So we set off in high spirits on thursday after school, for the American Eventing Championships in Georgia at Chattahoochee Hills, the amazing 8,000 acre farm that belongs to Carl Bouckaert. Sadly, I have no sense of direction, I had no sat-nav, and no sense, so although we made it to Atlanta in good time, we then spent several hours driving around, and around, and around, trying to find the exact location. Maybe I’m spoilt by all those lovely yellow AA signs escorting me off the motorway to Horse Trials in England, but until we got to the last lane and a handwritten sign with an arrow, there was nothing. By this time it was dark, late, (or early! 2am!) and I was on the verge of tears and a nervous breakdown. Thankfully, the children and the labrador slept oblivious in the back. We rumbled down the track, past the trailers, and parked in an empty space, only to wake up a few hours later practically on the cross country course, minutes from the start of the lower divisions.
Chattahoochee Hills is vast, and very much still a work in progress. Getting around is problematic; realistically if you were competing you needed a golf cart to transport kit from trailer to stables (about half a mile) as there was no parking at the stables, but there were no golf carts available from about 10 days before the event. Bicycles were a help, ( I love my bike which has taken on it’s own personality – are you surprised?! ) and there were lots of vespas and mini mopeds.
Although the food was disappointing: 700 horses means thousands of riders, volunteers, supporters, media etc, all hungry, and there were basically two vendors selling burgers, hot dogs etc, which meant long, long lines especially at lunchtime, but thankfully we did find coffee, and smoothies!
Most of the weekend everyone talked about the weather: hot, and the footing: not good. In stark contrast ( I almost typed Ian Stark – freudian slip!) to Richland Park two weeks earlier, where there had been sprinkler pods all over the course and every effort had been made for some time prior to the event, in a last minute panic Captain Mark Phillips and David O Connor took matters into their own hands and were seen on the aggravator trying to soften the very hard going a bit.
|Connaught soaking his feet!|
Consequently the American Eventing Championships Advanced Section, which was already somewhat compromised by six horses being given a bye from the cross country with a view to US team WEG selection (Remington, Neville Bardos, The Foreman, Woodburn, My Boy Bobby and Ballynoe Castle RM who all galloped early on saturday morning, and actually Truluck too in the end), ended up being essentially meaningless as a competition because most of the competitors ran their horses conservatively with the Games in mind. Allison Springer had produced what’s become a customary beautiful dressage to take the lead by a mile, and said “it killed her” to go slow (!) but for Arthur’s sake, and with just two weeks before the Games that was the pretty much the reaction of most of the top riders I talked to.
I was lucky enough to get a ski-lift one morning up the hill on my bike from Alison’s Mum’s golf cart, and then she talked to me afterwards, and was so lovely, and so supportive, and made me quite homesick! With just one rail down and a time fault on sunday I’m sure she’ll be very proud of her daughter’s performance this weekend, and will be one of the many anxious supporters and fans awaiting the team announcement on tuesday.
|Will Faudree, of the blue blue eyes!|
Allison was hanging out with the Haygain boys at their booth on saturday afternoon for some time, and was kitted out in her Haygain gear for most of the day despite the heat. I know she uses the haygain soaker and obviously believes in it, but it was nice to see a top rider standing behind her product, literally. Other combinations who I thought went really well this weekend were Stephen Bradley and Brandenburg’s Joshua, and also Will Faudree on Pawlow, would love to see either of them in Kentucky. Also, looking better and better is Titanium, but probably not in time for WEG.
|Has Comet run out of gas?|
If anything I think this weekend will have raised more questions for the US team selectors than answered them: Karen O Connor had an inexplicable stop at the second fence xc, big, plain table, but then had a strong round. Kim Severson looked good in all three phases, especially a double clear in the show jumping. Amy Tryon pulled up Coal Creek halfway after losing a stirrup, and did an amended course on Leyland. Has Becky used up Comet, or is there something left in the tank?
It seems that the US Team contenders had no clear instructions as to what to do on saturday, and what was expected. This was a shame for the Advanced Championship which with a considerable purse of $25,000 should be a prestigious class, perhaps they should have been run separately? Nate Chambers stormed round on his experienced campaigner Rollin’ Stone some 16 seconds inside the time, and Robert Costello also looked good cross country on Dustin. It was a treat to see The Good Witch back on top form, flying around the cross country like a hunter trial, and also putting in solid rounds were Sinead Halpin on Manoir de Carneville who’s hoping to go to Boekolo and Laine Ashker on Anthony Patch.
JJ did a fantastic job as always on the control, and Giles Rowsell’s dulcet tones were only enhanced by guest commentary from Leslie Law who was terrific, Nate Chambers, who was in the lead for most of the day and was merciless in poking fun at his fellow competitors. Pat also did a wonderful job running the press tent, and the USEA were EVERYWHERE! However, the stabling organisation lacked somewhat, and just the sheer size of the venue made things tricky sometimes. That said, it is a stunning place, and apparently Carl has four star hopes; you can see from all the photos of the barns and grounds on other blogs and websites (esp. usea, eventingnation.com, coth) that he dreams BIG and is getting it done. The kids, lab and I all had a great time, although I must admit that my reporting, such as it is, was somewhat hampered by my children – note to self, bring the babysitter next time! and now we know exactly where it is, we look forward to returning soon!
For full results see
Also, Kat from the Chronicle of the Horse was working hard all weekend so check out their coverage, and I hesitate to reccomend ThreeDaysThreeWays only because naughty Courtney put a picture of me in her blog, otherwise I love it wholeheartedly! The Heart of 3-Day Eventing: Three Days Three Ways
|Katie Pudent’s Pitiful was busy all weekend|