presented by Gaitpost Magazine

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Let the Controversy Begin

They didn’t take my advice! They let Monty come back and talk, even if it was only in the opening remarks. In his speechifying he told us a forum necessitated everyone leaving their egos at the door, but of course Monty’s own ego was right there in his pocket. Kyra and the jumper rider Franke Sloothaak gave a joint presentation about how much jumpers and dressagers can benefit from one another, but it never really got off the ground (no pun intended). The most impressive part of that session was watching Franke ride his Grand Prix jumper and do really rather good canter pirouettes in a jumping saddle and almost buckle reins. The session contained a bit too much mutual back slapping and not enough real information sharing or dialogue. Kyra always has so much of value to say but things didn’t go quite in the right direction for her to share her pearls of wisdom.

Quote of the Day Since the action was a bit slow during the Kyra and Franke show emcee Richard Davison decided to spice things up by asking Coby van Baalen (out of the blue) to comment on the roll kur issue. Coby would have none of that: “Tomorrow we will have our presentation and that’s when it will be time to talk about it.”

Things definitely warmed up during the session on Learned Helplessness by Australian animal behaviourist and trainer Andrew McLean. One of the photos he used in explaining what causes Learned Helplessness in horses was a shot of a circus pony in a very tight side rein; both the pony itself and the extreme position of its neck looked identical to the photos of Power and Paint being lunged by Coby van Baalen that appeared on various websites a few weeks ago. I bet Coby won’t get much sleep between now and her presentation tomorrow.

After dinner the two patriarchs of dressage in Europe, Joep Bartels and Aachen’s Frank Kemperman, delivered their much anticipated criticism of the sport as they perceive it at the moment – that it is being run from the wrong end by the judging community. Stephen Clarke jumped in to say he was ‘fed up with’ the judges always being attacked, adding that ‘until you can get computers to do the job you are stuck with us.’ Kemperman got the last word in with ‘so when do we get the computers?’ There was no sign of FEI dressage chair Mariette Withages, who is usually so eager to promote the sport in her own vision – nor was Italian judge Enzo Truppa, whose histrionic open letter on showed such indignation at the gall of Kemperman to suggest the European Championships in Turin were underpromoted. Well if you folks don’t turn up for the match you can’t win!

Wine, Horses and Song

It was worth the whole trip to see Wibi Soerjadi play Imke Schellekens-Bartels’ freestyle live on his own grand piano. The diminutive but charming Soerjadi proved he’s no introverted musician-type by enthusiastically sharing his approach to composing The Spirit of Sunrise. The presentation left many people with lumps in their throats, including mine. Unfortunately for me, I had been invited to be on the the three-member panel that commented and asked questions afterward, and Richard Davison shoved the microphone under my nose before I had composed myself. I managed a blubbery ‘I’m speechless’, though I did recover enough to ask Wibi and Imke a couple of questions after the other panelists had had their say. So now I’m known as ‘the journalist who cried’. What a distinction.

Monday, October 29, 2007

All The Pretty Horses

If you want to see how rich Dutch horse people like to throw their money around, the Elite Auction is a pretty good starting place. Not that all the buyers on Saturday night were Dutch – but the mood and primary language of the evening was definitely of the wooden clog variety. I think Diederik and Craig may have made a tactical error with their choice of Lou Vega for the half-time entertainment. By the time Lou and his go-go girls had made their way through a third Mambo#5 sound-alike the crowd was barely acknowledging them. The last horse at the 2006 auction fetched more than 400,000 Euros, but this year not one horse broke the 300k mark. The top priced ponies this year (a gelding at 220k and stallion at 280) were also in the first half of the evening, which meant there wasn’t the same climactic finish as last year.

My impression of this year’s crop was that the horses were higher quality than last year, but for some reason the bidding was not nearly so frenzied. It could even be said there were deals to be had this time around, with a few horses going for perhaps less than market value. But like last year, the horse I thought would get the highest price went for less than some that I didn’t care for at all. My favourite this time was a three year old grey mare called Zonneschijn (Sunshine in Dutch apparently). She did have an ugly scar on one hind leg but she was quite the mover and very brave in the crazy atmosphere. Prevalent on this year’s auction list were stupid ‘Z’ names. Instead of using words that really start with ‘z’, the breeders took lots of ‘s’ words and converted them: Zilver, Zwarovski, Zan Tropez, etc. Not one Zebra! And what’s wrong with Zamboni for a name?

Everyone knows that wine leads to loose purse strings, so it was no surprise that glasses were kept topped up by the servers, leading to some heavy nappers during the second half. An English lady at our table just couldn’t keep her eyes open by the end of her fourth glass. No matter; by the after-party she was back in action with a spring in her step and fresh glass in hand. The presentation was top notch as it was in 2006, but for whatever reason the dollars just didn’t quite flow so fast, even if the wine did.

Tune in tomorrow for my report on Day One of the Global Dressage Forum. Monty Roberts is giving part of the opening address – yikes!