By Tari Winkle
Attending the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG) was an experience of a lifetime for me, in many ways. My daughter, Lillian, and I had planned to go since October 2017. We had gone to the 2010 WEG in Kentucky for her 16th birthday, and thought of this trip as a repeat of great mother-daughter bonding time, doing what we liked to do best – watch the world’s best riders on the world’s best horses.
On Monday, September 10, I drove from Tallahassee, FL, to Tryon, NC, into a torrential rain in South Carolina, as hurricane Florence was barreling toward North Carolina. We had tickets for all the dressage, eventing, and show jumping, and I was going to be volunteering for vaulting. Lillian and I were also looking forward to the horsemanship and riding demonstration of Marsha Hartford-Sapp and Cobra, of Mustang Makeover fame; and of course shopping. We did not intend to miss any part of this event, even if we had to endure a hurricane to do it! Unfortunately, all the demonstrations were cancelled due to a lack of stabling and the impending hurricane, but the Games pressed on.
Dressage was first up on Wednesday, September 12; in the newly built U.S. Trust Arena. It was sunny and hot as I took my seat in the covered area for the test ride of Olivia Lagoy-Weltz, in front of seven judges! The arena footing looked fabulous, and it was dragged every eight rides by three very fast and flashy blue tractors. Every ride was set to music that matched the rate and rhythm of each horse’s gates and movements, as if each ride had been individually choreographed. It was a fabulous touch. The Americans that rode Wednesday were Steffen Peters, on Suppenkasper, and Adrienne Lyle, on Salvino, who ended the first day in 7th with a 73.965% and 4th with a 74.860% respectively, but more rides were to come tomorrow.
Thursday, the sun was still shining and we saw the rides of two more Americans, Kasey Perry-Glass and Laura Graves; as well as Isabella Werth of Germany, and Charlotte Dujardin, of Great Britain. Charlotte Dujardin’s horse, Mt. St. John Freestyle, a nine-year-old Hanoverian mare, was the youngest horse in the competition and an amazing creature to watch. The mare actually acted as though she was enjoying the entire ride. The American team finished as Silver medalists, just behind Germany, and just ahead of Great Britain. All four Americans made the top 30 riders to compete Friday for the Individual Grand Prix awards.
Friday morning, the individual Grand Prix rides started under cloudy skies and wind, as hurricane Florence slowly made landfall in Asheville, NC. It was like a battle of the Titans as the standings came down to the last four riders – Laura Grave (USA), Sönke Rothenberger (GER), Charlotte Dujardin (GBR) and Isabell Werth (GER). Laura Graves led until the last ride with an 81.717%, followed closely by Charlotte Dujardin with 81.489%, and Sönke Rothenberger with 81.277%. But Isabell Werth, at 49, put the younger riders in their places when she and Bella Rose, a 14-year-old Westphalian mare, scored an 86.245%, receiving many tens on movements from various judges! It was an absolutely beautiful ride to watch!
Friday night, following the individual awards, the National Weather Service, onsite at Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC), projected very heavy rain starting on Saturday evening through Sunday. As a result, the Ground Jury, the Technical Delegates, and the Presidents of the Veterinary Commissions for the Disciplines of Eventing, Reining, and Dressage elected to cancel all Sunday events. The officials were able to reschedule the show jumping phase of eventing and the reining individual finals to Monday, but there would be no Dressage Individual Grand Prix Musical Freestyles. Lillian and I were crushed, as the freestyles were our favorite event. So not only were there no riding demonstrations, but no musical freestyles as well. It was a sad end, but still a beautiful week of dressage.