COURSE DISCOURSE: $209,000 Holiday & Horses Grand Prix CSI4*

We are back in Wellington Florida to end the 2019 show season with the FEI $209,000 Holiday & Horses Grand Prix CSI4*. All across the USA this week we have had some serious winter weather but in Florida we have been blessed with very nice seasonal weather. The North American horse show season has been a good one with good competitions across the whole country but there have been some life changing accidents that have had a great impact on the 2019 season.

I will comment on the 2019 season with its ups and downs in my opening course discourse in January 2020. The main focus for this week will be the grand prix held in the international ring Saturday night. This is my first walk of the Holiday and Horses GP and I think that we were treated to a great final event. This was the thanksgiving weekend in the USA and so the crowd was not the large turnout that we have come to expect but I thought that it was a group of informed horse lovers that were out for an evening of great competition.

The format for tonight’s class is a competition over two rounds ( art. FEI rules. This is not my favorite format but it is what it is. After the first round the top 12 competitors will return for a second round carrying any faults that were obtained in the first round. The winner will be the rider that had the fewest faults over 2 rounds and if there are equal faults after 2 rounds the fastest time in the second round will determine the winner. Can we just have 1 round with a jump off?

Walking the course I thought that our course designer (Anthony D’Ambrosio USA) had set a course that would work out perfectly. This was a course that would be a fair test for younger horses and a safe course for some horses that had a long season behind them. This was also a course that would allow all competitors to compete for major money to end the season without too much stress. Within the course tonight we will have 3 double combinations, 1 triple bar, 1 Liverpool oxer, 1 short pole vertical. We will not see a triple combination, a wall and there will be no plank (on top) jump. There will not be a water jump. (Not really necessary tonight). The time-allowed was set at 80 seconds and was never a factor. (TA was not changed) There are 45 entered and with 1 scratch 44 will compete. I believe that we should begin the walk of the $209,000 Holiday and Horses Grand Prix CSI4*.

#1 vertical 1.47m or 4.11ft can be approached on either lead and was never faulted tonight.

#2 oxer 1.45/1.60m or 4.10/5.3ft comes in a straight line from #1 with a distance of 31m or 102ft and was ridden in 7 strides by most and 8 quiet strides by a couple. This oxer was not faulted tonight.

#3 vertical 1.52m or 5.1ft comes on the right rein at the far end of the ring and is in a darker area of the ring and here we had 1 refusal and 3 poles fall from grace.

#4a oxer 1.45/1.60m or 4.10/5.3ft comes on a full turn on the right rein and tumbled to the new footing 5 times.

#4b vertical 1.50m or 5ft comes from #4a on a distance of 8.00m or 26.3ft and was pushed from the yellow cups 1 time.

#5 triple bar .80/1.52/1.80m or 2.6/5.1/5.9ft comes on the bending left rein with no given distance and created 1 refusal. 5 strides forward or 6 very short strides were used here.

#6a vertical 1.53m or 5.2ft comes in a straight line with a distance 23m or 75.6ft and we saw the top pole displaced 6 times.

#6b vertical 1.54m or 5.3ft comes from #6a with a distance of 8.10m or 26.6ft and was not damaged in any way tonight.

#7 oxer 1.47/1.60m or 4.10/5.3ft comes on the right rein away from the in-gate and proved to be fateful for 3 competitors.

#8 short pole (all black) vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes from #7 on the right rein with a distance of 41m or 135ft and proved to be the bogey jump on the evening. There was 1 fall (elimination) due to a refusal and 9 poles meet mother earth.

#9 Liverpool oxer 1.50/1.65m or 5/5.4ft comes in a straight line from #8 with a distance of 18.30m or 60ft and proved to be almost as difficult as #8 with 8 splash downs. My opinion on the reason for the difficulty on this line lies in the ring position of these 2 jumps. They are placed across the ring using the crown of the ring which for drainage runs from the in-gate down the middle to the far end. This means that the approach to the short pole vertical has a subtle uphill approach to #8 and the 4 strides to #9 are a subtle downhill ride. The short poles require a delicate approach and if done correctly maybe a subtle push with the legs gets technical. (My opinion) What do you think?

#10 vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes from #10 on the left rein with no given distance and was a disappointment for 2 riders.

#11 oxer 1.50/1.60m or 5/5.3ft comes on the left turn left rein coming back home and was faulted on 3 occasions.

#12a vertical 1.51m or 5ft comes from #11 in a straight line with a distance of 28m or 92ft and with the option of 6 forward strides or 7 quiet strides we saw 4 failures to execute the options correctly.

#12b oxer 1.48/1.60m or 4.11/5.3m comes from #12a with a distance of 7.90m or 26ft and there were 2 poles tumble to the turf here.

#13 oxer 1.48/1.80m or 5/5.9ft comes from #12b on a strong bending line on the right rein toward the in-gate with a distance of 39m or 128ft and did create 5 failures to finish with a clear round. The last fence on the course tonight came with the aggressive bend and whatever the distance was the mistakes were based on arriving on a long distance.

The final results of the first round will give us 10 clean rounds, 12 rounds of 4 faults (the 2 fastest 4 faults will advance to the second round) and there were 10 rounds of 8 faults. There were 2 falls resulting in elimination, 5 refusals and 3 VW’s. The TA was not a factor. I think that this GP was a great finish to the 2019 season. It was extremely fair across the board and Anthony did a great job. Next year is an Olympic year with the games to be held in Japan and I think that the WEF venue will see some exciting competitions that will lead up to the Olympics and prepare many riders from several countries for the Games. That’s a wrap for the 2019 season and I wish everyone a safe holiday season and I hope to see you on the walk in 2020.

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