Greetings from the press corner at the World Dressage Masters! I'm here doing a live blog for the Chronicle - if you'd like to tune in, check it out here; the freestyle starts at 7:30 on Saturday night, and you can read the archives after the event.
In general, it's a smaller affair than last year. Seeing Patrik Kittel, whom I admired so much at the Olympics, is great; Tinne and Hans Peter are always a great show. The Americans are well represented in rising stars Paragon and Legolas. But Edward Gal came down with a nasty flu, so he's out; several riders had to bail before the week even started. And being a non-team year just generally has kept the whole shindig at a simmer instead of a rolling boil.
It doesn't mean that we're not being treated to great dressage, though. Both Legolas and Scandic put forth such lovely, meticulous tests. It's always a joy to watch Steffen ride anything. Paragon is in terrific form, and he has put on a lot of muscle and really developed in the connection since this event last year, the last time I saw him live.
I'm trying to focus on what these top riders do that I don't. Certainly, what the top group does that I CAN do with Midgey is adjust everything, particularly in the piaffe and passage. They look in complete control of every step, can ride bigger or smaller, higher or lower, and adjust in a second. OK, maybe I can't do that just yet, at least not reliably. But Midge is generally a very adjustable creature, and I'm very motivated - especially now! - to master that skill. Because the riders who lurched in or out of piaffe, who came in like they'd forgotten the transition and only remembered at the last moment, were not rewarded.
There were also lots of variations on the canter half-pass zig zag, but the best ones weren't necessarily the ones that covered the most ground. They were neat and balanced and organized-looking. And as 4-star judge Janet Foy, who co-blogged with me for a while during the Grand Prix, reminded me, the zig zag is a double coefficient movement, not something you want to lose dumb points on by botching the count or missing the centerline.
This Masters has also been a reminder that anything can happen to anyone at any time. Edward's flu. Poor Tina Konyot's spot of bad luck with an open wound on Calecto's side. And poor Diane Creech today, who led off the Grand Prix Special by riding the Olympics version of the test, only used at the Games.
But the bar will be high for tonight's freestyle. It's going to be quite the face-off between the Americans, Steffen and Heather, and the Swedes, Tinne and Patrik. I'm excited!