WEG in the rearview mirror

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 Walnut Hill 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.

"This way, folks!" says the Scary Leek.

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.

Kentyuky? Still, it looked like they were glad to be here, and we're glad they came!

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 last braider made it look simpler than it really is to braid a tail ...

The stands were packed on Oct. 9 for the Final Four showjumping competition:

The Canadian contingent was especially boisterous, and they had a lot to cheer about.

And remember the stadium jump sproutlets? By Oct. 9, they were all grown up!

WEG sparked all sorts of horsey artwork around town. At the Lexington Green shopping center, we saw this huge sand sculpture.

One side featured a vaulter, eventer, and dressage rider ...

... and the other side featured a race under the Twin Spires at Churchill Downs.

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!

The Hounds of the Rolex Kentucky 3-Day Event

Scout the American foxhound attended North America's only 4-star event wearing a sporty jacket that said ADOPT ME! He's available at the Lexington Humane Society at (859) 233-0044. Please consider adopting him! The houndbloggers ran into him several times on Saturday, and he's got a great personality!

THE annual Rolex Kentucky 3-Day Event at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington always brings out the dogs. Cross-country day, which always takes place on Saturday, is as good for dog-watching as it is for keeping an eye on the world-class equine athletes that are competing.

So this year the houndbloggers, aided by their trusty iPhone, took some snapshots of every hound we passed. We start with Scout, a lovely American foxhound currently up for adoption at the Lexington Humane Society (telephone number 859-233-0044). We ran into Scout everywhere we went, and we stopped to say hello each time. We’d have adopted him ourselves except that we already have three hounds and have committed to adopt a fourth if she needs a home within the next year, and that puts us at capacity. Our favorite thing about Scout: he’s a leaner. If you’ll stand there talking to him, patting him, or scratching his ears, he’ll lean gently against your shins. It’s a wonderful, trusting gesture that is also very pleasant for the leanee! Please consider adopting Scout if you have the room and inclination. He’s been at the Lexington Humane Society since October.

Chillin: Faith the six-month-old bloodhound found a comfy spot to nap.

When the weather looked threatening, we did what anyone would do: we headed for the trade fair! The first dog we bumped into in the indoor arena where the trade stands were was Faith, a six-month-old bloodhound who was napping at the Bluegrass Search and Rescue stand. Between calls to go find people, she sure is laid back. She happily allowed all and sundry to pat and scratch and fondle her enormous jowls and giant-sized puppy feet, and she only opened her her eyes once.

Cyril, the happy shopper.

Nearby, but at the opposite end of the age spectrum, was Cyril, who was accompanying his human companion around the trade fair booths and wearing a big smile. Take a picture? No problem! Cyril was happy to pose before heading off into the merchandise again.

A basset hound who thought we looked more interesting than the popular Head of the Lake water jump.

Fortunately, Saturday’s stormy weather held off for the cross-country portion of the event, so the houndbloggers got to spend a lot of time walking from jump to jump and watching some truly outstanding horses and riders. At the Head of the Lake (see eventual Rolex Kentucky 3-Day winner Cool Mountain and William Fox-Pitt jump this complex in the video below), we found a basset watching us instead of the course. You can see why: if you’re a basset, it’s not that easy to see through the forest of human legs.

Cody and dad.

Nearby, Cody and his people also were enjoying the action at the Head of the Lake. Cody, they informed us, is a coonhound. he reminded us of Driver, and not just because of the color: he was massive! His owner told us both Cody’s parents were about 100 pounds, and he’s even heavier. But he’s still got some height to gain to catch up to Driver.

Avalanche, a former racing greyhound, enjoyed pats at The Hollow.

We came across two greyhounds on opposite ends of the cross-country course. This gratified our guest for the day, Robin Foster, one of our favorite people and the devoted owner (with her husband Steve) of several greyhounds: Badge, who died in 2009, and now Popeye and Donny, all former racing greyhounds.

Robin, if you’re reading this, congratulations! We’re giving you the coveted Game As Grundy Award for completing almost the entire cross-country course on foot, as well as a round of the extensive indoor AND outdoor trade fair, all with a broken toe!

The first greyhound we met was Cleo (short for Cleopatra), who was more than happy to pose for a photo, which was messed up slightly by my fame-seeking finger peeking in on one side of the lens (continuing the houndblogger tradition of photographic mishaps).

The lovely Cleo on a brief stop between fences on the cross-country course.

The second greyhound we met was Avalanche, who was allowing charmed passersby to give him as much petting as they wished. That was a lot of petting, including from us. Avalanche was stationed at The Hollow, where rider Oliver Townend and his mount Ashdale Cruise Master had a scary fall that knocked them from the competition. Both horse and rider are okay. Here’s a more successful ride through The Hollow: Townend last year on Carousel Quest. Note that this year, the path through The Hollow ran the opposite way; in other words, horse and rider jumped a fence, then jumped down the two steps into the  grass bowl, then galloped up to an exit fence on the opposite end. In 2009, the took the two steps and fence combination on exit.

Do you know someone who has room for Scout?

Those of us who have bought Lexington Humane  Society t-shirts will recognize that Avalanche’s owner, holding the leash, is wearing one. Which brings us back to Scout. Here’s another view of this nice hound, who is currently at the Lexington Humane Society and needs a good home soon!  Please consider adopting him.