Okay, so that sunshine and warm weather? Didn’t exactly last. It rained on Friday night, which didn’t really affect those of us who went to the USET gala at the International Polo Club, but it swamped the riders who were schooling under the lights for freestyle night at the show grounds. The rain moved out by Saturday morning, but the cold front that brought the rain also brought wind and chilly temperatures.
The competition, however, was hot.
Ravel came in lit up as brightly as the arena lights. The crowd was raucus and noisy during his ride, cheering for, well, anything Ravel did, actually. At one point Steffen, who never seems worried about crowd activity, quietly gestured that perhaps they take it down a notch. Ravel did a lot of things right, and turned in a really solid ride.
Isabel rode right after him. While she and Satchmo had a few glitches, they were mistakes caused by absolutely going for it. Satchmo has perhaps the most glorious half passes in the world, but he lost his balance during one of the counter changes and broke to the trot.
The crowd, by comparison with Ravel’s entry, was nearly silent when Anky and Salinero came into the ring. You could have heard crickets chirp, if any crickets had been daft enough to be chirping in the chilly wind that hadn’t let up all evening. Salinero was on his game, though. Anky’s ride plays up his strengths, which are, in fact, his strength and carrying power, and her music, as always, is compelling.
Salinero won the night, but these three horses are all so talented that any of them can win on any given day. As we photographers stood by the side of the ring we mused about how generous they are, how much is asked of them and how they all step up to the plate, even with the wind blowing, the flags and tents snapping and rippling, and the crowd cheering.
Now we’re on our way home. I’m still looking for that pair of ruby slippers so I can just click my heels together instead of trudging through airports, but they would have to be Ruby Slippers 2.0. Because once you’ve been in Wellington or San Diego, who would want to go back to Kansas?