f there's one thing that's for sure at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina, it's that you can't get too comfortable. Famed Irish course designer Alan Wade put together a challenging course for day two of show jumping that left many rails down, a few hearts broken, and a select few celebrating.
What became known as 'heartbreak alley' – a tedious final line leading with a triple bar, into a massive combination, and finishing on a single fence – brought gold medal dreams crashing down for many. The course was big. It was tough. It was technical. The leaderboard shuffled quite a bit, proving that nothing is certain in Tryon – from weather to medal standings.
"It's the best course designer in the world, and it's the world championships - you can't expect an easy course," explains Lorenzo de Luca of Italy, who finished in the top spot today with 10-year-old mare Irenice Horta. The duo was one of only five fault-free rounds today, despite only being together since June – and doing only five shows as a pair leading up to Tryon.
"She's in great, great, great form," he says of his mare. "She has a great mind...scopey, careful. It's an amazing feeling – when you know that your horse can jump clear, it makes you feel confident."
"It's the best course designer in the world, and it's the world championships – you can't expect an easy course"
Though Team Italy is officially out of the runnings, Lorenzo is still fiercely focused on individual gold. "I will fight until the end – I don't give up, I'm a fighter"
Coming in second, USA's McLain Ward rode his real-life unicorn, nine-year-old mare Clinta, to a clean round, but not without difficulty.
“She jumped the triple bar so big, even though we got the right stride to it,” he explains. “I really started to run out of room and had to be a little bit rough with her, and her athleticism there was pretty incredible – I didn’t give up, and she didn’t give up. We jumped out actually easily and finished up great."
Rounding out the individual top three is Peder Fredricson, who – despite his success with the tedious and technical course – is totally focused on the success of Team Sweden. "I always am thinking about what I can do for the team."
Photos by Shannon Brinkman.