We have arrived at the end of week 11 and we will walk the $209,000 Wellington Agricultural Services Grand Prix CSI4*. Our course designer for the week has been Olaf Petersen Jr. (GER) and as in the past has done a stellar job.
This has not been an easy week for the CD because of the weather. On Monday and Tuesday we had constant rain and because this is a week of courses on the Derby Field the footing was not able to host the WEF qualifier on Thursday. We are so fortunate to have multiple arenas in which to hold our major classes and the Global Dressage Arena was the host of the WEF Challenge. I walked the Derby Field early on Thursday and felt that it would not remain fair to all the entries in this qualifier. There were over 60 entries and in some areas of the field the grass was too soft to remain consistent for the last half of the entries. This was a disappointment for some of the entries but the safety of the horse and rider was the main consideration in moving to the stadium arena.
The WEF qualifier was a very good class with 12 clean, a couple of time fault rounds and there were 20 rounds of 4 faults. I did not keep track of the whole class but I hope I am close on the numbers. The weather cooperated over the next two days and the grand prix will be held on the grass on the Derby Field. The footing for this event was perfect.
It is 11 a.m. Saturday morning the weather is perfect and we have 45 entered with 1 scratch and 1 add so we will see 45 break the timers. The TA is set at 89 seconds (longest TA of the season). There are 13 numbered obstacles and 16 efforts. The course will show 2 liverpools, 1 triple combination, 1 double combination and a triple bar. There is no open water and there is no plank vertical. I must not that there are several jumps that are made of 10ft material and I should have made note of these jumps earlier this season. The short pole vertical refers to the use of the 8ft poles. This course does not use a vertical of the 8ft poles. The TA of 89 seconds will not be changed. It is now time to begin the walk of the $209,000 Wellington Agricultural Services Grand Prix CSI4*.
#1 oxer 1.50/1.40m or 5/4.6ft at and away from the in-gate did some damage with 2 rails on the turf and 2 refusals.
#2 vertical 1.55m or 5.1ft come on a full turn left back to the in-gate and was one of only two jumps not faulted on the day.
#3 oxer 1.49/1.60m or 5/5.3ft comes on the right rein with no given distance (long gallop) and bit the turf 1 time.
#4a vertical 1.53m or 5.1ft comes from #3 on a very soft bend left with a distance of 33m or 108ft and was pushed to the floor 3 times.
#4b oxer 1.50/1.60m or 5/5.3ft comes from #4a with a distance of 7.90m or 25.9ft and tumbled to the turf 8 times.
#4c narrow oxer 1.55/1.20m or 5.1/4ft comes from #4b with a distance of 11.30m or 37ft and kissed mother earth 8 times and also created 1 refusal. The triple rode difficult but the distances within and to the combination were standard and I cannot explain the reason for this much difficulty. The distance to #4c was a little forward and maybe the horses jumped this oxer more like a vertical than an oxer.
#5 vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes from #4c on a full turn right and fell from grace 8 times.
#6 oxer 1.52/1.70m or 5/5.6ft comes from #5 on a long gallop on the left rein and was damaged 6 times.
#7 plank gate vertical 1.57m or 5.1ft comes from #6 on the role back turn on the right rein and slipped from the flat cups only I time. This was the best visual jump on the course and is the type of visual jumps that we need more of. Our courses today are visually boring and need to have a lot more visual spice. Stephens Designs where are you?
#8 liverpool oxer 1.52/1.70m or 5/5.6ft comes from #7 in a straight line with a distance of 23m or 75.6ft and was the bogey fence on the course today. This was the Hermes oxer and even though we are 1 week from the finish this fence it will remain the most faulted obstacle of the whole season. It has been in the ring for many, many, many years and the fill has never changed (with or without the liverpool) and yet remains a difficult fence. There were 12 splash downs and 1 refusal at this oxer today.
#9 triple bar 1.53/2.10m or 5.1/6.9ft comes from #8 on the bending left rein with a distance of 36m or 118f and only saw 1 failure to execute. The triple bar and with the distance to #10 made the test to #10 difficult. The triple bar did its job.
#10 closed Liverpool vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes from #9 in a straight line with a distance of 28.20m or 95.6ft and the top pole was dunked 11 times.
#11 short pole vertical 1.55m or 5.1ft comes on a full right turn and found solid ground 2 times.
#12a oxer 1.50/1.65m or 5/5.4ft comes from #11 in a straight line with a distance of 30m or 98ft and was demolished 10 times.
#12b vertical 1.55m or 5.1ft comes from #21a with a distance of 7.90 or 25.9ft and was never faulted today.
#13 oxer 1.52/1.70m or 5/5.6ft comes on the bending right rein with a distance from #12b of 37m or 121ft and being the last fence in the first round saw the day end for 5 entries and there was also a fall here and thus an elimination.
The final results will show that there were 5 clear rounds. There was 1 round of 1 time fault, 7 rounds of of 4 faults, 2 rounds of 5 faults, 3 with 8 faults, 2 with 9 and 1 with 10 faults. The rest will compete another day. During the first round there were 9 VW’s, I fall and therefore 1 elimination. I thought that this was a very good grand prix. It rode a little tougher than it walked but this was a softer group of entries due to California last week and the Ocala million tomorrow. Also there was a group of horses waiting for the final 5* next week under the lights. Olaf Petersen Jr. remains one of my favorite CD’s and he did not let me down this week. For another week we have had the benefit of great course design and next week should be no exception. I look forward to the work of Olly next year. I will now have a little sidebar about course design. For me the finish line in this class was a little to close to the final fence. That being said, in the class Saturday night (the final 1.50m Classic) the finish line was further from the last fence than in any other grand prix this season. It was within the limits provided in the rules but very few CD’s use the maximum as we saw tonight. This is not something that should be glossed over by the course designer. I did not have the time to ask Olaf but I believe that this was a deliberate test by the course designer. There were 5 clean rounds that resulted in only time faults. There were 5 rounds of only time faults and I believe if the riders were totally aware of where the finish timers were there would have been at least 3 more clean rounds. As a coach and as a course designer I always had control of where the start and finish lines were placed. As a coach you must teach your riders to be aware of these lines and as a rider it is in your job description. It is now time for a road trip to Ocala and the Great American Million Dollar Grand Prix. In Wellington until next week I am Dave Ballard.