This was quite a day for the U.S. Equestrian Team, with Olympic gold medal
eventer David O’Connor on Giltedge and his teammate, John Williams on
Carrick, tying for second with 34.2 penalties to put their nation first as
the dressage phase of eventing got under way.
“It’s a good time to be an American,” said David’s wife, Karen, neatly
summing up the positives. She didn’t make the squad after her mount, Regal
Scot, got hurt in his stall before the final team outing in the U.S. last
month. But she was here to support her husband, who also got congratulatory
hugs from his mother, Sally, and father, John.
David got a big cheer from the fans after his final salute, and I’d like to
think a good part of that applause was for Giltedge. It will be the last time
David appears in a championship on his “old friend,” because the 16-year-old
horse will end his career next year with Badminton, if he’s fit to run. David
thought about that before he rode down the centerline.
“There’s a moment of nostalgia, almost,” he said about the experience. While
U.S. supporters were literally jumping with joy after the performances by
David and John, this event most certainly will be most influenced not by
dressage, but by what happens in the cross-country Saturday at a facility a
short drive from the main stadium in Jerez.
David called the course “very tough. I think it’s a little unpredictable.
There are places where you are not going to be quite sure what’s going to
happen. It’s going to be a real rider instinct course.”
Asked about his chances for an individual medal here, he replied, “When
you’re with the team, you have other jobs besides yourself. The experts will
tell me what I need to do, and I’ll go do that.”
The Australians, gold medalists in the last three Olympics, will be tough to
beat. While USA-based Aussie Phillip Dutton stands first on House Doctor with
33.6 penalties, he is riding as an individual, rather than a member of the
team. But without him, his nation is second to the Americans on a total of
84.80, to the USA’s 68.40. Britain is third on 87.60, but their biggest gun,
European Champion Pippa Funnell has yet to compete in dressage.