and roared around," said Boyd after his ride. "It was great to do it in front of the American crowd. It was really good, because you train really, really hard for a moment like this and the biggest fear is screwing it up in that seven minutes. But little Thomas went like a champion and he did a beautiful job."
The 11-year-old black gelding is still relatively new to the level, but Boyd has all the faith in his WEG partner after a solid year. "I didn’t think anything of him when he first came and then all of a sudden, through particular circumstances, become my number-one horse. And all of a sudden, he’s all I think about day to day and the improvement has gone through the roof. It was a good lesson to learn. There’s some diamonds in the rough, sometimes in your barn. If you’d told me six months ago, a year ago, that this horse would be at this championship I would’ve laughed at you. But he’s right in there."
Piggy French of Great Britain rounds out the top three after picking up a 27.8 with Quarrycrest Echo, an 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding.
Will Coleman and Tight Lines were the first U.S. competitors to canter down centerline this morning and though they had to settle for a 35.6, the event is far from over. The pair were originally named as alternates to Team USA, but when Marilyn Little's RF Scandalous sustained an unfortunate minor injury last week, they were bumped up to the team.
"Tight Lines is no dressage horse," said Will with a laugh. "He’s here for the jumping phases, more than he is for this first phase, so we were just trying to put down a decent test. I don’t think we could’ve hoped for much better than what we did today. Given the circumstances, I’m happy, and I’m just looking forward to the rest of the competition... I’m very proud of him even though it’s not a great test, by any stretch… we really kept our cool, and that’s what I was hoping for."
Lauren Kieffer and Vermiculus are riding as individuals for Team USA and earned a 32.6 for a top 20 finish to their day.
With Julia's incredible 19.1 and another rider in the top 11 (Kai Ruder), Germany currently has a commanding lead in the team standings with a 50.1. After a sizeable gap, the next several countries are quite close: 2nd - Australia (58.4), 3rd - France (59.4), 4th - Great Britain (60.2), 5th - New Zealand (61.1), 6th - United States (62.7).
Thoughts on Cross Country
At this point in the competition, most of the athletes have already walked Capt. Mark Phillips' rolling cross-country course and are making their plans for Saturday.
Mark Todd (New Zealand): "On first inspection, some of the fences didn’t look as difficult as they can do. But you have to remember that this is the first year it’s been at the three-star level and not four-star. I think you’d be very wrong to underestimate the course. Some of those combinations are quite difficult and require a lot of accuracy and boldness, so we certainly won’t be taking it too cheaply.”
Boyd Martin (USA): "It’s really good. The ground’s fantastic. The course is beautifully built, tricky, twisty, turny, skinnies, corners, and a Mt. Everest at the end. It’s going to be a really, really exciting day. If you go too hard and too quick in the beginning, you won’t get up the hill. If you’re too much of a wimp in the beginning, you won’t be able to catch anything up at the end. It’s going to take some really good horsemanship to know how hard and fast to ride your horse. I’ve got my bloke really, really fit, but he’s green, so I’ve just got to keep remembering that, especially through the corners and squirrels or hamsters or whatever you call them. And then it’ll be all heart at the end. He’s fit, strong and he’s going to roar up that hill, there’s going to be smoke coming off him."
Blyth Tait (New Zealand) of his horse Dassett Courage: "He’s a lovely little horse, he’s a fantastic jumper. He’s a bit spooky, but careful for an event horse. He’s by Courage, so they’re proving to be very successful at the upper level. He suits me because he’s athletic and quick-thinking and quick-moving and quick-reacting. He’s had me on the ground a few times when I’ve been out hacking. He hasn’t had a lot of experience. He’ll be one of the less experienced horses here. But he really tries, so I’m looking forward to it. I think it’ll be alright. I don’t know how he’ll cope with the big crowds and a lot of the razzmatazz that will go alongside it. As I said, he does like to sort of look around and see what’s going on. But if he focuses, he’s well-capable of jumping it.”
Andrew Hoy (Australia): "Weather-wise, we have to wait and see what it does, and then on the day, we have to make a judgement call as to how we’re going to ride. But I think it’s going to be a strong course. The ground, I believe, in general is going to be good if it stays as it is today.
Will Coleman (USA): "I think it’s another fabulous course from Mark Phillips. It starts off kinda cruisey and then the middle bit is extremely intense. You’ve got to really be on your feet and in the moment and just ready to react because everything comes up really fast. And that will be particularly difficult to stay on your minutes and not get too far down on the clock because you certainly don’t want to be too far down when you hit this monster hill here at the end coming home.”
The eventing dressage continues tomorrow with two more riders to compete for Team USA: Lynn Symansky/Donner at 10:19AM & Phillip Dutton/Z at 2:42PM.
Other notable riders include: Tim & Jonelle Price for New Zealand, Germany's Ingrid Klimke, Rosalind Canter, Selena O'Hanlon and Jessica Phoenix.
Watch the livestreaming on FEITV.org.
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