Wellington, Fla. – Mar. 19, 2020 – It has taken a couple of days to get ready for the final walk of the 2020 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) season. My good friend and course designer this week Michel Vaillancourt (CAN), told me he has worked here for many years and always wanted to do the final, and this year he finally gets the chance. With the coronavirus, everything that we do in sport and life, in general, is shut down. The Horseware Ireland $137,000 CSI 3* Grand Prix was rescheduled to begin at 4 PM Saturday afternoon, so it will be Saturday Afternoon Under the Sunshine and not Saturday Night Lights. The reason for this was an attempt to limit the crowd size, and it worked as there was a much smaller crowd on hand. The weather was perfect, but there was a silence that felt a little depressing. It took good leadership from the front office of WEF to make this decision and comply quickly with the decision of the USEF to shut the season down. It was a decision that was made by all the venues that were up and running across the USA. If there are venues that have not complied, then shame on you.
We will have one more walk after this one, and that is at Deeridge the Sunday following the WEF feature class before the Monday deadline takes effect. First, we have our CSI3*, where we saw 45 entries. There was one scratch, but we had another add, so 45 still crossed the start line. The course featured a wall, triple bar, two liverpools (closed vertical and an oxer), triple combination, double combination and a short pole vertical. There was no open water and no plank jump. I made a mistake and did not record the time allowed, but I believe it was set at 76 seconds and was not changed. The time allowed was in sight but not a serious factor. The designation of a 3* is going to make it more difficult for the course designer to arrive at the proper difficulty level as horses are moving up after a season of development in lower divisions and the same for some younger riders. This is a class where a course can be easily too difficult or too easy. Let’s take the walk of the $137,000 Horseware Ireland CSI 3* Grand Prix.
#1 Vertical 1.50m or 5ft comes mainly on the left rein and quickly sent one rider to the showers early.
#2 Oxer 1.50/1.60m or 5/5.3ft comes on the right rein and away from the in-gate. The top pole went to the floor two times, and the jump off was no longer in the picture for those two riders.
#3 Closed liverpool vertical 1.53m or 5.1ft comes from #2 in a straight line with a distance of 22.55m or 74ft and two poles splashed down.
#4 Oxer 1.50/1.65m or 5/5.4ft comes on the bending right rein and with no given distance. This oxer was only one of two jumps that did not factor in the final results of the first round.
#5 The WALL 1.55m or 5.1ft comes on the full turn left, and three bricks were slipped from the top ledge.
#6a Oxer 1.50/1.65m or 5/5.4ft comes from #5 in a straight line with a distance of 25.9m or 85ft. The top pole was forced to leave the yellow cups six times.
#6b Vertical 1.53m or 5.1ft comes from #6a with a distance of 8.20m or 26.9ft and was the second of two jumps not to count in the results of the first round.
#6c Oxer 1.50/1.60m or 5/5.3ft comes from #6b with a distance of 7.93m or 26ft and landed on the ground three times.
#7 Vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes on the bending right rein with a distance of 29.6m or 95ft and toward the in-gate. The John Deere jump kissed Mother Earth five times.
#8 Short pole vertical 1.50m or 5ft comes from #7 on a roll back right turn past and back across the in-gate. Fence #8 needed repair two times.
#9 Liverpool oxer 1.50/1.65m or 5/5.4ft comes from #8 on a long gallop on the left rein and the water level was reduced four times.
#10 Vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes from #9 on the soft right bend with a distance of 24m or 74ft and took a beating eight times. It is interesting to note that this jump featured all white poles.
#11 Triple bar 1.50/1.90m or 5/6.3ft comes from #10 on the full turn on the right rein coming home and created one refusal and one reduction in width. The triple bar has been the best set up jump this season. It has not been a serious jump on its own, but what comes right after has been the downfall of many riders this season.
#12a Vertical 1.53m or 5.1ft comes from #11 in a straight line with a distance of 21.6m or 71ft. This jump was the bogy fence this afternoon by creating havoc 12 times. The triple bar was responsible for much of the damage here.
#12b Oxer 1.50/1.65m or 5/5.4ft comes from #12a with a distance of 8m or 26.3 and gravity pulled four poles to the floor.
#13 Oxer 1.50/1.70m or 5/5.6ft comes from #12b on a soft bend right with a distance of 29.6m or 97ft. One horse refused to finish and two ended their rounds without advancing to the jump off. Jump #13 also brought the 2020 WEF season for the course discourse walks to an end as well.
The final results of the first round of the $137,000 CSI 3* Horseware Ireland grand prix will show that 12 riders will advance to the jump off. I think that this number is perfect for this 3* this late in the season. This was a job well done by Michel Vaillancourt (CAN). There was one round with 1 time fault, five rounds of 4 faults, nine with 5 faults and six with 8 faults. The rest will jump another day. There were no eliminations and there were two voluntary withdrawals.
This is the final walk for the WEF 2020 season, and although it has been shortened by two weeks, we have benefited from a season of really good course design every week. Horses have been able to reach new levels of confidence, and so have many younger riders. The weather, although unsettled for most of the season, has stayed away from most of the major grands prix. I love that I have learned the proper way to spell grands prix. I have now been able to put a face to two very attractive young ladies who work at Phelps Media Group (Meagan DeLisle and Rebecca Walton), and they have been my baby sitters for Course Discourse at Phelps (I really need guidance). I wish to thank all at Phelps for everything for over 12 years. I really like what I do, and Phelps has made it happen. I want everyone to stay safe and healthy and see everyone back here next year. There is one more walk to come, and that comes from The Palm Beach Masters and their 5* on the grass, but from WEF, I am Dave Ballard.