Steve Geurdat's 12-year-old Swedish Warmblood mare, Bianca, is seemingly spring-loaded. The mare, known for her lofty jumping style and small frame, is no stranger to facing down 1.60m fences without batting an eye. While one might think size matters when it comes to facing down a monumental course like Alan Wade's at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, it doesn't - at least not in the way you might think.
"The course was really perfect for my horse," Steve says of the day one design. "I was able to ride forward, where some bigger strided, big horses had to slow down and wait, and lose time."
"I could leave a stride out like some of the bigger horses, but be going [quite fast]" he explains, delving into the strategy that catapulted him to the leading spot ahead of Brazil’s Pedro Veniss in second, and Australia's Rowan Willis in third. Clocking a blazing fast time of 76.33 on his clear round, it was all about trusting his horse and his plan. "I stuck to my plan from the walk, but [Bianca's] natural speed did the rest."
"I was able to ride forward, where some bigger strided, big horses had to slow down and wait, and lose time."
With 124 horse-and-rider combinations representing 49 nations, these are long, hot days for both two- and four-legged athletes. Hot might be an understatement, as it's feeling almost tropical on the ground in Tryon, North Carolina.
"It was a long day waiting, with about 9 hours [between when] I walked the course and when I got on my horse," Steve explains. "But I was confident, the course walked well [for Bianca]."
Going second to last, as Steve and his fiery mare were slated, may seem like a disadvantage, but much like Bianca's small stature, it's all just part of the game to Steve. After all - the Swiss aren't exactly known for losing their cool.
"[Some of the] fastest horses weren't leading, so I felt like if I just rode confidently and stuck to my plan, I'd have a good chance at being in the top three. Bianca rode really well and felt brave. I really enjoyed my round, and it felt like she enjoyed jumping."
Photos by Shannon Brinkman.