Having had to contend with snow on the ground yesterday ( seriously 2021, you were supposed to be so much better than 2020) it was still very cold at Kentucky today with the early 4*S riders being surrounded by clones of Eskimos wrapped up in hats, long coats and gloves. The sun may have come out but some hail and a baltic wind prevailed which were not the ideal conditions for a relaxed dressage.
Jonelle has ended up being the trailblazer and Grappa Nera (Grape) steps up to 5 star. I think its Jonelle’s first trail blaze at 5 star but it is a bit immaterial as whether you are 1 or 2 or even 3 to go there is no feedback before you are being counted down in the box. The one thing that is a bit odd is that at Kentucky the first three horses in the 5 star are all rookies but I guess that’s down to the US policy of letting riders choose which horse runs first. Badminton wont allow that ( drives us mad) but generally riders want their best horse to go Friday afternoon in the hope of a better dressage score. Tim and Jonelle have a bit of a policy of ‘chance’ at 5 star… there are so many variables that if you pick your good horse to go 2nd at it rains for the entire week and the cross country is a slog for horse 78… if the weather is kinder on the Thursday.. and, of course, the big thing at the moment is that there are no crowds so its a big difference in atmosphere from the old Thursday morning few to the packed stands on the Friday.
Anyway, Grape was so badly behaved yesterday Jonelle was on the brink of thinking she might have to retire in the test! I am just guessing that like her Alter Ego Faerie Dianimo ( Maggie May) she really, really hates the cold ( as does Jonelle) and was incensed to find herself flown from UK Spring into two inches of snow in Kentucky. Jonelle said she hadn’t flipped her lid like that in over a year and was a bit surprised but as they cantered down the centre line today they looked a picture of harmony. Yes, Grape is understandably green at this level, yes she is a bit over bent and behind the vertical but she tried her best to stay with Jonelle and complete what is an incredibly hard test for her at her stage of training. She, like all the others, lost a whole half season last year which is huge in building experience in the up and coming horses but she got through the whole trot work mistake free. Grape has immense energy and fabulous paces and that is the hallmark of the great dressage horses once they have the experience of being in the ring at that level a few times. She sits on 35.6 which is no disgrace on her debut.
Bango (Uno) has been working well all week and when Uno is on song he is really impressive to watch. His Irish background meant that the weather didn’t just not bother him, it actually quite suited him. He is a bit of a head shaker and in the unseasonably warm Aston le Walls a few weeks ago did it all day, even on the cross country which must be quite disconcerting when you are approaching a large advanced fence! Today he was super good and allowed Tim to show off all of his good bits. Being alone in the ring isn’t a problem and no crowds pretty much suited him too. As I say, most of it goes back to his roots! I think I mentioned once since much of his childhood was spent in fog so thick he couldn’t see his mother in the same field this has left him with certain advantages in a pandemic. He finished up on 31.5 which was good enough for 5th place at the end of day one.
Jonelle and Classic Moet (Molly) warmed up looking good. Molly has been on the form of her life this spring and Jonelle was confident that if all went well she could hopefully break 30 and repeat her Badminton test of 2018. Timing is everything in this sport and as she did her final bit of trot work in the warm up arena Molly tripped, just a tiny stumble, but she had her boots off at that point and losing her balance seemed to throw all the prep out of the window. Jonelle said as she turned the corner after the first halt and went for the medium across the diagonal Molly had dropped off the secure contact and the balance was gone. “It doesn’t take much with Molly to suddenly make the test ordinary” said Jonelle, crediting the judges for fair scoring on a test where they underperformed. It is pretty devastating at any time but at a 5* on an 18 year old mare a long way from home with few chances left it is crushing. Jonelle is so proud of Molly and all her achievements, rightfully so, so it was a day that ended with a tinge of sadness as Molly lay close to the bottom of the first group with a 35.2.