The Race to Le Lion: 'They Did It!'

Authored By: Judith McSwain










BOOM . . . Today I start with an ending. They did it and did it RIGHT. Rory and Tamie finished double clear! More of that later. I woke early today after a restless sleep. We are all a bit nervous, the stakes are high. Each of us dressed in our carefully selected red, white and blue clothing combinations. We wanted to make sure there was no doubt who we were rooting for and where we were from. We stepped out the door, walked down the street, wow. The sleepy little town had exploded. The bridge was blocked off. People, young children baby strollers and dogs were everywhere. The event was expecting 45,000 spectators. The excitement started.

Tamie and Rory were scheduled to go out of the box at 1:00 p.m. The 6-year-olds started at 11:00 a.m. We had some time, the obvious default was the trade fair. I now own a beautiful short cropped oilskin coat and a brown felt hat, an absolute must for every southern California resident.

We headed up to wish Tamie and Rory “bonne chance” (good luck in French). Rory was calmly eating her hay. She came over to greet us and asked politely where her apples and carrots were. We gave Shannon the bag for later, grabbed our flags on a stick and headed out to cross-country. The design of the facility and course has one or two places where you can see multiple fences. The best way to view is walk gradually around the course.  Walking the course was like a being on a slow conveyor belt that slowly flowed around the course, it stopped as a horse approached the jump you were nearing and restarted as the horse galloped away. It was 5 to 20 people wide. You could leave the group at any jump you wanted to watch for a period of time and rejoin when you wanted to move on. It just kept flowing. It was all very civilized everyone kept moving in one direction. We saw a variety of sights as we slowly went with the flow, four old men standing by the jumps drinking their wine, friendly sweet donkeys carrying baskets for recyclables. It was wonderful to have the distraction, which kept my mind off the elephant in the room, the 7-year-old cross-country.

We saw 6-year-olds in every size shape and color from France, UK, Ireland, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Holland, Belgium, Italy and China. Some rides were smooth and seemed effortless, others seemed a work in progress. We saw the CCI2* jumps and, the butterflies started. The water complex and combinations, as always had large groups of people, yet I was still amazed at the size of the crowds in all directions. It was overwhelming.  It hit me, “what will Rory think?” The excitement grew and nervousness edged in. We walked back to the start. Along the way we were warmly greeted by some of the individuals we met on dressage day. They wished us the best of luck. We met French spectators who were not horse people and who spoke limited English. We spoke limited French yet we had a conversation about Rory and they wished us luck as well.

It was time. I saw the beautiful grey and white tail flying over the warm-up fences. Rory was jumping out of her skin. Clearly Tamie and Rory were ready, so I was as well. We headed off to the start box, flags in hand. My friends, Lynette and Barb were cheering, waving flags making noise for 10. GO USA. I was ready with my camera and BOOM . . . they were out of the box.

We saw the first fences and planned to view the jumbotron. Well it was not quite as planned. We hear, “Tamie Smith and Fleeceworks Royal” followed by French phases and wondered what was said. It was a long four minutes in the dark and then, they popped out of the trees, dropped off the bank and jumped the b and c element on a soft rein. Go Rory. Go Tamie. They headed to the spider, then to the chess board and finally to the last fence. On the jumbotron, I suddenly noticed the count down in the corner. It looked like great time. It looked like they were going to go double clear. I was jumping up and down. They crossed the finish with seconds to spare. THEY DID IT! I am not really sure how to share the feelings. I was consumed with feelings of joy, relief, excitement and happiness. Tamie Smith and Fleeceworks Royal, representing the USA, were third go in The 7-year-old FEI World Breeding Eventing Championships. They threw down the gauntlet and finished DOUBLE CLEAN. GO USA!!!

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  • Judy McSwain