Although not exactly surprising for Calgarians since we are used to the bipolar nature of our weather, this past week has been one to remember. Starting on Tuesday, Calgary was hammered by not one, but two heavy snowfalls that left us blanketed in heavy wet snow, massacring the trees (that are still fully leafed out), knocking out the power in many areas, and basically wrecking pure havoc all over the place. I laughed a little at the gasps from my American friends and pretended to be “Canadian tough”, but really, I was not emotionally prepared for snow at the beginning of September- it was ridiculous and depressing!
Of course, beyond my personal pain and anguish (3 hour commutes are NOT fun when they should take 40 minutes), there is a little thing called “The Masters” that was set to kickoff on Wednesday. After Tuesdays snowfall a press release went out that everything for Wednesday was a go, but then Mother Nature broke all of our hearts with a viscous night. Not only did Spruce Meadows have more snow to contend with (about 25 cm), but the second storm finished off a number of trees, and left many branches precariously hanging. Furthermore, they were also without power – this was the icing on the proverbial cake. For the first time in their history, Spruce Meadows was forced to entirely postpone a tournament day – safety just had to come first. In the past classes have had to be held or modified, the arena changed, and the odd one abandoned all together, but they had never lost an entire day. I guess there is a first for everything.
Back in school myself, I had not made it to Spruce yet, but judging from the state of the rest of the city, along with photos on Facebook and Twitter, things looked bad.
I wasn’t even sure that everything would come back together for Thursday when, luckily, Calgary was taking another dramatic swing back into decent(ish) weather. All I can say is, never underestimate the power of the determined. The grounds crew, members of the media, riders, grooms, sponsors, family members… everyone came together to make it happen. They quite literally shoveled out the International Ring, worked to make the trees safe, and did everything in their power to allow the show to go on. For some amazing photos check out Spruce Meadows on Facebook, what they were able to recover from is simply phenomenal.
Okay, I think I actually need someone to stand over my shoulder when I write these and slap me when I get rambling, so let’s talk about what went down on Thursday.
Due to having to reschedule Wednesday and the logistical nightmare the organizing committee was faced with, some changes had to be made. For example, the one class that I was able to make it to, the CANA Cup, was made into a 1.60m speed class with a purse of $210 000. Yep, that’s right, a 1.60m speed class on an opening day with a $210 000 purse. Whoa. In addition to this, there were two 1.50m speed classes with $50 000 each. I missed them so I can’t say much, but Kent Farrington and Blue Angel won one, while Eric Lamaze and Fine Lady took the other- North America represent!
Moving onto the 1.60m, it was a large class of 41 talented pairs. Early on, and much to my delight, Kent Farrington and Uceko put in a stellar round. Bounding around like he always does, Uceko’s stride ate up the course, and his carefulness saw them clear in 61 seconds and change. With a huge field behind them I wasn’t convinced that it would hold until the end, but it really was a nice round (aka, typical awesomeness from Kent).
Another nice round was put in by Reed Kessler and Cylana. Having stayed in Europe over the summer, I really missed Reed and was pleased when I saw that she was coming to the Masters. Such a talented rider with a great string of horses, Reed is always fun to watch. Unfortunately they would pull a rail in the CANA Cup, but really did look great – Cylana is all business! In addition to Reed, another American lady that we missed during the summer was back in the ring… that’s right, Queen Beezie! Coming off of an amazing WEG, Beezie took Via Volo out of the barn today, and put in a solid round with just one pesky rail. These two ladies are almost certainly going to be factors all weekend long – I’m very happy that they made their way back!
Anyway, as the class went on I became more and more hopeful that Kent’s round would in fact hold up. Although many of the horses were jumping well, the course was pretty tricky and in the name of speed, a few rails kept finding their way to the ground. A horse that I really loved was Golden Hawk, ridden by Shane Breen. He is a gorgeous chestnut stallion that really, really caught my eye. Although they jumped a nice clear, they were significantly slower than Kent, stopping the clock at 71.288.
So… did Kent take it then?
Almost. It came down to the last three riders of the class before someone managed to leave all the fences up and best his time. Who? Fellow American Lauren Hough and the peppy little mare Ohlala (great name)!
A smaller horse, Ohlala is a speedy little thing that can really jump. She is also quite the competitor that never stops trying for Lauren who, obviously, can really ride! Not only did they beat Kent’s time, but they did it pretty convincingly by over a second. Watching, I knew their round looked good, but I wasn’t expecting that good. I think maybe because, as Lauren explained in the press conference, Ohlala actually does better on the add, so nothing looks quite as dramatic as a pair that leaves the strides out.
Overall, it was a great class that was a treat to watch. When you have a field that is this talented the competition is divine – it will be very interesting to see how the rest of the weekend goes!