“We drew the short straw being first out, but it was kind of good in a way as we didn’t have anything to really question yet. I just had to react to what was going on, and it all worked out!” laughs Ryan. “The course, it was different to what we’re used to [in the United States], it came at you a bit and I wasn’t used to riding a course like that. Everything worked out for me, not necessarily plan A that I had, but we were still able to make it happen.”
Ryan was complimentary of the Adrian Ditcham-designed course. “I think that is the sign of good course design; it had lines set up that could be done in different ways… you had options, depending on how your horse read the jump in, to how you could jump out of combinations. I thought it was really well done.”
Cooley Flight (Plot Blue x Making Moments, by Laughton’s Flight) has always been reliable in the show jumping phase, and at Boekelo he once again jumped clear. “It’s his second year at the Advanced (four-star) level and he wants to jump clear. It was nice that he recovered well after the cross country and then we had [Equestrian Australia’s eventing team coach for show jumping] Nelson Pessoa there to warm us up and he had some great little exercises that we did in the morning; it just got the horses thinking a little bit more collected and reset them from the galloping the day before. Cooley Flight went in there and tried that little bit harder… he wasn’t going to touch a rail.”
The pair ultimately finished on a score of 42.6 in 31st place, a fantastic effort from a very competitive field of more than 100 combinations. In the end, it was only their dressage score of 39 holding them back from a higher placing. As the very first combination into the dressage ring on day one, it was no easy task, and as Ryan explains, the atmosphere at Boekelo was electric.
“The dressage was disappointing; we had warmed up and he was feeling as good as he’d ever felt. The ring there, everything is really close; the spectators are quite close to the edge, and there are lots of decorations, flowers and flags. It was a little bit electric. We were first out, and he felt that. We had a couple of costly mistakes, which was a shame, but we picked ourselves back up and finished well.”