In 2008 it was Hannah, in 2011 it was both Irene and Lee that saturated the ground at the Laurels show grounds and challenged organizers and competitors.
Most of the heavy precipitation came on Tuesday and Wednesday. Those competitors who came Tuesday night were smart to stay parked on the hard surface surrounding the tent stabling and wait until morning for a tractor to pull them into their final parking space. Vendors also had to carry their wares a little bit farther, and porto-johns couldn’t be placed in as many locations as usual because of the soupy, soggy surface that sucked the boots off people and shoes off horses and ponies.
On Wednesday, show manager Jamie O’Rourke cancelled the Art Show scheduled for Friday night and the Competitors’ Party for Saturday. The area just couldn’t handle hundreds of cars coming in to park in a grassy field. Plans for a grand celebration for the 25th Anniversary of The Laurels at Landhope were washed up.
Dressage was driven in three different rings hoping that the footing would hold up. After several classes, judges moved en masse to the next ring, and then finally to the main ring for the FEI horse teams who were vying for the USET National Championship.
The course walk was cancelled, and the obstacle field was banned from any motorized traffic. Even so, the foot traffic in the obstacles was enough to turn planned driving routes into quagmires. Sections A and D were rerouted onto a normally quiet country road and shortened to just a couple of kilometers, with the rest halt at a local farm. Drivers went down one side for A and D and back along the other side to start on Section E. The number of obstacles was shortened to six for all levels, and then on Saturday morning, the decision was made to eliminate one obstacle for the Preliminary level.
While it never rained much after Wednesday, the humidity soared. Even with the shortened Section A on a firm surface, temperatures were high. At the end of Section E, temperatures were even higher. While no accidents involving competitors occurred during the event, busy bees sent several people who had allergic reactions to the hospital. The President of the Jury, Gerrit Kraai, was one bee-sting victim, but quick response by the paramedics had him back in his judging box not long after the attack.
The Laurels 25th was also 9/11’s 10th anniversary. Bill Venditta gave a brief but moving tribute to those who responded. The local fire department brought their ladder truck and raised the stars and stripes while the Star Spangled Banner played over the loudspeaker.
Jim Faircough, a double-digit runner-up to the USET National Championship, claimed the Vanderbilt Trophy for the third time in his long career. Complete results are available at http://www.drivingnews.us