We’re done with Week 1 of the Olympic Dressage Selection Trials and Festival of Champions in San Juan Capistrano, CA.
It was hot.
No, I take that back. It was stinking hot.
Now, before you snicker and say, oh you San Diegans are just spoiled by your endless perfect 70-something weather, the thermometer in my car said 98 when we left the grounds at 6:00 pm. My friend Sarah, who photographs and writes for the Chronicle of the Horse, lives in Virginia and is no stranger to heat and humidity, and she was feeling lightheaded at the end of the day. As was I. And so was Axel, having taught a judges’ seminar while sitting in the bleachers in the hot sun all day long. So I can’t imagine what the riders were feeling, putting on black wool coats and riding in this heat.
Most of the horses appeared to not be affected by the heat — we saw several horses turning in tests that were “personal bests”. Others were definitely wilting, as were some of the riders! You can find stories about the competition at The Chronicle, as well as on the two websites that I was photographing for, www.phelpssports.com and www.dressagedirect.com. So here’s the weekend from the photographer’s point of view.
Did I mention that it was hot?
I’m glad I thought to pack a lunch cooler with some ice and water, because I got to the press tent on Saturday morning and there was nothing and no one there. It was the first day of a two-weekend-long show, so I can understand not having everything organized. But it was kind of difficult for those journalists who had just gotten off planes and hadn’t expected to have to go shopping for provisions on the way from the airport. The good news: the food vendor, (aside from having water at $2.50 per pint) was making root beer floats. One of those things that remind me of my childhood and summers on Jones Beach. Fortunately by Sunday morning there was one of those huge insulated cans filled with ice and bottles of water in the press tent — there were moments that I was ready to submerge myself in it!
We share the showgrounds at The Oaks with a big hunter jumper show that is going on at the same time. Parking is a trial. Press and show staff have to park about 1/3 of a mile away from the arena, next to the trailers and down a one-lane dirt road that winds past the manure dumpsters. It’s not really that far, except when toting equipment, but it was great fun walking on that road on Sunday as the vans were trying to pull out. My darling husband (and even though he’s judging on Week 2, he couldn’t park any closer) was chivalrous enough to help me offload my 60 pounds of supplies and equipment right at the entrance and then braved the far parking himself.
There are always vans and trucks going by the arena, and a couple of the Junior and Young Rider horses were startled by truck beds banging and other odd noises coming from just out of sight on the other side of the scrim. Not to mention that just as I’d line up a shot, along would come a big shiny van, right into my background!
The judges’ boxes were beautifully decorated with masses of orange and yellow flowers. With the sun coming from the “A” end of the arena, that should have been a fabulous background. Unfortunately, the “A” end of the arena was off limits to us. The sponsor tent was there, and we were not even allowed within 20 meters of that tent: a perimeter had been set up that could have protected a president…. When I discovered this, Axel called my resulting mood Channeling my Inner New Yorker. (You really don’t want my “INY” to be conjured up: I lived in NY for 35 years before heading to San Diego, and during that time I turned agita into an art form. San Diego, fortunately has nearly cured me, except at times like these when I feel like a female version of the Incredible Hulk.) By the last hour of competition on each day the sun had moved sufficiently for flattering pictures from other locations, but it was 2 long days of struggling with the hard solstice light before that.
The good news: getting home each evening and cracking open a beer has never felt so good. I think angels were singing as I flipped the lids of those Pilsners!
Here are a few favorite photos. Click here to see the whole Highlights Gallery.
Stay tuned this weekend, which brings the Brentina Cup (for young adult riders) the Intermediare Championship and the final Grand Prix and Freestyle for the Olympic Selection Trials. I’ll be again posting images to www.phelpssports.com and www.dressagedirect.com, starting with the jog on Thursday.