by Fran Jurga | 16 April 2009 | The Jurga Report
I'm gobsmacked again: the American flag is flying high over the Thomas & Mack Arena in Las Vegas tonight, where the American combination of rider Steffen Peters and the black 11-year-old Dutch gelding Ravel put in an astounding performance to beat the best that Europe and the world could send to our desert to compete.
For those of you not familiar with international dressage: this is one for the record books and would be like the USA winning the soccer World Cup! It's not over yet; tonight's Grand Prix was like the short program in ice skating; the freestyle on Saturday night will give the Europeans some chances to catch up, should Peters lose form.
Peters and Ravel not only bested Olympic gold medalists, World Cup winners, World Champions, and European Champions tonight, he beat his closest rival, defending champion Anky Van Grunsven of Holland, by almost four full points.
As elated as we all should be for Peters, save some concern for his teammate, Leslie Morse, whose horse Kingston started his test without incident and suddenly went lame in the arena.
USEF Dressage veterinarian Dr. Rick Mitchell has had the 17-year-old stallion under his care since the horse arrived in Las Vegas on Monday and said in a statement provided by the US Equestrian Federation that Kingston had been training well and looked very much on form in Wednesday's training session in the main arena.
Dr. Mitchell, in his typical routine at a horse show with the US horses, observed Kingston in the warm-up and then went to the arena to watch Morse's fellow American Jan Ebeling. And with good reason: Ebeling and the 12-year-old Oldenburg mare Rafalca were the lead off combination for the entire Grand Prix. Rafalca, owned by Ann Romney and Beth Meyer, was clearly unsettled by the environment and atmosphere in the arena and was fractious in the arena, according to a memo from USEF. Rafalca's low score will not allow that US combination to continue on to Saturday's freestyle.
When Kingston began his test it was clear that he had some discomfort in the left front leg, something that was a surprise to all connected with the horse, as he has had no problems in this leg during the preparation for this competition.
Rider Morse said: "I could tell in the first corner, he felt unbalanced and I knew he wasn't right. We respect the Ground Jury's decision to ring the bell and we all agreed it was absolutely in the best interest of the horse which is always the most important consideration. Kingston has just been a gift for the last nine years and has introduced me to this level of competition."
"We need to further examine Kingston to determine the nature and extent of the injury," said Dr. Mitchell. "Everyone is devastated for Leslie and the horse."
Thanks to Joanie Morris of the US Equestrian Federation for her assistance with this post.