I’m back from Las Vegas and I had a fabulous time. It was sunny and 80 degrees—my kind of wonderful! I went with my vet, Ramona Tingdale. A horsey friend who now lives in Las Vegas, Mary Kilgore, joined us for Saturday. Ramona had a client who gave her two free tickets plus $80/night rooms at South Point Casino—and I was lucky enough that she invited me to go with her. We used airline mileage to fly there and made it all happen "on a budget." We went for 3 days, Friday morning through Sunday evening; a whirlwind weekend! What a thrill to see all those world-class competitors up close. Such talented riders and their incredible equine partners. They were from many countries of the world that I wouldn’t expect—Japan, Columbia, Australia, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia—plus most of Europe and North America. It was breathtaking competition and so interesting to watch different riding techniques, see the horse’s reactions, hear it’s breath when the front feet landed a jump... it was just an incredibly wonderful experience that I am so grateful to have had.
Las Vegas is the only local where FEI jumping and dressage are held together, so that in itself was a treat. This event won’t be back to Vegas for a long time—at least 6 years now. The “Vegas” part of the event was amazing, too. I never expected to see laser light shows and fireworks combined with FEI Grand Prix riding. And there were an awful lot of guys in cowboy hats around—kinda made me feel at home! You know how the dressage crowd is often like the audience watching a golf tournament, rather quiet and reserved? I bet this was the ONLY FEI event where the announcer tells you to “Let the rider know if you see something you like.” This crowd never held back anything, so noise levels (and music!) were almost deafening—but in a fun way.
The dressage freestyle was UNBELIEVABLE! I couldn’t even trust myself to talk during most of it as I was choked up with emotion. It was simply breath-takingly beautiful, just like dance. The horses seemed to be floating on water, in time with the beat of the music and deeply immersed in the moment. The riders, too, seemed thrilled to be there. Most of them smiled through the whole test and positively beamed when they were done as they patted and patted their horses. They all were so very proud of their horses, gratefully acknowledging their partner's spectacular accomplishments. Scores were unusually high, one after another. The winning score for the dressage freestyle (Steffen Peters, who won the Grand Prix dressage on Thursday evening) was an 84.95, which, as I understand it, is a very high dressage score. I thought all 11 freestyle competitors were brilliant and I enjoyed them all. At the award ceremony Steffen rode his horse, Revel, one-handed doing piaffes and passages as well as lateral work in different gaits. The crowd refused to let him leave, giving him standing ovation after standing ovation. It was so fun, such a privilege to be there in person taking it all in.