France


In preparation for the 2010 World Equestrian Games at the Kentucky Horse Park, Australian driver Gavin Robson was based for a number of years in Ohio, and he became a familiar face to quite a few U.S. drivers. This year, Gavin’s Australian teammate, of course, is none other than the two-time defending World Champion, Boyd Exell.

Boyd will drive his dressage test tomorrow morning, but Gavin drove his this afternoon. We’re now at the mid-point of the afternoon session, and Gavin currently stands in eleventh place with a score of 62.36 penalty points.

After his test, Gavin said that his team is really young and still a little green. “For the two lead horses, this is the first time in competition with them in the lead, so I am really happy with them.”

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(Most of) the members of our CAA trip to the 2014 World Equestrian Games arrived in Paris on Tuesday morning. Then, after a welcome reception that evening, and after the jet lag had started to wear off, we boarded a bus, bright and early Wednesday morning, for our three-hour drive to Normandy … stopping for lunch in the beautiful little seaside town of Honfleur …

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In the afternoon, we enjoyed a really interesting hours-long tour of the Normandy beaches. Our guide’s amazing breadth and depth of knowledge about the D-Day invasions made the tour especially meaningful. We made a few stops along the way, including one at the American Cemetery, where we were able to explore on our own for a little while.

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At one end of the cemetery is this memorial …

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… at the center of which is a statue representing the youth and spirit of America, rising out of the waves …

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Our final stop was a brief visit to Omaha Beach …

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But, of course, what we’re really here to see is the Driving Championship at the World Equestrian Games … which began just a few short hours ago with the first of four sessions of driven dressage.

Former World Champion Ijsbrand Chardon was the very first to go this morning, and his test earned a score of 42.12 penalty points. He said afterward that he felt his test was the best he’d driven all year but that he was not very pleased with the score.

Currently standing in fifth place after the morning session is the U.S. driver Misdee Wrigley Miller, with a score of 58.05. After her test, she said she was “very, very excited” to be here at the World Equestrian Games. She said that she’d arrived in Europe in April with a slightly different team of horses, but that she fell in love with a particular (new) horse. So, she said, she’s spent the last few months reorganizing the horses in her team, and it all just fell into place in the last couple of weeks.

Through a comedy of errors that I won’t go into here, I didn’t get any photos of Misdee’s dressage test. But I will have my camera trained on the the other two U.S. dressage tests — Lisa Stroud this afternoon, and Chester Weber tomorrow afternoon — and on all three of them during Saturday’s marathon and Sunday’s cones competition. And, we hope, the awards ceremony!!

In the meantime, here’s a view of the leaders of a Spanish team as they trot up the center line …

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A year and about a week ago, A.J. and I were in Normandy for the first time, where we visited several of the beaches, monuments, and cemeteries.

In case you missed it on the blog then, here’s a look back at our visits to Omaha Beach and to Pointe du Hoc and a few other locations.

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Today and tomorrow, we’re going back to the CIAT Cuts (held in Cuts, France, back in May). The second morning of the competition featured the “country drive” phase …

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To read more about the entire Cuts competition, see our (A.J.’s and my) article in the August issue of The Carriage Journal. And to see Jacinto Planas Ros (above) and his pair of Spanish horses negotiating one of the exciting driver’s tests during the cross-country drive, check back here tomorrow!

A.J. and I wrote an article about the Cuts CIAT (which, as you may recall, we visited in May) for the August issue of The Carriage Journal. To illustrate it, I went through the several hundred photos that we’d taken over the two days of competition … and selected about twenty “finalists.”

These few, for one reason or another, didn’t make the final cut and so won’t be in the pages of the magazine, but I wanted to go ahead and share them with you here. I do still plan to post more photos from Cuts; needless to say, those won’t be the same ones featured in the magazine. I’m hoping to do this next week, now that the August issue is FINISHED. I hope you enjoy these, and stay tuned for more … both here and in the magazine!

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With the chateau in the background, Dominique Posselle (France), driving a mixed pair to an original-condition dog-cart built in 1899, is heading out on Sunday morning’s cross-country drive …

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Antonio Gutierrez (Spain) brought a traditional Andalusian turnout to the Cuts event. The carriage is a roof-seat break, built by Brewster in 1870. Here, he’s driving up to the third and final judge’s stop in the presentation phase …

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John Brown (Great Britain), shown here on the cross-country-drive phase, drove a pair of Gelderlanders to a demi-mail phaeton built in 1844 …

 

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This was the first year at Cuts for the Percheron stallions of the local state stud farm at Haras …

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Hugo Livens (Belgium) and his pair of New Forest Ponies, put to a 1905 derby cart, are shown here on the cones course. This turnout won the cross-country and cones phases, and the overall award, in the pair-pony division …

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A couple of days ago, I shared a few photos from our visit to Omaha beach.

Today, on the sixty-ninth anniversary of the D-Day landings on the Normandy coast, I thought I would share a few more photos from our visits last week.

First, another look at Omaha …

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A couple of views of the coast at Arromanches, and one from the cliffs, looking back toward the town itself …

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Looking out to sea from the remarkable preserved-as-it-was-left German gun battery at Longues …

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And, finally, several views of the craters, the gun-turret remnants, the cliffs, the coast, and the monument at Pointe du Hoc …

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This is rather off topic, but I thought I would share another then-and-now set of photos from our recent trip. While we were in Normandy, we visited several of the D-Day sites, memorials, cemeteries, etc. One of these was Omaha Beach. I understand that one of the things that made June 6th, 1944, so incredibly difficult for the American soldiers landing on that beach was, in fact, the beach itself … it’s incredibly wide and flat and completely without cover from the gunfire that rained down on them. Those same features, especially if one is visiting on a cool, gray day when hardly anyone else is there, now make the beach a remarkably beautiful, peaceful place.

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As we were leaving the beach, we walked for a bit along the trails on the dunes, which are now a nature preserve and filled with greenery, flowers, and birds …

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And then we happened on to this, just over the crest of the dunes:

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The visitor-information plaque says, “On 6 June, at around 10 a.m., hundreds of men were stuck on this beach amongst the destroyed landing crafts. In front of them was the small Ruquet valley, protected by two fortified points. Today, all that is visible is one large gun in its blockhouse [above]. It was hit by fire from an approaching vessel 1 km (1,000 yards) away, and was destroyed for good by a ‘half-track.’ The U.S. engineers immediately opened this road toward the plateau, and at around 3 p.m., the heavy U.S. equipment took this first, and only, cleared exit from the Omaha site. The 1st Division ‘Big Red One’ used the blockhouse as a command post, and soon, thousands of GIs took this road to liberty.”

This photo, from the information plaque, shows a 1944 view of the same blockhouse we visited, from about the same vantage point.

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