Concerns over deep, irregular footing ultimately caused the withdrawal of all but one Grand Prix entrant at the Pebble Beach CDI (Calif.) July 7-10.
Competitors initially voiced concerns about the Grand Prix arena’s new sand footing in a meeting with show management on Wednesday, July 6. Footing had been removed from the arena to accommodate last year’s U.S. Open golf tournament and only recently replaced.
“When we arrived, the entire group of FEI riders were in agreement that the footing was unacceptable,” said competitor Cyndi Jackson. “We spoke with management, and they agreed that we needed to make some changes.”
While management set to work removing excess sand from the arena, riders raised the possibility of moving the CDI classes to a ring with a more established base.
“There were two other viable arenas that we could have ridden in, but the show management didn’t want to change it,” said Shannon Peters, who eventually withdrew from the competition. “They tried awful hard. They worked on [the footing] for three days, but the base was very unlevel, so as much as they tried to improve it, there was just no way to make it even.”
Several small tour and young rider classes were still held in the arena, which the ring crew groomed and rolled after every two rides.
“I was fortunate enough to watch the entire Prix St. Georges class, and I talked to them on their way out of the ring and asked, ‘What do you think?’ And they all said, ‘You know, it’s not perfect, but it’s OK,’ ” said Jackson, who went on to compete Strauss (Idocus—Nerissa, G Ramiro Z) uncontested in the CDI, scoring 61.72 percent in the Grand Prix and 64.77 percent in the Grand Prix freestyle.
“I talked with my sponsor [Nikki Soich, Strauss’ owner], and she also felt that if the ground jury and management thought it was fine, then we’d go ahead and give it a try,” said Jackson, who noted that the 14-hour drive from her home base of Phoenix, Ariz., was ultimately worth it. “I got a lot of valuable feedback from the judges,” she said.
For Peters and the other Grand Prix entrants, including David Blake, Adrienne Lyle, Kathleen Raine, Michelle Reilly and David Wightman, the risk of injury to their horses was still too great, especially when more established footing was located on site.
“The bottom line is that we made the best choice, from our perspective, for our horses,” Peters said. “It was a tough situation, and I think if there wasn’t another option, we wouldn’t have been as disappointed. But there was another option, and it wasn’t taken.”
As of press time, show management had not returned calls requesting comment.