The Portuguese have one of my favorite words in existence. Saudade. A deep emotional state of longing or nostalgia for something or someone you love dearly. Usually around week 6 or 7 of Thermal is when I have absolute saudade for the beautiful green grass of the Blenheim Spring Classic in San Juan Capistrano. So after the nail biting, heart attack inducing Sunday Funday in Thermal, I couldn’t wait to pack up the trailers and get back on the road to salvation.
I already mentioned the Dane’s 2nd place finish at the FEI 3 Star at the Blenheim Spring Classic. However, I will quickly mention that it was not all sunshine and butterflies for the Dane this past spring. The final GP of that show was his mulligan round. Though of course unlike in golf or in horse poor households, show jumpers don’t usually get a second chance on GP day. Never finding a good rhythm on this very challenging course that included open water, and a huge see through California Bear wall jumping into a berm full of spectators, the duo had a very unusual 12 fault score. But as the Dane knows, if you don’t make mistakes on these courses, how will you know what to work on for next time.
And next time just happened to be the always exciting $100,000 Del Mar National Grand Prix. We only get to attend the well-known Del Mar Fairgrounds for 2 horse shows a year, which is a shame because the indoor arena and the local spectator audience creates the most vibrant and thrilling show jumping experience in California. This show in particular is one of the few times that show jumping actually has the appearance of a well attended sport. The megatron, flashy jumps, and enthusiastic crowd are equally electrifying and terrifying for a horse and a horse show girlfriend. We had no idea how the pint-sized Stallion would react to the many spectacles of this nighttime class. But first they had to qualify.
The week started off with a bang, the two finally beat out the Master of Faster, Richard Spooner, in the jump off to take home the blue ribbon in the $1000 1.45 Jumper Class.
The $25,000 qualifying class was a bit more of a challenge for many of the riders, which I believe was the course designers intention in order to make sure the best of the best were moving on to the $100,000 GP. Even though the Dane had a beautiful fault free round, he didn’t get the memo that the class was in fact a speed class not a jump off class. So while he was placed just outside of the ribbons because of a few seconds, fortunately the two still qualified for the Saturday Grand Prix.
That Saturday night I was sitting in the nose bleed seats at the closed entrance opposite of the in gate. I remember seeing the Dane ride Colicchio up to that closed gate to let him get a glimpse of the action to come. The two looked like casual spectators, the Stallion once again seemed totally unfazed by the commotion. His ears and eyes were focused with anticipation instead of anxiety, like he couldn’t wait to get in there and put on a show for what he thought must be all is of his own personal fans. He’s quite the show off and loves all of the attention, a total opposite of his Danish mount.
But Colicchio’s laid back attitude is a testament to how the Dane interacts with him on a daily basis. Case in point, coming into the Del Mar Arena that night on a leisurely long rein, strolling around, sniffing the ground like a big puppy on a Sunday walk in the park. But the bell rings, reins come up, and Colicchio is ready to rock. Seeing the round live was of course exciting, especially since they went clean with some fantastic audience ambience of oohing and aweing at the Stallion’s panache. However, what I really enjoyed was watching it again online with the always colorful commentary of Susie Artes. She was co-announcing with Rob Gage, who was just discovering the unusual talented Colicchio. She was assuring the skeptical Gage that this little anomaly was a pretty careful and talented stud, and would have no problem clearing the large fences even with his plunging head and loosy goosy legs.
Gage was impressed and both seemed equally excited to watch the pair in the jump off. Now as jump offs go, the crowd always want to see the riders push the boundaries of the course, make seemingly impossible turns, and of course go fast as hell. The Dane and Colicchio did not disappoint! Eight horse and rider combinations went to the jump off, the two underdogs dead in the middle of the order and 3 of my 4 favorite fast competitors were in the mix with them. Spooner, Mandy and Michelle P. Spooner came first clinching the early lead, no surprise there. After a few great efforts but failed attempts at besting the Master, the audience was ready for somebody to rise to the challenge.
Just that week I told the Dane if you want to win a GP in California your jump off time better be under 40 seconds. Spooner’s time clocked in at 41.801 so I knew someone was going to beat it. What I didn’t know was that someone was going to be the Dane! Damn they were so good! The crowd was literally roaring with excitement at the dynamic duo’s performance. Their time was 39.588, more then 2 seconds faster then Richard. WHAT!!!! My mind was officially blown.
But of course with 4 more riders to come and 3 of them being crazy fast and talented female riders, I wasn’t sure how long he could hold the lead. Two of the 3 ladies came out guns a blazin’ with clean rounds just edging out the Dane’s lead by less then 1.5 seconds. But 3rd place was a much deserved reward for the Dane’s hard work, and it turns out despite not taking home the blue ribbion, it was Colicchio and the Dane’s jump off ride that everyone was buzzing about after the show.
The two announcers said it the best after he galloped out of the arena.
Rob Gage: That’s a million-dollar horse isn’t it?
Susie Artes: These days it’s more then that!
The little Stallion who everyone counted out just a couple of years ago was suddenly worth his weight in gold. But the Dane knows that money can’t buy dreams. And it seems the Dane has a different kind of gold dream in mind for Colicchio…
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