THE houndbloggers learned a few things at the recent World Equestrian Games. The two lessons that will stick with us longest are 1) Dippin’ Dots are not to be touched with a ten-foot pole, let alone a spoon that you intend to put in your actual mouth and 2) the driving marathon is one of the most exciting, challenging, and cool-looking things you can do with a horse (or four).
Let’s jump right in with the driving marathon, because we know there are some readers out there who were curious to see what it looked like. The driving competition is modeled on three-day eventing, and, like eventing, has three basic components: dressage, cross-country, and stadium. Now, obviously, there’s no jumping when you have four horses pulling a carriage, so the cross-country and stadium phases are different from the eventing competition in that regard. Instead of cross-country fences, there are hazards that feature a number of gates the horses have to go through (and, as in cross-country riding competition, there’s more than one way through each obstacle). Instead of stadium fences, there is a set pattern of traffic cones through which the horses must go.
The houndbloggers attended only one of the driving events, but it was the one we most wanted to see: cross-country. Here’s a taste. This video was from the sidelines as a couple of competitors negotiated Obstacle 4, named Walnut Hill, where not everything went as planned. There were no injuries, we hasten to add, to horses or humans (or obstacles).
We particularly loved the noises of this competition: the navigators’ voices, the sounds the drivers made to encourage their horses, the squealing brakes, the thud of fast-moving hooves, and the clink and jingle of bits and harnesses.
Here, by the way, is the overhead diagram of Obstacle 4:
The eighth and final hazard on the course (The Spring), was our favorite, partly because it had a good bit of water. Here is the driving competition’s eventual gold medalist, Australia’s Boyd Exell, negotiating that obstacle (the end of the video also shows a Dutch competitor taking it, so you can see a little difference in approach and style):
For reference again, here’s the diagram of The Spring:
For people who have been to the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, it was interesting to see the Head of the Lake being used in a slightly different context:
Along with the thrills and chills of good competition, we also witnessed more of the lighter (and sometimes odder) bits of WEGiana. Like the manic-looking and slightly sinister Giant Leek that marked a gap in the hedge between the Spy Coast parking field and the Horse Park. He was an important landmark for those of us who walked from the parking area instead of taking the shuttle.
The parking lot was packed every day that we visited WEG, and we spotted license plates from nearly every state in the union. But we did see one state name we weren’t familiar with, although we applauded the enthusiasm behind this graffiti.
If you’re allergic to horse hair, this fellow might be just the thing for you: a mechanical cutting horse (with calf)! In case you were as curious about that as we were, we’ve included a little video.
If you are not allergic to horse hair, here’s a chance to practice your braiding:
The stands were packed on Oct. 9 for the Final Four showjumping competition:
And remember the stadium jump sproutlets? By Oct. 9, they were all grown up!
And, finally, there was this charming sculpture. This wooden horse has been on display for several weeks now in front of the entrance to Joseph-Beth Booksellers, and someone thoughtfully keeps replacing his apple.
Next up: back to the hunt field with the hounds!