Update from the World Equestrian Games

(We received the following from club member, Henry Tarryk. Enjoy!)

Greetings and salutations fellow CVDC members.

As some of you know, Jaye [Winkler] and I attended the World Equestrian Games (WEG) to see the driving [October 8-10, 2010]. Preparations for our journey started much later than most who planned for months and in some cases years to attend. For my part, I have been so busy with King and haying as well as life in general that I knew it was happening but it was not at the top of my priority list. To be honest, it was not on the list at all. That kind of changed at the Laurels where we once again watched our American team drivers go. (We had seen them at Garden State and Bromont as well.) The Laurels was a practice for them in preparation for Kentucky. As such, the organizers arranged for Chester Weber to do a running color commentary on the other drivers as they drove the cones. He did an excellent job and pointed out some of the small details that might be missed. He also talked about what an extraordinary opportunity it was to have the games here in the US.

It was that commentary that planted the seed for the idea to perhaps attend this once in a lifetime event. As Jaye and I drove home from the Laurels, and got stuck in unbearable traffic at the George Washington Bridge, it came up again. Over the next couple days, a bit of research revealed that there were still tickets and a few rooms available. A little more discussion (I’m game if you are) and by way of electronic magic, tickets were secured and reservations made. The estimated length of time to complete the drive [to Lexington] varied from 12.5 hrs to slightly less than 14. We decided that we could conceivably spend that much time in airports, car rental etc, so we would just drive down. We also decided to leave early enough to arrive in time for the ADS annual meeting that was being held at the Gayla Driving Center.

[October 8, 2010] We left Jaye’s Mint Farm about 1:15 am Fri. morning thinking we would perhaps have time for a nap before the meeting at 6:00 pm. Apparently the time estimators have watched Smokey and the Bandit a few too many times as we would have had to have “kept it wound up to 90″ to make the 12.5 hrs. It actually took 16 hrs, which included a bit of traffic and a couple of stops for coffee and fuel. We did make the ADS meeting in time. We chatted and mingled for a bit, hearing a little of Bob Koopman’s trip to the single horse world championships in Italy with his Whippoorwill Morgan this past summer. We met and talked with Nancy Lawson. Bill was busy with official business as treasurer. We had a very good meal in the spacious indoor arena. At the end of dinner, it was announced that there was a special birthday cake for a person who was very active and works tirelessly behind the scenes in the ADS. It seems that for several years there has been a meeting or conference call on this person’s birthday. The honoree was none other than CVDC’s own Bill Lawson, Treasurer of the ADS. The entire group sang Happy Birthday to Bill and proceeded to eat the cake. There was talk of that day’s happenings at the WEG. We got some idea of the obstacles and where we should look for them. Dressage had ended with Boyd Excel in the lead with a record low score of 30.08 in dressage!!! The Americans were right in the thick of the action with Chester Weber in second place (35.97) tied with Ijsbrand Chardon of the Netherlands and Tucker Johnson tied with Theo Timmerman for third. As the official meeting of the board continued, we adjourned to get some much needed sleep

[October 9, 2010] Saturday dawned clear and cool on the way to hot and sunny. As we approached the Kentucky Horse Park we were warned of traffic delays by roadside signs. We had heard of trouble parking as well. However, we drove straight in and parked what seemed a short distance away from the gate. There had been much talk of the amount of walking. Once inside the park, we picked up the daily sheet that listed all the competitors and their placing as well as the driving program that had the hazards and a course map, as well as a full page ad for the pony club featuring CVDC member, and advanced pony driver, Maggie Sullivan.

Hazards 2 and 3 were just a short walk in and were very impressive as were all the hazards. We set out on a course walk to view all of the hazards and plan our strategy to catch our favorite drivers at as many places as possible. As we were walking the course Jaye pointed out that we had been training all season for this by walking hazards and biking courses. It seemed easy and pretty close between the hazards, it was still early. We started at #1 and watched Georg Von Stein of Germany go through as the first competitor. It turned out that his time held as fastest for most of the day. After watching a couple more drivers, we then made our way to the first water hazard #2 which was close to #3 Spooky Hollow.

We saw some incredible driving!! One of Chester Weber’s wheelers slipped on the bridge and nearly went down, he quickly regained his footing and went on without hesitation. (That’s courage and trust!!) We ran across the street to see them go through Spooky Hollow very well. (Spooky Hollow was in trees and was fabulously decorated with wood carvings and huge pumpkins.) We then ran to catch him at #4 Walnut Hill. We made it in time to catch our breath enough to actually see them go. Walnut Hill was a steep mound with an arbor on top and a moat around the base, it also included a maze of fences. We saw Chester come down the mound and make a sharp turn that likely would have been difficult with a single horse! They were fast through that hazard according to the announcer. They headed off to 5, 6, and 7 and we went over the hill to 8. I had an idea we could perhaps see 7 from the top of the hill then run down to 8. It was not that visible from the hill but the checking gave me a moment to rest, off we went to eight. As we listened to the announcer I kept hearing him say that Chester was having trouble getting his leaders out of the way. At one point we heard he had a groom down. Oh no! that’s a 10 point penalty. It is hard if not impossible to overcome that. We made it to 8 and were waiting when more bad news came: they were stopped in 7 and once again a groom down. The best hope for American gold was gone. They came over the hill and into the water at 8 completing the very tight obstacle in what looked to be flawless fashion.

