Karen & Pat Garrett sent this report and photos from earlier today:

At the end of dressage on Friday, three seems to be the lucky number for the USA. The U.S. team is in third place. As reported yesterday, Jennifer Matheson won third place in pony-pairs dressage, and today Shelly Temple’s result from yesterday was confirmed as third in the single-pony dressage. Meanwhile, to support the U.S. team score, Lisa Stroud had a solid seventh place in the four-in-hand division.

While Shelly was third overall, she was second among the countries with teams. Her score of 44.67 was barely beaten by the 44.03 of Dutch driver Yvonne De Ruyter. The overall singles winner was Peter Koux, an individual driver from Denmark, with a 41.47. The defending gold medalist, Melanie Becker from the Netherlands, was one of the last to go and earned a 52.75. Individual single-pony driver Suzy Stafford had a 45.08, and team single-pony driver Randy Cadwell had a very lovely test with a 48.13.

In the pony-teams division, Lisa Stroud, as the sixth driver to go, briefly held first place until an onslaught of primarily German and Dutch drivers took the top score down to a 38.53, driven by Tobias Bucker, the reigning four-in-hand champion from the 2009 World Championships. U.S. driver Laurie Astegiano had a strong 56.70, which provides the U.S. with some security as we enter the uncertainties of the marathon phase.

All in all, it was a good two days for the U.S. in dressage.

The nations’ team standings are Germany (123.01), the Netherlands (132.86), USA (141.95), Hungary (152.71), Great Britain (152.83), and Austria (173.69). As we all know, anything and everything can happen in the marathon and cones, and the U.S. team has a credible chance of improving its position.

As was the case yesterday, there was some inconsistency in the judging and as the scores are analyzed, one may notice a higher coefficient of coincidental national scoring than one would hope.

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Janelle Marshall (photo by Karen & Pat Garrett)

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Laurie Astegiano (photo by Karen & Pat Garrett)

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Lisa Stroud, entering the tunnel into the main arena (photo by Karen & Pat Garrett)

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Randy Cadwell (photo by Karen & Pat Garrett)

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Suzy Stafford (photo by Karen & Pat Garrett)

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The marathon starts at 9:00 Saturday morning. The singles are first, followed by pairs, and then teams. The first U.S. driver, Suzy Stafford, goes at 9:25 a.m., and the last is Lisa Stroud at 3:10 p.m. It will be a busy day for the U.S. supporters.

In walking the obstacles, we found them to be challenging but not impossible. Most seemed reasonably open, but as all drivers know, a seemingly open hazard can quickly be filled up when you drive in. The first is appropriately open to allow the ponies to get their “marathon minds.” The second has a long run in and, once A and B are navigated, the rest flows easily; however, the surface is gravel and a fair amount of sliding may be expected. Number 3 is generally open, while number 4 has a severe elevation change, and the turn following C will be challenging against a steep slope. The water hazard, number 5, is interesting with only four gates and a concrete surface with the potential of slipping. Obstacle 6 again has severe elevation changes with tight turns. Again, number 7 is open, and the final obstacle is very open and will likely be a “pony race.” All in all, for obstacles built for singles, pairs, and teams the necessary compromises have been well handled.