This is a wonderful glimpse into the world of equestrian competition....enjoy!
European Para-Equestrian Dressage Championships: We Must Go Forward
by Mary Jordan
This has been somewhat of a puzzling and frustrating day. It was the official start of the show, and they first do what they call the FEI Jog, where each horse is presented to a Ground Jury panel for veterinary inspection to see that it is fit enough to compete. What happens is that you jog the horse past the judges on foot. I was supposed to go second to last at 12:57 p.m. since they go in alphabetical order and the United States was last, before the host country of Norway.
We got Bantu out to lunge him briefly (light exercise) at 11 a.m. and then the officials immediately wanted us to go in the ring for the jog. I had to run and change clothes (you have to dress up for this thing) and we all made it to the ring on time. Paulien ran with the stallion, but the Ground Jury said he needed to be re-inspected because they thought he moved suspiciously (slightly lame they said on the front left foot.)
So we were escorted to a separate area to meet with an attending veterinarian. After jogging the horse back and forth in the parking lot three times the vet said the horse looked fine and that we were all set to go back to the ring to be re-inspected.
So we went back into the ring for the second jog and once again they paused...and did not clear us. They told us to come back for a re-inspection (the third one!) tomorrow morning at 7 a.m.!
It was all very strange. All of the sudden we are in a state of limbo after three weeks of diligent and well-monitored training. The thought that I had come all of this way and sacrificed a great deal to be here...and then not be allowed to compete...well...it was surreal. Especially since there were conflicting opinions between the vets and the general consensus the horse looked sound.
Thankfully, the Performance Director of the British Federation came up to me with a generous offer to help, offering the services of their team veterinarian and physical therapist. He could see very little wrong with the horse, other than him being perhaps a little stiff from traveling 23 hours by car and ferry to get here.
We set a time to meet and the rest of the day was spent in limbo; waiting to meet with the vet and not knowing whether or not I would be allowed to compete tomorrow!!! Deep down inside I kept faith that the horse was fine and was not lame. He gave me a beautiful ride the day before; I knew he could not be lame. Still, I did not want to train on him today until he received veterinary clearance. So I did not ride. I only waited.
Finally, in the afternoon the vet met with us and found basically nothing wrong with the horse. The therapist worked on his muscles and even applied a laser to his back to make him feel good. Another person from Great Britain, Mark, offered to jog the horse at the reinspection in the morning—since Paulien has a broken wrist and Martina has sore knees. Basically the whole staff from Great Britain offered to help us (me! The only American here!) with the horse starting at 6 a.m. tomorrow. Talk again about the kindness of strangers pitching in to help!! Many people here want to see us compete and I have come so far I will not give up, but I also realize I have no control of the situation beyond a certain point. We will do our best and hope for the best.
So after a long stressful day we lined up for the parade of teams and to meet the Princess of Norway, who toured the barns in the afternoon. We had a horrendous thunder and lightning storm and a downpour while they were giving speeches, which included an inspirational one from a Norwegian Olympian. They also had special music with sea shanties and an evening horse presentation.
The Norwegians have worked so hard to make this an incredible show and to share their hospitality with us. This is the largest FEI competition ever held in Norway, and many people say there are more riders here than they think will attend the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games for Para-Dressage next year. We have 90 riders from 22 countries and there are close to 500 people total here just for this event. Just being a part of this is incredible, seeing the team spirit and flags in the barns, meeting people from across the world, and being united in our passion for horses and the sport. I thought about how lucky I am to even experience this, to grow up in Clinton, New York, riding as a little kid and to be here, across the world in Norway all of these years later with such amazing people and to be healthy enough to enjoy it. Inside I felt a little choked up, thought of how proud my parents would have been.
Well, tomorrow starts very early for me. I truly hope they pass Bantu for the vet inspection. I am staying positive and have done everything in my power to help him be well, as have numerous others, to whom I am grateful. I am keeping my focus because if he passes I will ride my first test tomorrow—the Team Test—and I have to have my game on to complete that successfully. There are 16 people in the Grade 4 division, including last year’s Olympic Silver Medalist. If I am able to ride, I will give it my all!
So here we go...only one direction to go and that is to stay positive and look forward!