I suppose that was our second disappointment of the games. (The first being the team of Morgan’s fielded by the Aulson’s and driven by David Saunders not passing the presentation for the jury and vet. I don’t know what happened other than that it was an issue of lameness that had resolved the next day. I am sure it was a terrible disappointment for the Aulson’s and David Saunders as we have seen how hard they have worked to make the games. For Jaye and I, we did not get the opportunity to shout Go Morgan’s!!)

We walked away from 8 and back to 2 and 3, a bit slower (mostly from us starting to wear down). Once back there, we saw how fast things can go wrong. We saw Josh Rector (one of the American individual competitors) get a bit too close to one of the piers. I had my eyes on the leaders and looked back just in time to see the flower pot move. Jaye saw the whole thing happen and one of the wheelers had hit his head hard into the pole. He was still shaking his head as they continued on. We ran again to Spooky Hollow and saw them get through with less trouble. They were then held on course for the vet to examine the horses. All was deemed well and they went back on course.

We then walked (a bit slower each trip) back to the other series of hazards. We took up a position at #5 the Stone Garden. It was like a cellar hole with stone flower boxes in it that formed the gates. I liked watching this obstacle because there was really only one route to take. That gave a great comparison between drivers and horses. Gate B was up the hill and a very sharp turn around the post and back through the same opening. If the turn was not made, you were backwards through E. Boyd Excel went through it and barely broke stride! Bill Long got his leaders through but the wheelers pushed forward, taking them to the edge of the bank. It was a great recovery to get all the momentum stopped and back the wheelers, complete the turn and race across the side hill. Sometimes it seems to take more skill to save yourself from disaster.

There is more to tell but I will finish the marathon talk by saying it was great to be there!! The walk that seemed short on the way in certainly was longer on the way out as we had completed what was a marathon of hazard watching.

[October 10, 2010] Sunday was again cool to start but was predicted to get to near record warmth. Jaye had done the research for this adventure well, and discovered that Whole Foods had a WEG sandwich special. We decided to take advantage of that as neither of us was hungry enough to eat the fare offered on the grounds. It did not look particularly good and was outrageously expensive.

After procuring lunch, we got to Driving Stadium for cones. It was a very challenging course. We watched as driver after driver got penalties, either time or knockdowns. Then it was Chester Weber’s turn. As you would expect, he is very good at cones. In the spring, we saw him make Bromont look like a Sunday drive in the park. Now, he entered the stadium and there was mechanical difficulty with the timing apparatus. He was excused while they worked on it for what seemed a long time. They called him back in and the scoreboard lit up but once again would not work. He was excused again. Now, there was a much longer delay with talk about manual timing, using a stopwatch. Not really optimal as the gold and silver medal was separated by less than one ball or about 10 seconds of time. Finally after about 40 min, it was working and Chester came back in. (Anyone who has ever driven cones can only imagine how hard it must have been to endure the double delay!) The bell rang and off he went. At the halfway, he was on pace for a double clear round. As he got through 19 on the way to 20, it looked like it was going to be double clear. When his leaders broke the beam there was time remaining and no balls down!! The crowd erupted with exuberant cheering.

Chester was trying to quiet the crowd as fellow American team driver James Fairclough had entered. The crowd fell silent. These next few moments could decide the team medals. Team USA did not disappoint as Jim Fairclough followed with another double clear round!! Now was the time for cheering!!! No one was happier than James Fairclough as he tipped his hat and waved to the crowd. I can not remember exactly but I think Tucker Johnson had a ball down. His drive however was good enough for the team silver medal! We saw the agony of defeat with Tomas Eriksson of Sweden driving fast and clear until he made a right turn out of 18 and went backwards through 19, thus being eliminated two sets of cones from the end. I could feel the dis-appointment in the crowd. That single mistake knocked Sweden off the podium and allowed the German team to move up to the bronze medal. Now it was time for Isjbrand Chardon [Netherlands] to try and pressure Boyd Excell for the gold. Chardon went fast and clean until, I believe, 16 and then a ball hit the ground, expanding the gap between silver and gold. Next came Boyd Excel. He now had a more than one ball lead. We held our breath and he finished with no balls down but with 3.3 time penalties. The [individual] gold medal was going down under to Australia! The final result was Boyd Excel (Australia) gold, Isjbrand Chardon (Netherlands) silver, Tucker Johnson (USA) bronze. The team medals were, Netherlands gold, USA silver, Germany bronze. The medal ceremony was great with a bit of levity. As the teams drove out, the Germans drove off as a single unit. What a sight!! Eventually the Americans and Dutch got together and they all drove around the arena to a standing ovation. The Germans drove out first, then one by one from the far end of driving stadium the Americans then the Dutch ran their horses flat out down the center line then out!! Finally only Boyd Excel remained, he made a short circle to get the full arena and ran those horses flat out. The black leader had his head down ears back and was pulling with everything he had!!! That is a sight I shall never forget!! TV could never do that justice!! Thus ended the WEG and the competition to decide the world championship of driving for the teams. Those are some of the highlights that I can recall. What a fantastic experience!!!

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