Colicchio: The Road to World Cup


by Renee Spurge September 16, 2018

Let me tell you it’s a tad bumpy. Oh and a hair long…like a 2500 mile round trip.  But yay Canada!!!

 

At the end of last year, the Dane set out to make a plan for the 2018 show calendar. It actually didn’t quite involve Canada… But if you know the Dane like I know the Dane, then you know that he is not exactly an efficient planner. He is more of a “let’s play it by ear’ kind of dude.  Second when he does make a “plan” it pretty much changes on a daily basis, which begs the question if there really is in fact a plan!  Being a naturally anxious planner myself, I always like to know what to expect of my schedule.  So needless to say since we have been together, half the time I have learned to play it by ear, and half the time I am exploding with nerves about the uncertainty of my future.   Colicchio and I are always waiting to see what happens next!

But to the Dane’s credit, even though he has spent many sleepless nights vacillating between sticking with the plan and changing the plan, he is at least still moving towards the ultimate end game of the plan, showing at the FEI level and introducing the Stallion to a handful of World Cup qualifiers.   With the success of the Del Mar National under his very stylish Iago belt (yes of course I give him cool stuff to wear!) the duo were on an upward trajectory towards greatness. Next stop, two weeks at the new Temecula Valley Horse Show presented by Nilforushan Events.   This show is the one to watch in California.  The main arena and surrounding facilities echoed the stylings of a chic European horse show.  The entertainment factor was also on point, making the spectators and participants alike feel a sense of excitement and belonging.

Photo credit: Elaine Wessel/Phelps Media Group

The Dane and Colicchio were nothing short of perfection, placing in nearly every big class they entered as well as taking home their first big Grand Prix win of the year.  The Stallion, with his flashy good looks, puppy dog eyes, and willingness to perform, has acquired himself a following of groupies.  And they actually follow him back up to the barn so they can ooh and awe and dote on him.

All of the attention is creating a bit of a cocky bastard.  So what better way to cool off his ego for awhile then to take him up to Santa Ynez Valley for a two-week jaunt while the Dane and I go to Europe. 

 

When we came back to the States, all of a sudden Canada popped up on the plan.  Now we have discussed going to Thunderbird for at least a year now, but it was more of a “one day” kind of dream trip discussion.  I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the mileage it would take to get us there. But the Dane made up his mind, he was going to drive the Stallion up to TBird and do his very first World Cup Qualifier on the grand grass field in Canada. 

 

He committed to doing both weeks on the Tbird grass, however not having shown for well over a month now, he needed to get the Stallion back into action before the long haul.  The plan once again changed, and we both found ourselves at Showpark for two weeks. He in the arena and me in my trailer.  I guess a girl has to work sometimes!  Showpark proved to be a bit of a speed bump in the road.  Even though nothing especially dramatic or tragic happened in the show arena, nothing spectacular happened either.  The two lacked their former luster, and the Dane knew he had to get his brain focused and back in the game before Tbird.  In their defense, Showpark can be a bit of a kill joy!

After 7 years on the road I have experienced the rise and fall and then sometimes the rise again of California Horse Shows.  I still can’t figure out why there is such a disconnect between show managers and basic customer service skills, but something told me the answer was in Canada.  So I decided to fly up for the World Cup Week and find out for myself if the infamous Tbird hype was true. I would then take the plunge and drive back with the Dane and Colicchio to California. Eek!

It took the Dane two days to drive up to Canada, with a quick stop at a friend’s place in Talent, Oregon.   The Stallion travelled like a rock star, no fussing or flailing, just his usual casual and curious self. 

However, when they did arrive to the fancy FEI barn in their two horse trailer, the Stallion made sure to let everyone aware of his magnificent presence. The Dane later confessed to me that he felt immediately out of place, coming in solo, with his handful of Hefty trunks and noisy stallion.  I was surprised at his discomfort, because usually he’s as laid back as they come. Nothing usually phases or bothers him much, besides me of course! But he was surrounded on all ends by an elite group of riders with equally elite bank accounts.   Money has a funny way of making even the most confident people feel inadequate at times. How could he, with his one good horse, and no team of helpers, possibly go up against these seemingly unbeatable odds??? The Stallions was like, I got this, I can do it even with my eyes closed!

And once again the two rose to the occasion..

They placed in 3 out of the 4 FEI classes, including taking home 4th in the 1.50 $100,000 Sunday Grand Prix. 

I was pumped to come up to see the two kill it again the second week, this time in their first World Cup Class.

Ok so apparently I am the bearer of bad weather and there is a strong argument for me being a jinx.  The sunny warm weather of the first week became a faint memory the day I arrived. We were definitely in for a colder and wetter week.  But that did not deter my enthusiasm for spending an almost work free week at the beautiful Thunderbird Horse Park.  The one thing that didn’t disappoint was the hospitality.  After years of being treated like a second class citizen as a vendor, and even as a sponsor, I was floored at the kindness, generosity, and sincere enthusiasm for wanting people to actually have a good time at their horse show!  The management was out and about everyday checking on every detail, greeting guests, making everyone feel welcome, and always asking what else they could do to serve us. It is no wonder their horse shows sell out in minutes.

