Saturday, October 2, 2010

Oh, the Musical Freestyle!

Wow. As you can see from the date of this post, I was so overwhelmed (not to mention tired!) last night that I could not even write about the freestyles. It was a fantastic night until we got back to the car. More about that later!

A most generous woman sitting next to me for the week had a ticket for the Freestyles that she was not going to use, and to make a long story short, she offered it to one of my students, who is a HUGE fan of Steffen and Ravel, not to mention Edward and Totilas and many of the other riders. So on account of a new friend's generosity, Lindsey made the drive down to Lexington on Friday and was able to join me for the freestyles.

I could probably, well, definitely, tell you something about every ride. I have been taking notes all week, in order to better keep you all informed as well as to be able to pass tips along to my students. But rather than go through all 15, I will give you some highlights.

We all absolutely LOVED Marcela Krinke Susmelj and her ride on Corinth. Very artistically pleasing and great musicality, plus, it was a clean test. Her tempi changes on a circle were quite fantastic (better than some we saw later in the evening!) and Corinth looked happy and relaxed throughout. It was early in the night, and Marcela earned a 75%, which would not end up enough to keep her in the medals. I think she was quite thrilled with her ride, though, and she should be proud.

Nathalie zu-Sayn Wittgenstein was another fun test to watch, with music from West Side Story. She received a 78.75%, which put her in the lead. Speaking of great music, the crowd went a little crazy when Christoph Koschel and Donnperingon entered the arena to the Police singing "Every Breath You Take." The freestyle was a medley of Police music, which was definitely a crowd pleaser. Some tightness and bobbles left Christoph with a 76%.

Nathalie and her horse Digby remained in the lead through the first 14 rides, which included Anabel Balkenhol, whose Dablino was visibly tense in the walk and earned only a 73.25%. Isabell Werth took over the lead with Warum Nicht even though the horse repeatedly stepped down with his right hind leg in the passage and they looked tight throughout. Their 80% would not top the leader board for long.

The final five rides were almost too good for words. I can say, though, that too many people in the crowd "forgot" to turn off the flash on their camera, which was distracting to the horses, and there was too much noise, which often ruined a rider's halt. We all need to respect the fact that, for the benefit of the horse and the rider, we need to wait until the final salute to let them know how much we appreciated the ride.

Laura Bechtolsheimer rode Mistral through a nice test, with some lovely moments (especially in piaffe), but they just seemed tighter tonight and not quite as harmonious as earlier in the week. Perhaps a bit of nerves, or who knows what, but they still earned a great score of 85.35% to take the lead!

A crowd favorite from day one, Fuego XII came high stepping into the arena next with Juan Manuel Munoz Diaz aboard. The crowd had a very hard time keeping their mouths shut during this ride (which did cause Fuego to jig out of the opening halt) but later on, the rider was asking for it as he rode his changes one-handed down the center line. The timing of the music with the horse was just super during the piaffe work as well as the pirouettes, but Fuego's collected walk was very short. They scored 81.45%, which put them into second place!

After a huge roar from the crowd at Juan Manuel's final salute, just a few moments went by before another roar erupted when Edward Gal and Totilas floated in to the ring. This was the one everyone had been talking about...could he beat his own record? Unfortunately, with a break to the canter at the end of an extended trot line, one tempis that were short behind and another little bobble, we can't say that this ride was perfection. But a 91.8% is closer than I will probably ever get!

But did they leave the door open for Steffen Peters and Ravel? The hugely American crowd at the WEG sure hoped so! Their freestyle is a beautifully choreographed test, and the half passes were beautiful both in trot and in canter. Ravel did break to the walk once in the piaffe, and was tight behind in the one tempis after a pirouette, so their ride was not perfect either. But a score of 84.85% left them hanging on to third place with one ride to go!

Imagine being in the boots of Imke Schllekens-Bartels, who had to top the rides of Edward and Steffen. I can honestly say that she rose to the challenge. Her ride on Hunter Douglas Sunrise was so harmonious and just beautiful to see. I think her piano-based music could have been my favorite soundtrack of the evening, and their canter work was definitely a highlight. She was the last score between Steffen and the medals stand...and she eared 82.1% which left Steffen and Ravel as the bronze medalists!

Steffen apparently was wiping tears off his face as he stood on the podium to accept his bronze medal, the first ever individual medal in dressage for the US at a World Equestrian Games. Congratulations, of course, to Edward Gal and Laura Bechtolsheimer, earning the gold and silver, but the biggest hometown heroes last night were Steffen Peters and Ravel. What a great way to end the dressage competition at the first WEG in America!