My Favorite WEG Moment

Well, the World Equestrian Games have finally ended and I've had a chance to watch all the tv coverage and catch up on a few un-televised performances online. There were some bad moments and good, some shocking rides and some inspiring. But more than anything, there were some amazing horses (who are the real athletes here but are too often were overlooked in favor of their "celebrity" riders and trainers.)

So my favorite moment of the entire event had to be this one:

Upon becoming the winner of the showjumping gold through a challenging format in which the top four riders had to ride each of the top four horses with little preparation, Philippe Le Jeune (Belgium) put in an impressive series of rides on all four horses.  But even more impressive, to me, was his reaction afterward when he joyfully hugged and kissed the horses who won him the gold.

It's not often you see a rider at that level show any affection or even gratitude toward their horses.  Usually they simply hand them off to a groom and walk away.  And after the disqualifications for bloody mouths and other shameful displays, there was something about this reaction that just made my day.  I don't know anything else about this rider, but he won a bit of respect from me and my congratulations go out to him and all the horses, especially Hickstead for his "Best Horse" award, which he clearly deserved - what an awesome horse!

I'd love to hear about your favorite moments  :-)


  1. I'd have to agree with you, this was my favorite moment too. Philippe Le Jeune was definitely my favorite rider in the events. He showed a lot of class and I feel he treated all the horses he rode with the respect they deserve.

    I believe he's the only one who actually gave the horses he rode a pat at the end of the courses to thank them and not the big hard slapping on their necks so often seen. He gave the appearance of really liking the horses and hugging and kissing them was moving. Most of the riders just hand their horses off to a groom and walk away more involved in themselves than their partners.

  2. class and respect - those were the words i had in mind too. those used to be qualities integral to the sport, and the definition of good horsemanship! but you don't see them much today.

    and a rider is only half of a team - it's nice to see the horse acknowledged for his contribution!

    and i've never understood how a horse is supposed to know a hard crack on the neck means praise. i got all choked up when he hugged those horses - it's something so natural to me but such an unfamiliar sight in that world...

  3. how neat! I have be just getting my WEG experience through blogs and this video is new! :) I like anytime I see a reward for the horse. A question though: What kind of bit is that horse wearing? I am unfamiliar with it.

  4. Thanks for showing this - I'd never have seen it. I haven't watched any of WEG except for the little bit of dressage stuff online.

    It's nice to see someone actually showing affection versus the anonymous slap on the neck.

  5. GPG - thanks for visiting. glad you enjoyed it!

    and now for my lecture on bits! you'll be sorry you asked ;-)

    the bitting in question is a combination of a mechanical hackamore and a snaffle connected with roundings like those one might use to convert a pelham to a single rein. here the shank of the hackamore and the snaffle are connected and a single rein operates the whole thing.

    the shanks on the hackamore portion mean it works by leverage on the nose, lower jaw and poll. the longer the shanks, the more leverage, and the thinner the nosepiece - usually metal or chain covered in leather or rubber - the sharper the action. there can be a curb chain or plain leather strap under the jaw depending on the desired severity across the sensitive jawbones.

    milder versions are available, but this is probably the most extreme version and not something i would ever use on a horse, though they are growing in popularity in the jumpers, particularly after people see their favorite riders using them.

    essentially they are brakes, and there is no possibility of true rein aids apart from direct opposition (straight back and stopping) or possibly neck reining (this type of hackamore is more popular in western riding for this reason.)

    the snaffle works similarly to a regular snaffle, though with some limitations imposed by the roundings connected to it.

    one of the big disadvantages to this configuration, besides it's severity (and the skill and care the rider would need to use it humanely,) is that, with the roundings in place, there is no separation of rein effects. i'd have a lot more respect for this bitting combination if both parts operated independently on 2 reins like a double bridle. of course, then these riders would have to really know what they were doing and have amazing hands! few riders could probably handle that with finesse.

    what's more, because the rein can slide up and down on the rounding, whether the snaffle or the hackamore will predominate is based on where the horse's head is positioned and the direction of the rider's hand when pulling, giving a very muddled and variable effect for the horse to try to decipher.

    i hate to be too critical because the horse did perform amazingly and i have ridden extremely tough, hot horses like this who required some creative solutions (my jumper mellon is a prime example) but usually we were able to work through most of those issues with some patience on the flat and schooling gymnastics. that is becoming a big debate these days: does dressage/flatwork improve or ruin good jumping? it's a topic i'd love to open up for discussion here in the future!

    i'm not opposed to mixing hackamores and bits; classically trained horses were often ridden in a combination of cavesson and bit (with 2 reins,) and there are bitless bridles out there that can be used in conjunction with a bit. even the micklem multibridle offers bit clips to protect the bars of the mouth and transfer excessive bit pressure to the noseband rather than the mouth. all of these are good ideas. i just think this particular combination is too sever and too imprecise for most horses and riders, even on a horse as strong as hickstead. but hey, i'm not the one who gets to ride and train him ;-)

    sorry, this answer turned into a whole post on its own. thanks for the question!

  6. billie - yeah, i'm a showjumping nerd, so that was bound to be the highlight for me anyway. competitive dressage usually disappoints/disgusts me. but jumpers, even when it's badly done, is still one of the few totally objective sports - no judges to play favorites or favor stupid trends!

  7. Best horsemanship at the games in the show jumping ring as far as I was concerned.

    My favorite moment as well - Phillipe Le Jeune had equally sensitive and beautiful rides on all four of the horses, not just his own. His (final) ride on Hickstead was mind blowing. What a consummate horseman he is. He brought tears to my eyes when he hugged his horse...

    I read a post ride interview with Le Jeune where he stated that he liked horses better than people, and loved his two sons... but really loved his horses. I believe he also stated he wished they could live in the house with him (the horses) - or something to that effect lol!

    Regarding hackamores - I believe two of the four horses rode in straight hackamores and one in a hackamore /snaffle combo.

  8. valentino - he did do a wonderful job with all the horses. i hate to say, but i like horses more than most people too ;-)

    that's interesting about the other horses. i will have to go back and take a closer look at their tack. when i was doing jumpers the gag/hackamore combos were just becoming popular and it seemed like pretty soon everyone was using one. i wonder if this is the new big thing?

  9. Well this wasn't my favorite moment because I was so smitten by that reiner ridden by Shawn Flarida their ride for the team gold is that for me BUT this was clearly my second more favorite moment. I remember thinking at the time "WOW! This guy actually appreicates all the horses and he gave credit to their owners and riders as well. Very cool.

  10. i was also impressed with the reining horses (sorry, don't remember any specifically ;-) it's not a discipline i'm very familiar with, but the horses were gorgeous and i was surprised at what an international sport it's become!

  11. I was in tears of joy myself after watching Philipe win the jump-off (saw it on TV). He was SOOO happy and SOOO appreciative to the horses. I thought it good sportmanship as well when the other riders all embraced him and celebrated with him.
    I saw something similar whilst watching the eventing show jumping in person. There was one rider, about 1/3 of the way through the lineup (i.e. not anywhere near medal contention) who was absolutely THRILLED when his horse went clean. He galloped round and round, hugging and patting the horse, fist-pumping, cheering and just generally enjoying the moment. I thought that was great!

  12. i have a bad habit of painting all riders at that level with the same brush, so it's always so heartening when i see respectful, compassionate riders who seem to be in it for the right reasons :-) glad to know there are more out there than i ever imagined!


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