Jonelle Price didn’t come to the 2018 World Equestrian Games to win the dressage phase, she came to win a team medal, ideally a gold one. So she’s not really bothered that she is sitting 31st after the first stage of the competition, and that the New Zealand team is sixth.
As she says, it’s early days but also, with the new scoring system in place, the dressage plays a much less important part in the competition.
“It’s very easy to get hung up on the fact that you are 15th, or you are 40th, but what is important is how far off the leader you are [in terms of the score]. I know in this case we have a runaway leader, but realistically the rest of the field are on a mark of 25 and back, and it’s pretty tight in there. Hopefully, if the course does its job, we will still be in the hunt,” she says.
Jonelle and Classic Moet scored 70% for a penalty score of 30, which is 10.1 behind the leader, Germany’s Julia Krajewski, who scored 19.9. But as she says, after Julia that the scores are very tight, with a very high overall standard. Ingrid Klimke is second on 23.3, and after that just 9.6 penalties separate the riders from third to 60th place. There are only 5.3 penalties between riders from second to 20th.
Though many Kiwi fans watching felt Jonelle and ‘Molly’ were a little harshly marked for what was overall a fluent performance, with just a little tension in the flying changes, Jonelle says she was happy enough.
“She is not an out-and-out obvious dressage horse, and even at Badminton where she did a personal best (27.6) , I had no idea when I came out of the ring how good it was or not. It just depends on how much the judges warm to her, or not. I would have liked to be a couple of marks lower, obviously, but I am not disappointed with her.
“As I say, she is not a dressage horse, but she is trained now and she has got a bit more muscle in the right places, and so your expectations get higher and higher. If you told me two years ago that she would come and do 70% at the World Championships, I probably would have bitten your hand off! But you raise the bar. No, I am happy with her and hopefully tomorrow does its job and sorts out the field a wee bit.”
Will she go all the direct routes on the cross-country? “What are the direct routes? I have no idea. I couldn’t actually tell you what is direct and what is not. To me, it looks like on some of the routes you might jump another effort, but they look a little faster. I am just going to go wherever!”
Jonelle says that the ground jury has taken out two elements in the cross-country, 23A and B, but she believes the distance has not changed. It seems a little bit silly. For me as soon as you have jumped the last water at 20, you are fairly much belting home. If you have petrol left in the tank then I think realistically you can make up quite a bit of time up that last bit, so let’s hope they have it right.”
She’s not concerned about being at the tail end of the field, when the going is likely to be at its worst. “No, that doesn’t worry me. Obviously, there is a chance that rain could come in by the time I get there. But it is going to be what it is going to be, and there is no point worrying about something I can’t control. She [Classic Moet] is experienced, she knows her job.”
Jonelle is simply focused about getting out there and doing the job: “so I just hope the designer has it right and that the course does its job.”
Australian Chris Burton is probably the fastest rider in eventing, Jonelle says, though Classic Moet is the fastest horse, and doesn’t mind wet or heavy ground. “I wouldn’t mind if it buckets down beforehand, but I don’t want it torrential while I go around. She has run in difficult conditions before, and that is why she is here.”