But what was disappointing, was an unfortunate mishap the first day of competition. The Dane took the Stallion out for a quick warm up gallop on the trail around the horse park in the morning.  And just like that it was as if the ground was pulled from underneath them and the Stallions legs slid out bringing the two down in a flash of what the heck was the that! The Dane was shaken and of course feared there could be a potential for injury.   However, the hearty little stud got up, shook himself off, and appeared happy as ever.

The Dane, on the other hand, was officially spooked.  And when the Dane gets something in his head, it begins to take root and spread like wildfire into the paranoid corners of his mind.

I had hunkered myself down in the hospitality lounge (otherwise known as VIP) overlooking the Grand Prix field.  Did I mention management gave me a comped week pass of VIP as a first time guest at their show?  Something I don’t even always get with my paid sponsorship! Take notice US Show managers…you are failing miserably next to these fine Canadians.  The first big class of the week was a speed class, not always the duo’s forte, seeing as how the Stallion still likes to spend so much of his time in the air.   It’s important to note that the course designer would also be designing for the upcoming World Equestrian Games, and he had a particular taste for an extremely robust forward moving course with endless bended lines.

To my amateur eyes, other then one rail towards the beginning of the course and a couple of time faults, I thought the two looked ready for the challenge of the week.  And this is where my potential jinx status comes into play. I found out after the class that the two had another fall, this time in the warm up just prior to the class start.   They were simply doing a downward transition from the canter and the Stallions step caught in the sticky footing, once again pulling his legs out from underneath him.  And though luckily both again were uninjured, the spook was officially set into the Dane’s brain.

The greyness settled into our week like an unwanted pest.  The Friday qualifying Grand Prix didn’t garnish much of a different result, one rail coming down plus some time on a once again hair twisting difficult track.  Immediately following the round, the Dane made the decision to not take his chances in the Sunday World Cup Class.  He simply did not feel he was ready for the challenge.   

Once the decision was made, the indecision began to follow us around for the next 2 days.  And the peanut gallery of experts on the Dane’s decision didn’t help the matter! So after the firm decision on Friday not to go into the class, by Saturday afternoon it was revoked, and the plan was to just go for it.  Now I was on board with either decision as long as the Dane was fully committed to whichever he chose. But I knew in my heart that the week had rattled any sort of real mental commitment from him either way.  So my fingers, toes, and every cell of my body were crossed with hopes that the two would get around their first World Cup course without catastrophe.



It didn’t help that the Canadian weather was hell bent on showing off while I was in town, unloading buckets of rain Saturday night and Sunday morning. Luckily the grass field had been designed with the courage to withstand such a beating, and the first class of the day went off without a hitch.  In fact, the riders in that first Grand Prix went around much better then they had all week, and I was hopeful that the course designer had loosened his grip on trying to thwart the competitors.  

Alas I was wrong, and the World Cup course was the stuff of technical disasters at every turn. Not to mention the fences were almost all built to spec, towering over the riders as they walked the soppy course.  I chose to stay clear of the warm up, and just try and enjoy the first 9 riders before the Dane was up on deck.  The second rider, a strong amateur with a super talented horse went clean.  Ok, I breathed, with almost 30 riders to go this was going to be a potentially good class.  Well, there was not a single clean round after that one.  Yup a big fat dud of a World Cup Class with no jump off, rails breaking, horses stopping, time faults everywhere… 

So you are of course wondering how did the Dane and Colicchio fare against this treacherous course?  The reality was the Dane’s initial gut feeling that this was not the week for his World Cup debut was spot on. First and foremost, he went in way too timid, with the Stallion lagging behind his leg from the get go.  Now they have lollygagged around a Grand Prix course before fault free, but that’s when the fences were 1.40-1.45. The talented Stallion has even managed to go clean on that lower gear at a 1.50, showing off his super horse athleticism, but this course had no room for a reticent pace. And while they managed to clear the first part of the course, the leisureliness caught them at the triple bar. 

Then coming into the daunting triple combination, after the first fence the Dane knew he didn’t give his mount a chance to make it all the way through without a potential disaster, so he pulled up in the middle.  He circled back for another attempt, but he did what he yells at me for doing all the time. He approached it the same way as the first try, and this time it was Colicchio that was like, “no man it’s not going to happen,” and the two were sadly eliminated.

Not exactly the happing ending I was hoping for at this stage of the story. However, it is just the universe telling me that it’s not the end I should be focusing on, but rather all the good stuff that happens in between. 

So more in between to come as the fall horse show schedule is just around the bended line…

 




Renee Spurge
Renee Spurge

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