Doug Payne and Quantum Leap, the 2018 recipients of the Holekamp/Turner Young Event Horse Le Lion d'Angers Prize and Grant, are in France to compete in the FEI World Eventing Breeding Championships for Young Horses at Le Mondial du Lion d'Angers. Elizabeth Callahan of Cool Na Grena Sporthorses, Quantum Leap's breeder, is in attendance at the Championships and is blogging for the USEA about her experience. Click here to meet Quantum Leap and learn more about the selection process. Click here to read The Long and Winding Road Part 1
So we flew over to France Saturday night/Sunday morning, afternoon, evening. It seems like that day goes on for a week. Of course, you all know how much work is involved in leaving horses when you leave home, so I spent the last day shipping some horses one place and some another, writing out instructions, and taking care of all the other animals as well. Whew! And I feel really guilty that I’m missing the USEA Young Event Horse East Coast Championships this week at Fair Hill, as I have a young Thoroughbred mare in the 4-year-old class and won’t see her go. I can't be in two places at one time though!
We spent two days in Paris, not much horse related except for the three degrees of equine Kevin Bacon. We were invited to a dinner party Tuesday night where one of the guest’s daughter had spent the summer riding with Adrienne Iorio, who had come to try a 3-year-old of mine last year. Small equine world indeed! We walked all over Paris, and although it is a beautiful city, it is way too crowded for this person.
We left Paris this morning and drove down to Le Lion, which was about a three hour drive – other than some major confusion about the tolls, and no earthly idea how to figure out what we were going to owe at the end, it went well. Thank God for credit cards. The country is beautiful, rolling and lots of trees. It looks pretty dry, and I’m not too sure how the footing will be. The towns are small, the roads narrow, and they look a lot like small town rural America – boarded up buildings and store fronts. The difference is that the towns here have older stone houses that are boarded up, and the cost of redoing them to today’s expectations must be staggering.
We are staying in an Airbnb about 15 minutes from Le Lion, and it is a house that was built in 1650 (or so!) and has been totally redone. It is fabulous, and thanks to GPS, we can actually get back and forth with only minor discrepancies.
I didn’t get too much of a look at the course yet – a few fences were visible from the road and included a giant set of brush snails(!), a violin, and the spider.
We got here in time to watch the jog up, and I’ll share my impressions with you. First, the horses were all beautifully turned out. I’m not sure I’m a fan of the braided tail look – mostly because they look half way done to me after looking at hunter braided tails. I won’t say it affected the jogging or how they carry their tail, but I prefer the pulled look myself. The riders were neat – most of them – but not ostentatious. I only saw a few dangerous looking footwear choices and mostly the horses behaved.
It really is a who’s who of eventing – a lot of them were at the FEI World Equestrian Games, so it will be really interesting to see them riding the youngsters. Michael Jung, Ingrid Klimke, Rosalind Canter, Piggy French, Thomas Carlisle, Sandra Auffarth, Andrew Hoy, Christopher Burton, and of course the USA’s Tiana Coudray, Liz Halliday-Sharp, and Doug Payne.
As for the horses first let me tell you that the horseflesh is amazing. The quality that is here is superb. However, I thought a few, generally in the 6-year-old divisions, could use a little more weight and shine. Conformationally speaking, not all of them would be winning the conformation classes, which just goes to show you that it isn’t everything, since these guys have already done a CCI* and a CIC2* with no cross-country jumping faults. I was surprised by the loin connection in a few – they looked weak in the loin and back, with poor hindquarters. There were some pretty low set short necks as well, which could affect front end and shoulder freedom. But who am I to judge?
Now for the breeding junkies. If you don’t care about the breeding or where your horse comes from, you might want to skip this part ‘cause it is going to be ALL about it!
I liked both the Diarados a lot – Rebecca Howard’s 6-year-old Cooley Convinced and Nicola Wilson’s 7-year-old JL Dublin. The best mover of the day might have gone to Gentleman FRH, the 6-year-old stallion by Gray Top. But is he going to have the blood for a four-star? I also liked Aoife Clarks’s Celia D’ermac Z for Ireland and Thomas Carlisle’s Birmaine for France. The Mighty Magics were different in size, but all the same type and have the same eye. I was surprised at how small Figaro de Consessions is – my Mighty Magics have all been big horses. Not the biggest movers, but very similar. Michael Jung’s horses, with the exception of the Contendro, Choclat, weren’t the biggest movers either.
And my personal favorite, of course, was Quantum Leap, who certainly is in the minority with a full Thoroughbred parent. Michael Jung has a Thoroughbred sire on one of his, and there are a few with Thoroughbred grandsires, usually on the dam’s side
Couple other observations: first, the Irish Sport Horse breeding is no longer the dominant breeding that we used to see. There is a lot of warmblood in most of them – in fact they now resemble the different European studbooks – seems like everything is being consolidated. You could pick out a few that were the older type Irish Sport Horse without a doubt, but on the whole, they weren’t much different looking from the warmblood. The Selle Francais that France has were of many different types – there did not seem to be a clear consensus – some were heavy and short, some were tall and long. I was surprised to see that dissimilar a type for a breed that is becoming more dominant in eventing breeding.
So on to dressage tomorrow and hopefully a chance to walk the cross-country course and also thank my lucky stars and my stomach that I am not riding it. I’ll try to get the snails’ picture close up. Any of you at the YEH Championships in the next two days, cheer on those babies so that they might make it here to France in the future!
It’s the turn of the world’s best eventing athletes to stand under the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games spotlight over the next few days as all but one of the horses presented at this morning’s horse inspection at Baji Koen Equestrian Park were confirmed for action by the Ground Jury.
And they're off! Eventing kicks off today in Tokyo (Thursday, July 29 – 7:30 p.m. ET), with the first of three Olympic dressage sessions. Competitors from 29 nations will go head to head, vying for a spot on the coveted Olympic podium.
There were a few last-minute dramas at the first horse inspection for the Tokyo Olympics which took place in the main equestrian park at Baji Koen Equestrian Centre at 9:30 a.m. JST today.