Emotions at the FEI World Equestrian Games are running high - and with good reason. This is one of the biggest competitions in the world, and there's a lot at stake. Horses and riders have worked for months on end (or arguably, their whole lives) and traveled from all over the world to compete in Tryon, NC, and they're all here to chase down some of the most coveted medals and titles in the world.
We caught up with some of these riders to learn about their feelings on being at WEG, their equine partners, and what they're hoping for this week:
Isabell Werth (GER) on the challenges of bringing Bella Rose back from injury after a four-year competition hiatus:
“I knew this (comeback) was possible. First it was the question of finding (the source of the lameness) and to give the time she needed to heal. The biggest difficulty was to bring her back in a calm way because she wants to move all the time. When she was finally (sound), to say, ‘Please just (give me) 10%, 20%’ and to slowly bring her up, that was the most difficult thing.”
Sonke Rothenberger (GER) on having a quiet season with Cosmo:
“He had an infection during Aachen. Of course, I would love to go to Aachen, but the welfare of the horse is the main priority and we know that if he would go to Aachen with 100% fitness, then maybe he could do good. But it was up to his health, so we said, ‘Okay, keep him home.’ We got him super fit again.”
On coming from a family of riders (all of whom came to Tryon to support him):
“It’s of course nice to have a family which has done all of this before because if they can save you from the same mistakes they did. But you have to make your own experiences, but I think they’re super helpful and it’s not like they tell me how to hold the reins or how to get a horse ready. It’s more like these bits and pieces. We’ve trained so long together. We know each other so well. My parents can really help me on the small bits.”
Spencer Wilton (GBR) on a sparse preparation with Super Nova II:
“On the whole I was really, really pleased. I’ve only had 2 starts this year with him in competition and the first was in the beginning of July, so he’s not had a lot of practice. He’s definitely a horse that benefits from that so I was a bit apprehensive about coming into a big atmosphere and a big show without having much form. But he was just brilliant. I’m so pleased with him.”
On bringing “Neville” back from injury:
“He was injured at the beginning of the year and has come back from that. In February of this year if you’d said he was going to come here (to Tryon) and get 74% I’d have been a bit dubious. It’s been such a tough year in that I’ve been trying to balance giving him enough time to heal but at the same time, working him and trying to get him fit and strong and healthy to compete. It has been a really tricky procedure but I had my physios, and my vets, and my groom Claire have just done the most amazing job getting him back, hence the big smile."
Kasey Perry-Glass (USA) on her emotional and special bond with Goerklintgaards Dublet:
“I’m going to cry, because I just love him so much…The moment we bought him, I knew he was special. He just has that elegance about him and he’s so sensitive. He can be hot, but he’s also sensitive to my aids, and I think just really fine-tuning that has been a huge part for me. There are sometimes when I’ll half-halt him and I think it’s a light half-halt, and Debbie (McDonald) is like, ‘Too much!’ and I’m like, ‘Oh my god, I’m barely moving!’
"He’s so sensitive, and I just had to really figure out that balance between asking for more and not asking for too much. I think that we’re really right on the cusp of being great with that.”
Charlotte Dujardin (GBR) on how Mount St. John Freestyle could be as good as Valegro in the future:
“Carl always called her Mrs. Valegro because she has the same attitude. She goes in that arena, she’s not afraid of anything, she tries so hard. She has those similarities to him. I know when she’s strong and the mistakes aren’t there, it’s going to be very, very exciting. I think she may be as good as him one day.”
On how she found such a special mare to follow the great Valegro:
“Emma Blundell actually owns her, from Mount St John. She said to me, ‘Try out this mare.’ She wasn’t sure whether she’d be good enough for me, but I had her as a five year old. When I started riding her, she has unbelievable trainability. Her scope for what she can do, she can just put her legs wherever she wants. She’s a fantastic mare. I love her so much and she’s so brave. She gives so much. I’m really, really happy with her. At home, she hasn’t been beaten, so everything she’s done, she’s won.”
Brittany Fraser (CAN) on her warm up at WEG:
“I decided today to have a very short warm up. I warmed up for maybe 25 minutes in this heat, just because he’s very big and he can be tired pretty quickly with heat like this. We were in training camp as of September 1st in South Carolina, so he’s a little bit used to the heat now because we’ve been here for so long, but it is so hot.”
On her long-time partnership with All In:
“Well, I’ve owned him since he was 5. I’ve shown him a lot. Him and I have a really good partnership. I love him. He’s like my pet. Even in the barn, I walk in, and he’s always looking for his treats. He’s a bit of a hot horse and I know how to just calm him down and make him feel comfortable.”
Emmelie Scholtens (NED) on a slight mishap as she headed into the arena with her herd-bound stallion, Apache:
“Normally I always go into he ring once the other horse (who competed before me) is out. Always. Because I know this stallion—he always wants to go with the other ones. He’s done it when he’s 3 and he will do it until he’s 30. That’s how he is. We arranged it before, and they said it’s okay, but a few minutes before, they said that you have to go in the ring when the other one is in. I could expect this a little bit, but he wanted to go. That was not a great start, but in the ring, he was focused again."
Daniel Bachmann Andersen (DEN) on his “rare” relationship with Blue Hors Zach.
“He is very special to me. When I got him he didn’t do so much four years ago… but during the last four years he developed into a real top Grand Prix horse. That’s just our partnership. We’ve gone through a lot together and he’s totally on my side. We can go full power. He trusts me and I trust him. He knows that when I get in there I’ll only ask what I know he can do. I had a lot of tests I had to ask under what we can do so he could be confident. I had to underride a little bit in the past but now I can go full power. It’s a special relationship, and it’s so rare.”