|Sergio Alvarez Moya and Zipper pulled off a close win at the FEI World Cup qualifier at Jumping Verona. And I was there to see it happen!|
While in Italy last month, I had a chance to see the Rolex FEI World Cup stop at Jumping Verona, which is held in conjunction with Fieracavalli. Being a spoiled Lexington resident, I’ve been a spectator at plenty of Grands Prix, but this was the first time I’d ever attended at World Cup qualifier. Perhaps more importantly, this was the first event I’d attended in front of a non-American crowd.
|Perpetual crowd favorite Rodrigo Pessoa of Brazil clears the Romeo and Juliet vertical with the lovely Winsom. A lot of shows include jumps with themes related to the show’s location. Here in Kentucky, that means we have bourbon barrel, tobacco and Thoroughbred-racing themed jumps. In Verona, its Shakespeare’s story of star-crossed lovers.|
With the exception of the finals at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, the major events I’ve attended here usually have plenty of vacant seats, sometimes alarmingly so. In fact, a Grand Prix this summer that served as an observation event for the Olympic team selectors was halfway deserted. You’d think an evening of Olympic-caliber riders would be enough to entice people to come out, but it didn’t seem to happen that way. In contrast, there wasn’t an available seat to be found at the Verona Grand Prix.
To be fair, the venue was considerably smaller than our giant Rolex Stadium here in Lexington, so the actual number of spectators in Verona may not have been that much greater. But it does create a different atmosphere when the place is stuffed to the gills compared with the backdrop of empty seats we sometimes have here in the States.
|American by birth but now competing for Germany, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum went double clear in both rounds to finish fifth with Bella Donna 66.|
The Verona crowd didn’t politely golf clap after each round, either. When an Italian rider entered the ring, they roared. When a popular rider had a clear round, they stomped on the aluminum bleachers the way spectators at sporting events that don’t involve flighty animals do. It made quite a din, and the horse in the ring at that moment did not appreciate it. Fortunately, that only happened once.
One practice that seemed strange to me was that the on-deck rider was allowed to wander around the arena while the current rider was on course. This didn’t happen during the Grand Prix, but it did happen in every other jumping class I saw. Personally, that would make me nervous, although in a way I suppose it’s no different than when you jump a course during a group lesson at home. In any case, it didn’t seem to cause any major problems, so I guess it works.
|The on-deck rider makes faces at the competing rider during a youth class earlier in the week at Jumping Verona. Well, that may not be completely true.|
Europe is the center of the equestrian sport world, and it’s always been a challenge for North American (and Australian) riders to compete at the major shows because the logistics of bringing horses over there are so challenging. There was only one rider for the U.S. at Verona: Richard Spooner. Unfortunately, he had a bit of a rough go and didn’t make the jump-off.
|Richard Spooner, shown here with Billy Bianca in the 1.45m class, was the only rider competing for the U.S. at Jumping Verona.|
The winner of this World Cup stop was Sergio Alvarez Moya of Spain with the wonderfully named Zipper, an 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood. He received an enthusiastic ovation from the crowd, although I think they were really pulling for their own Luca Moneta, who finished in second place with Selle Francais Neptune Brecourt.
|One of the crowd favorites, Italy’s Luca Moneta, finished a close second with Neptune Brecourt.|
It was a cool experience for me to see equestrian competition in Europe. I think I wouldn’t mind being a roving reporter, covering horse events around the world and noting the differences and similarities from one place to the next. I’m going to propose that at our next company meeting. I’ll let you know how that works out for me.
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