Commentary

X: You're Out

X: You're Out

Isabell Werth's mare, Bella Rosa, came up lame on Day Two of WEG.

Photo: Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA

There can hardly be greater disappointment for a Grand Prix dressage rider than traveling all the way to worlds just to find out your horse can’t compete after all.

At the 2014 Alltech World Equestrian Games (WEG) here in Normandy, France, that’s been the fate of four dressage riders so far. Sunday morning’s bright and early trot inspection landed two horses back in the barn: Kazakhstan’s Donpetro and Norway’s Carte d’Or. 

Then Tuesday afternoon, bad luck struck Brazil’s Luiza Tavares de Almeida when the judges rang the bell on her Lusitano, Pastor, just seconds after their test began. The 18-year-old bay stallion entered the dressage ring “clearly lame in the hindquarters, and quite uncomfortable,” according to Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) judge Stephen Clarke (GBR). “He looked fine just before,” Clarke told me after the competition.

But pas de chance in France for Tavares de Almeida—her Pastor must have made a funny move or somehow injured himself between the time he was preparing just around the ring and the time he moved in to start the test.

“It’s really too bad,” Clarke said, genuinely disappointed. “But I couldn’t just let the horse go on like that. He was obviously uncomfortable.” A teary-eyed Tavares de Almeida left the stadium amid throngs of cheers in support of the South American rider who’d come so far to end like this.

Back in the warm-up areas outside the stadium, news of Pastor’s dismissal seeped among the teams like a bad odor. “So awful,” some of them were saying. “How far did she get?” others said. “She didn’t even get the first diagonal,” another said. “She didn’t even get to X.”

Didn’t even get to X. A truth so harsh it was deafening. When they heard that, the teams stopped speaking of it and went back to their preparations for their upcoming turns, all hoping they’ll have better luck than the one who didn’t get past X.

The one who got X’d before she even got to X.

But then bad luck struck again before the night was over. Isabell Werth (GER), still reeling in the glory of the German team gold medal earned with her new mount Bella Rose, discovered that her horse was lame. The 10-year-old sorrel Westphalian mare, who opened Day Two of the competition this morning at 8 a.m., was suffering from an acute inflammation of the sole of her hoof 12 hours later. The decision came down hard: no Top 30 Finals round for Bella Rose.

X. Out.

Wow, tough. Sure, at least Werth and Bella Rose didn’t come to WEG for nothing. They do get to go home with a gold team medal. But Bella Rose was showing some real promise. One person said to Werth at the press conference, “I’ve never seen you ride another horse the way you ride Bella Rose,” and she just smiled. She knew, she agreed. There was something special about Bella Rose. Special enough to make her the top horse on the gold-medaling German team. Special enough to give us all a real show Wednesday morning for the Grand Prix Special. If only….

If only she hadn’t gotten the X. That ugly, ugly X. 

About the Author

Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA

Christa Lesté-Lasserre is a freelance writer based in France. A native of Dallas, Texas, Lesté-Lasserre grew up riding Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and Shetland Ponies. She holds a master’s degree in English, specializing in creative writing, from the University of Mississippi in Oxford and earned a bachelor's in journalism and creative writing with a minor in sciences from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She currently keeps her two Trakehners at a competition stable east of Paris. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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