We began the final day of eventing with just three horses, as Dana Cooke’s lovely mare Mississippi had scraped her elbows on one of the cross-country fences and needed a few stitches. Jessie, Karl and Colleen did an awesome job with clear rounds across the board to take the bronze medal.
While it was still a good result, it was not what they were aiming for, which was a gold or silver and a ticket to the Tokyo Olympics. There is still the snowball’s-chance-in-hell possibility that a team that is already qualified may not be able to field a team and a spot will open up. It appears also there *may* be another way for a couple of individuals to get to the Games next year; I believe it is via the FEI Olympic World Rankings list here. If I understand correctly (and I have often been known to be way off base, so please don’t quote me), two riders from each regional group (we are in Group D), excluding combinations from already qualified NFs, will be eligible to attend the Games. Our group is currently populated at the top by many, many Americans, but I think that once the list is updated and they are removed, as they have now qualified a team, the Canadians will be on top, currently led by Karl Slezak and Fernhill Wishes. Confused? Me too.
Looking back on cross-country day, which was to blame for some of our undoing, the statistics show that it was a difficult course and possibly way over the heads of a number of competitors from some of the South American countries. Of the 42 starters, only 25 finished the course – a 40% elimination rate, which is quite high in this sport. Only two riders went double-clear with no jumping or time faults. Chile, Guatemala, Uruguay and Colombia were all eliminated as a team; the latter did not get a single rider through the finish flags. I saw at least three riders flagged down on course by officials and told they could not continue for various reasons (I suspect dangerous riding was the main one). I’m sure it was heartbreaking for those who had trained hard and travelled all this way, but a much better scenario than overfaced horses crashing and burning.
I know I said I was a tough old bird before and maybe it is the homesickness (or lack of sleep) but I got a little choked up when they played the US anthem at the medal ceremonies today, thinking of all those lives lost in El Paso and Dayton. What an unspeakable tragedy and I’m sure it is weighing heavily on the minds of the US riders.
On a lighter note, the jumpers have arrived and the horses were trotted up this afternoon. I have to say the Canadian grooms did a bang-up job with their charges – they were immaculate and gleaming and in some cases braided and I was very proud to point out to anyone in earshot, “Those are Canada’s horses!” All five passed; the team of four will be named tomorrow morning and we will get to see them stretch their legs in the training session.