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Sunday, September 14, 2014

World Equestrian Games By: Anna Buffini

WEG 2014. Wow!!! World records, Rain, crowds, Nutella crepes, Laura Graves and dancing ponies! These were just a few highlights from my mother's and my trip to Caen France to watch the World Equestrian Games.
We I knew it would be a special experience, but never expected the magic that would happen during our 6 days there. The first day the weather was overcast and rainy, not a favorite for us California girls, we were all bundled up much to the surprise of the locals in their T-shirts who looked at us like we were Eskimos. There were 100 dressage horses in the competition in all, the most ever for the dressage part of the WEG, so they split the team test into two days. Each and every rider was so focused and all of the horses new it was game time. One aspect of the competition that stood out to me was how serious everyone is about dressage in Europe, we are slowly but surely becoming more horse savvy in the US, but at the WEG there was a filled rugby stadium of 20K people to watch dressage and they are into it, gasping when the horse missed a tempi change or a quiet wowwww would fill the stadium after a perfect piaffe. It was so fun seeing each country show support for their teams, Spain would do their version of a train clap while the horse was making it around the outside of the arena, the Dutch wore extremely bright orange shirts and jackets that you could see from a mile away, the Americans always had on some form of red white & blue with matching hats and carried little US flags waving them wildly after each US team member rode. One of the surprises of the trip was that we were in the same hotel as the US team! Running into Laura Graves or Robert Dover in the lobby was such a treat and the entire US team and USEF staff were so welcoming. After the US team rode for an incredible 4th place in the first leg of the competition, it was time for the Grand Prix Special and Freestyle where the riders would compete for individual medals. There were so many incredible rider and horse combinations that I had never seen in person and let me tell you, YouTube does not do them justice. Damon Hill, Parzival, Verdades, Bella Rose, Valegro!!! Just a few names of the horses that danced their way into my heart. Laura Graves is a huge topic in dressage right now and she deserves everything that's coming to her, so young yet a very mature person and rider. Laura and Verdades made a lot of new fans worldwide at the WEG, and the sky is the limit for that pair. Charlotte and Valegro are just as good as everyone says, the arena was their canvas and they painted a stunning picture as they ran away with the gold medal in the Grand Prix Special and the Freestyle.  There was no beating Valegro this show but none the less the 18 freestyles were unforgettable, with Laura Graves placing 5th in the world and Steffen right up there at 10th. US dressage is fighting their way back into medal contention internationally and a true force to be reckoned in the years to come. On our off day we took a tour of the massive beaches of Normandy and the beautiful American Cemetery, it really put in perspective what the US and allies had to overcome in order to win WWII and gave me an even bigger sense of pride to be an American and hopefully ride for my country one day.
The overall the experience at the WEG was unforgettable and so inspiring, especially being a Young Rider and seeing so many younger people competing successfully. It doesn't have to be a fairytale dream that is decades away, it's attainable & shows that with an immense amount of hard work, anything is possible. It definitely motivated and inspired me for the U25 next year, my goal is Aachen, and my dad always says a goal is a dream with a deadline, and I'm more determined than ever after France to chase my dream. Watching the WEG was fun but hopefully in the future, I can experience it from the back of my dancing horse.

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