April 14, 2015--You've heard the phrase, "horses for courses."
It really applies to competition in the Thomas & Mack Center. That would be the very close quarters of the Thomas & Mack Center, which is hosting the FEI World Cup finals.
Riders need to choose their mounts carefully if they hope to succeed in the tight confines of this arena. Those long-striding horses who gobble up ground outdoors may not be the right candidate for a rider set on winning the Longines FEI World Cup Show Jumping Final.
No one is better at assessing what horse to ride than Beezie Madden. She won the 2013 Cup finals in Europe on Simon, and figured that his talents would make him a good candidate for this venue.
"The reason I brought him is that he's very agile and very handy in small areas," she told me this afternoon.
"He's not always the fastest when there are big long runs to fences, but he's quite fast if there are short turns. The fences come up quickly, so for the first day (the speed class) I thought he was good and basically for the whole rest of the time as well.
"Just because the venue is so small, I was favoring him more than Cortes," she said, referring to the horse on which she won an individual bronze medal at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
Simon's last outing was 10 days ago at the GCT Miami Beach competition, which was also a very small arena, albeit outdoors next to the ocean.
So that was a dress rehearsal?
"That's what we're hoping. That was the plan," said Beezie.
She isn't the only former winner in the ranks of competitors. Defending champion Daniel Deusser of Germany is here with the lovely Cornet d'Amour, and another American winner from 2012, Rich Fellers is on hand with the 19-year-old Flexible, the oldest horse in the competition. Then there's Germany's Marcus Ehning, with Singular LS LA Silla. He could make history if he won, because he'd be the first four-time victor.
I wondered whether there was more pressure on Beezie here as a previous victor on home turf.
"There's extra excitement that it's at home," she replied.
"I think we always put a lot of pressure on ourselves anyway to win. Obviously, if we do win on home soil, it would be nicer, but I don't know the pressure is any more."
All the World Cup jumpers passed the horse inspection, but there also is a group here to go in the Saturday night, non-Cup grand prix. Will Simpson's mount, The Dude, was held for reinspection tomorrow. There's always the chance that a horse won't pass, so it's time for a deep sigh of relief when this segment is over.
Tomorrow, the jumpers will get some ring time to acclimate, when one hopes the 50 mph dust storm that is raging this evening will be over. The draw is tomorrow night and then Thursday, it all begins.