2015 World Cup in Las Vegas

2015 World Cup in Las Vegas

We’d like to thank our friend and supporter, Marie Cobb, for sharing her experience from the World Cup in Las Vegas.

By Marie Cobb, Ree Photographics, reephotographics.com

World Cup began with a sand storm. We arrived just in time, evidently. Later, I heard tales of judges and coaches that couldn’t arrive by plane, Carl Hester being one of them! He had to fly into LAX and drive to Vegas. He only just made it in time to coach Charlotte Dujardin’s warm up. I can understand why they closed the airport – I got a free dermabrasion just walking to our lovely apartment from the lobby. Lots of fun when you’re wearing contacts, let me tell you! I flew in with Vicki Macgowan and Judi Dauterive. The approach and landing were quite ‘sporting’. I’m not admitting to being nervous, but we were all holding hands! There we met other SEDA members, Lynda and Harold Katz, Joanna and David Leake, Traci Freeman and Sheri Kitchens.

The next day we arrived at the Thomas and Mack Center to watch the warm-ups. I left my fellow dressage enthusiasts at the entrance to find their seats, and more importantly, THE SHOPPING! I went to the media center to get my credentials.  It was good to see so many of my fellow photographers from all over the world.  We caught up on all the gossip, then headed down to find our spots.  The riders were allotted a certain amount of time for warm-up.  Some chose to come in pairs to combine their ring times, giving them twice as long, others schooled solo. The horses had a chance to look around and loosen up after their arduous journeys. Most just calmly looked around, not upset by the closeness of the crowds or the lights. After the World Cup riders, the exhibition riders came in to practice, so we got a preview of the pas de deux and quadrilles we would see on Friday.

Thursday was the Grand Prix. They drew for positions and rode in two groups according to the FEI World Ranking Standings, The top ranking horses were in the second set. In the first set there were some nice surprises, though. I personally loved Mister X, ridden by Inessa Merkulova from Russia. An old campaigner, Painted Black, who was ridden by Anky Von Grunsven, was also in that set with his young rider Morgan Barbancon Mastre from Spain. It was really quite sweet, the oldest horse and the youngest rider. America’s newest star, Laura Graves and Verdades, were also in the first set.

The second set included Elena Sidney on Romer Star, Mikala Gundersen and My Lady (a pair I’ve had the pleasure of photographing in Wellington) along with Lars Petersen and Mariett. Steffen and Legolas, Hans Peter Minderhoud and Glock’s Flirt, Isabell Werth and El Sancto NRW, Edward Gal and Glock’s Undercover, Jessica von Bredow-Werndl on Unee BB, and the one we all were waiting to see – Valegro and Charlotte Dujardin. What can I say…  I love that horse!

Friday was the short day, the exhibitions were thoroughly enjoyable. We got to see Steffen ride the new mare Rosamunde whom I found to be lovely. Sabine Schut-Kery rode Sanceo in a freestyle. Then there were the Pas de Deux. Mette Rosencrantz and Anna Dahlberg were cowboys and Indians. David Blake and Shannon Peters were Batman and Poison Ivy, Charlotte Bredhal-Baker and Jan Ebeling were Danny and Sandy from Grease, and last but not least we had Guenter Seidel as Elvis with showgirls Michele Reilly, Elizabeth Ball, and Sarah Christy. it just wouldn’t be Vegas without Elvis. The judges had a hard time picking the winners and did so with the assistance of very enthusiastic audience participation. It was lots of fun and over too soon.

Saturday’s freestyles were wild. The stadium was packed, 10,700 excited fans! WOW! It was noisy and the rides were electrified. Several of the horses had a little trouble when they spotted the World Cup on a pedestal in the corner of the arena illuminated by a very distracting spot light. When Valegro came in, there was absolute silence at first but the audience couldn’t contain themselves, applauding every extravagant extension and foot-perfect pirouette.  His Grand Prix test was amazing, but the freestyle went miles beyond. It literally gave me goosebumps!  Every foot placed just so, so precise and powerful and elastic. If there were any imperfections, I certainly couldn’t see them.  He reminds me of a powerful gymnast, all that muscle and grace. He and Charlotte obviously have a wonderful connection. You barely see her give an aid yet her face is total concentration. It was poetry. A world record-setter at the top of his game in an absolutely electric atmosphere. What a moment!  Me and my fellow seasoned world photographers all had a catch in our throats and a tear in our eyes. Charlotte made the final halt and the crowd went ballistic. Valegro looked up at the audience as if to say ‘What’s all the fuss about?  I’m just doing my thing.  This is how I roll.’ What a horse!! I believe there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Legolas wasn’t his usual self and when the crowd went wild he spooked, and Steffen had his hands full for a few minutes keeping him under control. When he exited the arena there was a drop on blood on his spur and according to the FEI rules he was eliminated. But being the true horseman and first-class act he is, he accepted the decision with grace and poise, apologizing to everyone. He is not a rough rider and truly loves the horses, it was simply an accident.

We couldn’t go to Vegas and not do some exploring outside of the arena however. Sheri Kitchens, Judi Dauterive and I explored every evening. Dining in Paris or Rome, walking about and admiring the amazing hotels and casinos. I bet we walked 5 miles a night! It’s hard to say which was the most fun. Paris with the Eiffiel Tower or the Venetian with the Grand Canal. It is truly a Disney for Adults. But I believe the most amazing was our ride on the giant High Roller, a 550-foot tall, 520-foot diameter  Ferris wheel on the Strip. It takes 30 minutes to make one round. We entered just before sunset, the perfect time. We watched as the sun set over the desert and the strip came to life with all the glorious lights. I am not one for heights but we were in an enclosed pod with only 2 other people, so we didn’t feel claustrophobic and we could walk around and gaze out through the glass walls. I highly recommend it.

For more on what we experienced at World Cup Las Vegas, check out fellow photographer Terri Miller’s blog.

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