Whether you call it the plantar plant, the hock lock or the tarsal torque, this photograph is a keeper. Events send me lots of competition photos, all very nice, but this one shows a horse working very, very hard. Double-click on this photo for an enlarged view to see the detail of this movement. You can almost feel the horse holding himself in place on the footing. The FEI rule book stipulates that the right hind would stay in place throughout the movement, although video analysis has shown that horses don't or perhaps can't actually do that. (FEI Photo by Kit Houghton)
The horse is Mistral Hojris, a Danish-bred ridden by Britain's Laura Bechtolsheimer today in the Grand Prix Special individual competition at the Alltech FEI European Championships at Windsor Castle in England. Records fell there today as not one but two Dutch riders--Gold medalist Adelinde Cornilessen and silver medalist Edward Gal--broke records for high scores in that event. And Laura and Mistral won the bronze medal for Great Britain, as she finished ahead of Olympic gold medalist Anky Van Grunsven, also of The Netherlands.
The announcer reportedly said when Laura came down the centerline to halt, "You can breathe again." And he didn't just mean Laura, he meant the entire British audience. Chef d'equipe Will Connell even blogged that the farrier had tears in his eyes watching the ride.
If you are one of those who still thinks that dressage is boring, consider this statement from Ground Jury President Stephen Clarke who said "I've judged a few championships in my time but I've never seen sport like this. This was the greatest moment in dressage history - we've never seen riders performing at such a level before and now the sport is wide open - anyone can win. I want to applaud the courage of the riders who rode so brilliantly under pressure - this was an outstanding day," he added. "At times the hair was standing up on the back of my neck! At odd moments, we were saying to each other '10's are just not enough' to reward what we have seen."
Interviewed after the event, silver medalist Edward Gal commented, when asked if there is now a new Dutch school of dressage, "It’s about how we ride. It feels good and it looks good, but it’s not just about training. We just keep the horses happy. You need to adapt your riding to your horse and not the other way around."
The musical freestyle is the next event at the championships, and will be held on Saturday.
This photo in a way reminds me of the nice photo from California of champion Thoroughbred mare Zenyatta bursting from the starting gate on hind legs acting like power thrusters. It was on the blog a few weeks ago. I like photos that show athletic horses fully engaged, working hard; they are something magnificent to behold. Capturing it in a split second with a camera is very difficult.
If you enlarge the photo you will also see that the grooming regimen for Mistral Hojris didn't include close-shaving his muzzle, although it may have been tidied up a bit.
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