Check out Salem and me in our freestyle debut! HA -- I wish! That's actually Tina Konyot and Calecto V gettin' their freestyle on last night at the Exquis World Dressage Masters freestyle at PBIEC. This pair came in seventh, but they would have won Best Groomed if that was a category -- Calecto V was shiny as glass and, though his mane was braided in rosettes, his huge, fluffy forelock was left unbraided and it flopped around in time with the music. Love that!
Taking pics is a bit difficult under the stadium lights, so I apologize for the lack of quality. And, since I somehow only brought a 16 mb memory card with me, I was only able to take a few pics. Of course, I saved most of the memory for Steffen Peters and his amazing partner, Ravel. *sigh* They are truly phenomenal.
Steffen Peters is such a soft, quiet, kind rider. Ravel looked perfectly relaxed and content as he danced around the ring. I know it might sound a bit cheesey, but it was so beautiful it almost brought tears to my eyes. You can tell that this pair is really a team. The fluidity and grace of their round was breathtaking.
Sorry the video clip is so short -- my memory ran out! This freestyle is the same routine that they did in Aachen last year, where they won. If you've never seen the whole routine, you simply must watch it (which you can do by clicking here. You can also watch his warm-up here -- which proves you don't need to use rollkur in the warm-up in order to get an amzing round).
So, you would think that Peters and Ravel would have won, right? Nope. They were robbed. They were beat by Anky van Grunsven and Salinero, which just blows my mind. I am not a fan of Anky (partly because of her use of rollkur), but I truly don't understand how her round beat Peters'. Salinero was so uneven up front, it was ridiculous -- his right front was always very high and snappy and expressive, while his left front was low and lackluster. He also looked pissed off, tense and unhappy the whole round. The only thing that was impressive was his extended trot, which was very floaty and pretty. But, in my mind, a single move should not win the competition!
Of course, Peters was a good sport about the whole thing. Here's what he had to say -- "[I] was feeling pretty solid in the changes, so I did it with one hand. I didn't have quite the guts to do it in the one tempis. I should have, now looking back, but I was happy. I had a lot of horse underneath me, a little bit more than in the Grand Prix. I was careful into the piaffe because I thought he would overreact, but he didn't. That's why I think the first piaffe wasn't that good. The rest of the test was great; I was very, very happy with it. Congratulations to both ladies. I usually never get to see them when we compete. I thought Isabell did a hell of a job. I thought Anky's was one of the best freestyles I've seen with Salinero. To be second behind them is fantastic. Even if we had done the one tempis tonight, we would not have won. At the end of the day, it's a big mistake if you start riding the scoreboard. You have to ride your horse and I asked from Ravel as much as he could offer tonight." (Taken from an interview with Equestrian Sport Productions News)
He and Ravel actually won the Grand Prix the night before, so at least the world hasn't gone completely mad. And if there had been an award for Calmest, Most Well-Behaved Horse During The Awards Ceremony, they would have won it hands-down. Salinero was a complete nutcase, pawing and spooking and leaping around like a half-crazed gazelle. He and Satchmo 78 (Isabell Worth's horse) fed off eachother's nervous energy, while Ravel stood there quietly like a big puppy dog (well, a puppy dog with floppy donkey ears!) .
Oh, and I found out that Steffen and Ravel schooled over at my friend (well, I've met her about six times and she's the close friend of a friend, so that counts, right?) Karen's barn earlier in the week. I would have given my right arm to be there! :-) Oh, well...there's always next year!
Edited to add: Here's an excerpt from Nancy Jaffer's Postcard -- Last to go, Anky went for it with the energetic Salinero. Her "Dance of Devotion" music, composed for her horse, suits him well, but I was surprised that she was marked first by four of the five judges and scored so far ahead of Steffen's mark, at 84.450. A number of the people I chatted with afterward also were surprised; several of them (who did not have their judges' cards) thought Steffen should have won.
I tracked down U.S. judge Axel Steiner, the only official who had placed Steffen first, to ask for his analysis.
"Anky did a lot of things with a high degree of difficulty, and she did them very easily at times. But for me, there was still a fair amount of tension in the horse, compared to Steffen," he said.
"I really appreciate how solid and loose through the back the horse [Ravel] moved, more the way we would really like to see a well-trained dressage horse move. That's not taking anything away from Salinero," Axel added, but noted that horse "sometimes gets ahead of himself."