This was definitely the *Las Vegas* World Cup, complete with Vegas style shows. Grand Prix Dressage started off with an Elvis impersonator and his four showgirls. That's something neither Ruth nor I were expecting. Oh my.
The Elvis face on the arena had lips moving in time to the words it was singing. And lights, of course. Lights and noise were the continual focus of the week. Too loud for Ruth and me. We wore earplugs.
At least there was relative quiet during the rides, all of which looked fantastic to me. Even those who did not place so well still scored in the high 60s. Here is Axis TSF ridden by Terhi Stegars from Finland. They ended up 13th out of 18 with a final score of 69.87. Look at that horse sit!
The lowest of the 18 scores was 66.971. Pretty darn impressive dressage. One mistake in the changes or maybe not quite enough elevation in the piaffe or a slight loss of balance in the piroutte... was all that separated most of the rides. (We know this from the excellent commentary by Axel Steiner that was coming through the earbuds we paid extra for. It was invaluable to have his knowledge and explanations throughout the rides.)
Of course, we were rooting for Laura Graves and Verdades, who came out of nowhere to make the U.S. Olympic Team. Here they scored 74.314 to place 5th. And they've only just begun: last year was "Diddy's" first year at Grand Prix! Wow.
I liked this pretty Painted Black, ridden by Morgan Barbancon Mestre of Spain. They came in 6th with a score of 73.786, barely squeaking by Hans Peter Minderhoud of the Netherlands on Glock's Flirt who had a score of 73.657 for 7th.
But the horse we had all come to see was Valegro, ridden beautifully by Charlotte Dujardin. I did not get many photos because, to be honest, I was too engrossed in just watching. He is simply magnificent.
The judges thought so, too. He scored 85.414 for first, of course.
But our perennial favorite is California rider Steffen Peters, this time on Legolas. Steffen won the World Cup with Ravel, now retired, in 2009. He loves his horses and they him. "Legs" was a bit tense in the electric atmosphere and enthusiastic crowd, but listened to Steffen and performed well.
But next up was Edward Gal of the Netherlands, whom we last saw in Kentucky on Totilas at the World Equestrian Games in 2010. This time he was riding Glock's Undercover and scored 79.057 for 2nd place.
The last ride was Jessica von Bredow-Werndl from Germany on Unee BB. They gave another beautiful ride that scored 74.843 for 4th place, just ahead of Laura Graves on Verdades for the U.S. with 74.314.
So many close scores. So many beautiful rides.
What a show!