First off, can I just say how unbelievably lucky I feel to be here? I mean, just coming to the World Cup is pretty fantastic, but to actually have credentials as a member of the media? AWESOMESAUCE!!!
I’m sitting in the media room as I write this, and it’s filled with journalists, broadcasters, and photographers that I’ve admired from their work in the publications and websites I subscribe to. Marty Baumann and his super helpful staff at Classic Communications have made sure we know everything about everything; schedule, rider backgrounds, interview requests, they take care of anything and everything. In a few minutes Ariat and the FEI will be throwing a reception for the media and rumor has it that Ariat-sponsored rider Beezie Madden will be there.
HJU colleague Keara and I covered the President’s Reception and Rider Draw at Hakkasan Nightclub the other night, and we rubbed elbows with a some of the best riders in the world. Beezie was there assisting with the drawing, as were past World Cup champs Rich Fellers, Steffen Peters, and Daniel Deusser. So we cruised the room, snacking a bit, goggling at riders we’d only seen from afar, and chatting with a few people (George the osteopath for the German team and Chaker Khazaal, a Huffington Post war correspondent that was assigned to cover the World Cup. (Never really found out why). Then this happened…
He walked by and I totally leapt at him, gushing “Good luck, Marco!” He turned to thank me and I totally fangirled, babbling on about how I have a DVD he’d done with Ludger Beerbaum when his famous ride Cornet Obolensky was a young horse. He laughed, saying he couldn’t believe I had it and ruefully commenting that “that was a long time ago.”
The next day, the first day of the official competition, Keara and I headed over for a media meeting and to cover the first leg of the Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage. We learned what we were and were not allowed to do, and then followed our media guide to the approved photographers’ area. After each test I recorded the rider’s score on the Order of Go sheet. At one point I felt someone brush my arm and a voice asked, “Are you writing down the scores? May I see?” I turned to hand over the paper and OH.MY.GAAAAWWWWDDDD!!! Andreas Helgestrand, bronze medalist from the 2006 World Equestrian games was standing next to me holding his hand out. So of course I asked him to take a picture with me.
Some random thoughts/memories from the past couple of days:
1) Dressage is hard work. I mean, duh, we know this. Sometimes it’s hard to remember when you see the seemingly effortless harmony of the horse and rider. When I was in the photographer’s pit I was about 10 feet from the riders at times and you could tell that they were working HARD. I remembered the words of a previous trainer, “Where do you think I got these arms? It’s hard holding 1200 pounds together!”
2) These horses are the most magnificent examples of the species. I mean, the quality of horse here is ridiculously good. Each one that comes through the in gate is better looking than the last.
3) We are among our people here. Do you ever feel like people look at you oddly when you say you ride horses? Maybe that their eyes glaze over if you talk about the recent training breakthrough you had? Nobody looks at you that way here. You can talk horses 24/7 and you’ll have any number of like minded folks who want to listen and tell you about their own experiences.
4) Like to spend time in tack shops? The shopping here is like a tack shop explosion. If it ain’t here, it doesn’t exist. There’s a reason they’re holding this thing in April. It’s because they are hoping you’ll spend your tax refund here.
5) You know the warning they have on cars’ sideview mirrors? “Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.” Well, with respect to the fences you see on the arena floor, objects you see may be bigger than they appear. The fences look sizeable from the stands, but absolutely enormous when you are standing next to them. The tallest fence tonight is 1.60 meters, the widest is 1.80 meters. In feet that’s over 5′ and just under 6′ wide.
6) These horses put up with a lot. We ask them to perform at peak performance in a smallish arena surround by screaming people and loud music. We ask them to live weeks on end in small stalls, often with no turnout. We ask them to trust us and again and again they do.
Vegas has a lot of really cool stuff to see. For my money, this week the best show in town is the World Cup.