Don’t worry Bromont, I still love you! If a little rain was all it took to make me shun a place, Vancouver would be just about the last place I’d spend my winters. And springs. And autumns. We have good summers here. We really do. I swear.
I was impressed to see that no one withdrew from cross country in Bromont due to the weather. Eventers aren’t German show jumpers, no way. A little mud isn’t going to keep them from the starting box. Like an old sailor I once met used to say, ‘you gotta eat a peck of dirt before you die.’ The jump crew worked incredibly hard all day on Saturday, pouring sand into the take offs and landings of every single fence, as many times as necessary. I saw course builder Jay Hambly several times, leaning forward into the rain as he sped along on a four wheeler from one needy point on course to another, various members of his crew hanging off the sides, shovels at the ready. I’m sure Jay would never describe his chosen career as glamorous, but there was something just a bit, well, sexy, about the image of him whizzing around the course. Of all the indispensable people at an event (and there are many), surely there is none more hardy and hard working than the likes of Jay. Derek Di Grazia received much well earned praise from the riders for his tracks, but Jay stole the show for being so visibly working at 100% capacity to ensure every horse got the best possible ride around the course.
The sun did finally peek out on Sunday afternoon for the last of the jumping rounds, and moods most certainly brightened. Phillip Dutton even smiled! Phillip is incredibly accommodating, and he broke off in the middle of a course walk to cater to my request for him to come and talk to the media after the dressage. But I don’t know Phillip very well, and his crusty demeanor was a bit intimidating (yes, K-Rob the muckraker, daunted – I should sell tickets). I found myself desperately trying to make him look even a teensy bit pleased about leading the CIC3* from start to finish with Ben. Now I know the secret. All it takes is a little sunshine to bring out that Aussie grin. Here is a photo I snapped half a second too late when he and Will Coleman (winner of the CCI3* on one of my fave ponies of the weekend, Obos O’Reilly) decided to go all pairs hunters in the victory gallop and jumped a fence together. The photo captures that nothing of a moment following the landing except…except for that smile spreading over Phillip’s face.
It was a fine weekend at Bromont for Canada, with Selena O’H finishing two horses in the top four in the CCI3* and Jessica Phoenix placing second in the CIC3*. Waylon Roberts dominated the CCI1*, which had 46 entries, on Yarrow, a six year old that his parents bred at home, and that Waylon started under saddle – how’s that for a heart warming Canadian success story from Bromont? Waylon was understandably regretful that his dad was not able to be ringside to enjoy the victory with him, but the good news is Ian is going to be just fine after his tumble on cross country in the CIC3*. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of Ian and his talented horse Faolan again soon.
It was debuts all around for Selena’s and Jessie’s horses, and I have to say if there’s anyone that loves to smile, it’s our Canadian eventers. Just look at those two in the victory gallop. About two seconds after I took this photo, they joined hands for a lap together – and I win another booby prize for lousy timing with my shutter finger.
All in all, a great weekend for the sport of eventing, weather notwithstanding. And in fact, the weather might have been even worse than what we saw last weekend, as I experienced on one of my two days off enjoying the Eastern Townships with Chorizo. Here’s a photo of the view out the front window of the cottage I rented on Sugar Loaf Pond, taken on Monday when the sun was making cameo appearances.
And here’s that same view on Tuesday, when it poured, and poured and then poured some more for oh, I don’t know – 36 hours straight.
I do hope that the weather has dried out for the Bromont organizers, who are running the EC side of their event, Petit Bromont, this weekend. They do such a great job at that event – they deserve some sunshine, dammit.
One mission I did not accomplish while in Bromont was to extract even the tiniest inkling of whether or not Bromont is getting WEG. The FEI is supposed to be announcing it on July 1, which is only a couple of weeks away – it was almost eery how little was said about it (actually, nothing was said, at least not within my earshot). Both the EC Prez (on the bid committee) and the new CEO were at the event, but not only did I not see them together, I never laid eyes on Mike G. even once. I did hear from a highly unreliable source that an announcement of the Federal Government’s commitment (or lack thereof, I know not which) was to come down the pike on Friday last week. But, like I said, the source was not to be trusted and no such announcement materialized. I tried to pin down Roger Deslauriers, the Godfather of Bromont, but he’s pretty unpindownable when he wants to be, which when it comes to snoopy media like me, is pretty much always.
As I took Chorizo for one more romp on the cross country course in the Sunday evening sunshine, I looked around at my surroundings and thought two things: firstly, once again what a very beautiful venue Bromont is; and secondly, how far they have to go if they are to host WEG in five years. Of course the riders, when asked, all say how it would be a great legacy for equestrian sport in Canada and Quebec in particular. But that’s an awfully expensive legacy when you look at what little infrastructure exists today. Bromont is a wee place. If you kicked all of its 7600 residents out of their beds, you could just accommodate the athletes, officials, support staff and maybe a few of the volunteers needed to put on the world’s biggest horse show. Yes, obviously Montreal is the town down the road where most spectators would sleep, but it’s not like there is already a public transit system in use that could be tapped to move all those bums to their seats each day. I’m not saying it can’t be done. I’m not even saying it shouldn’t be done; but I sure hope that bid committee is being honest and realistic about the hurdles to leap over between July 1 2013 and Opening Ceremony day in the late summer of 2018. I also hope that a successful WEG bid won’t mean curtains for the wonderful events (all of them, not just the three day) currently taking place at Bromont every year. That’s not the kind of legacy any sport needs.
Chorizo and I landed safe and bleary eyed at YVR last night, and I can say I don’t regret my decision to take him with me one little bit. Not only did I have my best friend at my side every day, but he was a great icebreaker. I met so many people whom I would not have met otherwise, thanks to my little wing dog.