Well, it’s safe to say that I got to tryout the waterproof capabilities of my Mountain Horse jacket! Although I love spending time shooting in the International Ring, Friday proved to be a little… umm… testing. Now, I suppose we deserve this since we got off fairly easily during the National when it is always expected to pour, but shivering in July is not very much fun! On a serious note, Calgary and the surrounding areas do not need any more rain right now. There was some flash flooding Friday evening, and that is the last thing the flood victims need while they are trying to recover – my heart really goes out to them.
Anyways, the North American is always one of my favourite tournaments for a few reasons: July is awesome in general, the athletes are well warmed-up and put on a great show, the classes are amazing…. and really, the list goes on – I can’t think of anything not to like about the North American!
Although I could only make it for the evening on Friday, I was still able to catch the end of the 1.45m Pepsi Challenge, and the entire 1.50 Lafarge Cup. Although not big 1.60m GP classes, the courses (designed by Anthony D’Ambrosio) were very tough and technical- it took a careful, yet quick, ride to make it though clear.
First up, let’s have a look at the Pepsi Challenge.
With a humongous 80 starters spread over 2 phases, just 11 pairs made it into the jump-off. First to go, before I was even organized enough to snap a photo, Frances Land (USA) and Vieanne set very high bar with a clear in the blistering time of 37.99 seconds. With that time in mind, rider after rider entered the arena and either pulled a rail, or just couldn’t quite set the same pace. The most memorable “rail” of the class belonged to Eric Lamaze and Wang Chung. Usually a major threat, they started the jump-off looking great. Then, about midway through, Wang Chung backed off coming into a tough related distance, leaving Eric pushing him forwards with all he had… but they just didn’t get the distance to the next fence, spectacularly taking it out. Fortunately, both horse and rider were fine, and even if you take out the entire fence it is still 4 faults- they finished 9th with 4/44.59.
The closest anyone came to besting Frances’ time, was a 38.20 by Reed Kessler and Ligist. As usual, they looked great, but they couldn’t quite stop the clock fast enough- Reed was second again! Although I was disappointed for Reed, I couldn’t be happier for Frances- this was her fist win the in the International Ring, how exciting!!
Next up was the Lafarge Challenge, and this is where things got a little…err… soggy. The first third of the order lucked out and went before it really got going, but the rest of the class got drenched. Due to this, there were some scratches and a number for retirements on course, but also some really nice rides.
Eleventh to go, just before the rain, Reed and one of her new mounts, Wolf S, posted the first clear of the class. Definitely a little different than your typical Grand Prix horse, as he is quite fine and almost gangly, Wolf is all athleticism and talent. He can pick those longs legs up to his ears, and has no trouble covering the ground- I think we will him sporting the winners cooler many times to come. After Reed’s clear and the beginning of the ridiculous downpour, I’m not going to lie, I was kinda hoping that no one else would make it into the jump-off. Firstly, I really wanted Reed to finally win a class, and secondly (selfishly), it was cold out there! Most off all though, I didn’t care how many went clear, I just wanted everyone to make it out of the ring all in one piece. Although there were some slips and refusals, the turf held up remarkably well, and there were no incidents.
Did we get another clear round?
Last on the order, and on a bit of a hot streak, Lauren Tisbo entered the arena on a flashy grey mare, Catharina 9. Clear over the nasty Rolex vertical, through the triple, over the water, the double…. clear! We had a 2 horse jump-off!
Of course, with the conditions the way they were, this wasn’t going to be a jump-off centered on speed. It was more about control, riding precise lines, and avoiding any big slips. Thankfully, the jump-off was a long and flowing one that didn’t require any severe turns, perfect for the sake of the athletes and the ground crew (keeping the turf in good condition was lots of work!).
Up first, Reed put in a very calculated, but well paced round with Wolf. Quick enough to put the pressure on Lauren, but a safe clear. Was it enough? It was looking good for Lauren until Catharina just bumped a pole out of its cups- Reed had it! Her seconditis was cured!!!!
That’s it for now – I’ll be back at Spruce Meadows all weekend so be sure to check back for updates, and keep your eye on the HJU FaceBook page for lots of photos!
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