The New Zealand jumping team produced their best-ever first round performance at a World Equestrian Games but have a bit of catching up to do, being in 15th place in what was a white-hot competition.
Their team score is 13.03, compared to the Swiss leaders on 2.64, so they are certainly not out of touch, but will need continued good performances over the next two days. Netherlands currently lies in second place, with Brazil third. USA and Australia are fourth and fifth respectively.
Samantha McIntosh was the best performed of the New Zealanders today on her talented stallion, Check In. She lies in 20th place, after finishing with a clear round in a time of 81.23m, 4.48 seconds slower than Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat on Bianca who as winner, is on a zero score. Sam’s penalty score is 2.45.
Sam and Check In jumped a super round in what was possibly the hottest part of the hottest day so far at the World Equestrian Games. Sam was rapt with him. “He was really on the job working with me and jumping out of his skin,” she says. “It got a bit hairy after the water as I had a really long stride there but he is a super water jumper, and I just had to trust him and go with it and wrangle him back in afterwards.”
Alan Wade, from Ireland, designed a course that most of the riders seemed very happy with. Sam thought the course was well built. “It is not huge yet but I am sure it will be in a few days’ time. You need to know your horse and be in the right place at the right time. It is not at all invasive to ride, you just need to be right on the mark where the course builder is asking you to be.”
It was extremely hot and those spectators who could tolerate the heat in the three stands without any shade were frantically fanning themselves and heading for cover at every possibility. Sam was somewhat concerned about it being so warm, but says that it was fine in the end. “He likes the heat but this is really for the end of the summer it is a lot to ask of them,” she said.
Sam is enjoying the team situation. “We all get on really well, we are there to help each other and make the best result we can. We are all in the same age group, we did juniors and young riders together, Bruce being our senior and me the junior.”
Daniel Meech was the Kiwi pathfinder with his lovely mare Fine. He put in a solid clear round, and finished in 51st place, on 4.73 penalties, 9.47 seconds behind the winner. The pair looked very accomplished, even though Daniel says she is very green at this level.
“I’m relieved, it was fantastic and she was great,” he says. “I had a bit of a sticky start, and that kind of surprised me. I was coming into the first and I could feel I was getting closer and closer and then I kind to had to recover a bit to keep everything together and then we got in our rhythm after the first double. Then everything came up okay, she was just unbelievable, she tried so hard.”
Was he nervous? “Not really, when the bell went, then it kind of dawned on me. It is hard to describe, you are really busy building up to these things and you don’t take it all in. But I am just so proud of the horse as she just jumped incredibly. For us, we don’t do these courses every week. When I went out there, it was like ‘woah’ everything is coming at me very fast. There was just one thing after another.”
As to the course, Daniel described it as very technical. “As it was a speed class we were expecting there to be a bit of galloping and turning back and inside turns, but it was more like a Grand Prix course with speed. It was a real challenge.”
Daniel says that it was decided that he and Bruce would go first as their horses were the least experienced and “probably not the fastest.” Their job was to “put up some solid clear rounds.”
Daniel thinks that this Kiwi team is very strong. “We all have Olympic experience, and we have all been doing this for a long time. The horses have prepared really well this time, starting with Barcelona last year and then Sharn has been doing a lot of five-stars in America and been going really well so the team is as well prepared as it could be coming from New Zealand and the amount of shows we can get into.” In Europe, the top shows are by invitation only. Let’s hope more invites start flowing after WEG!
Bruce Goodin thought he gave us some exciting moments to watch on his horse Backatorps Danny V. “He started off well, and then as things went on, it got a little bit hectic and I wasn’t able to stay as smooth with him as I would have liked,” he says. “That meant that I had to change my plan a couple of times and sometimes it was at the last minute which made it harder work for him. I thought he did an amazingly well and tried his guts out.”
The pair are in 65th position, after having a rail, taking their penalties to 5.85. While he says he wants to analyse the round more by watching the video with trainer Helena Stormanns, he could still describe why the rail fell. “He is very careful and I wanted to take advantage of his carefulness. I started off going at it a little bit though. He really tried hard from the double to the big vertical, and then we had the water after that which was a big stretch for him. For most people the six strides has been short to the double but he landed in a bit of a heap after the wall because he jumped it so high. Then I had to move him up too hard and had too much pressure on him going into that double and that is why he had that down.
Sharn Wordley and Casper were the last of the Kiwis out into the ring, and it had cooled down marginally by then. His plan was not to go too fast but unfortunately he had a rail down, having given it a very slight rub. That leaves him and Casper in 72nd place, 6.16 penalties adrift of the leader. “That rail was really unfortunately as it put me far enough back so that tomorrow has to go really well for us to go forward individually I would imagine,” he says. “From a jumping stand point I feel good for tomorrow, the horse is jumping well. It was so unlucky to have that little rub and I didn’t even know I had it down until I heard it pop.”
The course also met with Sharn’s approval. “It asked enough questions but it wasn’t a killer. There is a lot of jumping to go on into the week. I thought he really asked the right questions and made it big enough and technical enough without making it dangerous or hurting any of the horses.”
Sharn also declared that Alan Wade was his favourite course builder. “I was very happy when I found out he was building here. He is just a real horseman, he understands the flow of it, he understands how to make things really difficult without trapping horses. Sometimes some of the courses at the moment here in North America, people make them too trappy but Alan does a really good job.”
After so many clear rounds today, Sharn is expecting the next courses will be big and technical and up to specifications. That doesn’t worry him though. “I think all the New Zealand horses jumped well and my horse felt like he could jump a couple of holes bigger. I am excited for tomorrow.”
This is more or less like a home games for Sharn, who is based in Kentucky and Florida. “We just loaded up and drove four-and-a-half hours and we were here. It is a very different feel now for WEG, it doesn’t feel like we are at the normal Tryon. I kind of know where everything is. The stadium is different, the jumps are different and the riders are different. I’ve competed here quite a few times, the facility has been jumping Grand Prix classes here for about five years and I was in the very first one they had on the facility. I won about 11 big classes here so I am familiar with it.”
Steve Guerdat and his beautiful Balou du Rouet/Cardento mare Bianca were second-to-last to go, and you could see the former Olympic champion meant business from the moment he stepped into the arena; his superb round has seen him and the Swiss team in pole position going into the next phase of the contest.
Currently in second place is Brazilian Pedro Veniss on Quabri de L’Isle on 0.17, with Australian Rowan Willis on Blue Movie third, on 0.31 penalties. German superstar Marcus Ehning is in fourth on Pret A Tout, with Martin Fuchs and Clooney (Switzerland), fifth.
In sixth place is Colombian rider Carlos Enrique Lopez Lizarazo with Admara, who lead for much of the day. World number one Harrie Smolders of the Netherlands is seventh on Don VHP Z, McLain Ward on Clinta is the best of the home side in eighth, Italy’s Lorenzo de Luca is ninth on Irenice Hora, and the Netherlands’ Mac Houtzager with Stefferhof’s Calimer round up the top 10.
The competition continues tomorrow with a Grand Prix style track, which promises to be bigger and harder than the speed class today. The scores from tomorrow go towards both the individual and team scores.