WEG Obsessed


It’s 1:00 in the morning, and I’m pretty tired and should definitely be sleeping. But I’m not. I’m watching FEITV‘s coverage of the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy. Normandy is six hours ahead of Lexington, so most of the events have started around 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning here. That’s too late to stay up and too early to get up, so I’ve been watching everything on the replay. But the early start for endurance meant I could watch the start live, so here I am.

I’ve mentioned on this blog before that I love the Olympics and will become enthusiastic about sports I normally ignore. The WEG is like all that Olympic spirit thrown into eight different sports that DO interest me. It’s irresistible. In 2010 the WEG happened about 10 miles from my front door, and I had photographer’s credentials that were basically a magical pass to the front row of everything that is equestrian and awesome allowed me to do serious photojournalism for my job here at Horse Illustrated. This year, they’re an ocean away, but I’m still following along.

Despite not being there, I’m loving this WEG so far. First off, let’s take a look at some of my constructive(?) criticism from last time around.

I mentioned that it was kind of crazy that not a single American woman had found her way on to the U.S. reining team in the sport’s entire WEG history. This year, Mandy McCutcheon not only took her well-deserved spot on the team, but she also nailed down the second-highest score of the team competition. I can’t wait to see what she can do in the individual competition.

Mandy McCutcheon
Mandy McCutcheon, reiner for the U.S.

Similarly, there were only two women in the combined driving competition last time around. Two. Out of every single team. I think that’s a sport that’s pretty self-limiting in terms of the resources necessary to compete (four top-level sport horses, plus at least one alternate; three sets of carriages and harnesses; a friend who’s willing to navigate you through perlious hazards on marathon day.) But still, there’s no reason combined driving should be a dude sport. So I was pretty pleased to see that two of the three drivers on the U.S. team are women. That’s up from zero last year (American Cindy O’Reilly was there as an individual.) You can bet I’ll be cheering for Misdee Wrigley Miller (also an influential competitor on the American Saddlebred circuit) and Allison Stroud when the driving gets going next week.

Allison Stroud
Allison Stroud, driver for the U.S.

To be fair, I only count four women in total on the start list. But hey. That’s twice as many as in 2010.

Last time I also was not shy about professing my love for the Spanish dressage horse, Fuego XII. That doesn’t make me original; everyone loved that little horse and his talented rider, Juan Manuel Muñoz Diaz. Part of the appeal was that he was an Andalusian making his mark on a sport where judges seem disinclined to give top marks to anything that isn’t a big, bay, Dutch- or German-bred Warmblood. This year, not only was there a smattering of Iberian horses, but there was a Friesian! From South Africa! No, he didn’t make it into the individual competition, but he was beautiful and sporty and different, and that’s nice to see.

Fuego XII

Juan Manuel Muñoz Diaz and Fuego XII of Spain

If there’s one thing I’ll complain about, it’s the predictable results thus far. We’re only on day four of this 16-day party, so there are still ample opportunities for exciting upsets, but let’s look at the golds awarded thus far.

May the best horses and riders win, of course, but y’know. Everyone likes an underdog. It would be cool to see some unknown from nowheresville show up with a horse of uncertain breeding and take home a medal or two.

But the most important thing is that all horses and riders finish safe and sound and everyone competes fairly and with the best interest of their horses at heart. And that I don’t go mad due to sleep deprivation.

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