Courageous Comet Puts Forth a Stellar Effort at WEG

Wow, it’s been awhile! I have had quite the workload the past couple weeks, which is why the blog hasn’t been updated as much as I would have liked.

I know this is old news now, but I had the opportunity to go out to the Kentucky Horse Park twice during the FEI World Equestrian Games here in Lexington over the last couple of weeks. First I went on Sept. 29  to see my husband, Steven's band play in the Experience area:

 

Then, on Saturday, Oct. 2, I had the pleasure of watching Becky Holder and her ex-racehorse Courageous Comet compete in eventing cross country.

I had never seen this discipline in person, and really didn’t know what to expect. My friends and I decided to dress up a little bit, but that turned out to be a mistake. Between the extreme weather that day (considerably hot in the afternoon, then chilly with gusty winds later on), all the walking we had to do in order to see multiple jumps along the course, and the huge crowd we were weaving in and out of (50,000-plus!), I was definitely wishing I had worn something more comfortable.

But the event itself was nothing short of amazing and breathtaking. We stood at one of the water jumps when we first arrived, which is where I saw Holder and Comet coming through the course. There’s usually around a 10 minute or so gap between riders, and then suddenly, whistles are blown, the crowd is parted, and a hush settles over the throng of people who are all straining for the best view.

After extensively interviewing Holder for a pre-WEG feature, it was so neat to see her and Comet in person, galloping along the course, splashing through the water, gliding over the jumps. I imagined the 14-year-old gray Thoroughbred back in his racing days and was in awe of his handsome stature as he concentrated on his task at hand. The pair seemed to float along the course with such ease, and later when I watched their entire run on TV, it was all the more impressive to witness their seemingly  flawless performance.

Becky Holder and Courageous Comet

"The Head of the Lake series of fences was fun and rhythmic and the help we got from the crowd was a lifeline as well,” said Holder in a release following the event.

Holder was referring to the series of fences from which we viewed her and Comet, so I was happy to be a part (albeit a small one) of one of her most enjoyed portions of the course.

Sadly, even though Holder and Comet ended up in third overall as individuals by the end of the day, it was announced the next morning that following a veterinary inspection, Holder had decided to withdraw her horse.

According to a U.S. Equestrian Federation press release, "Courageous Comet lost a front shoe on the early part of the cross-country course on Saturday and appears to have overcompensated in the opposite leg. He is happy and comfortable back in the stables and is getting the best care available by some of the best veterinarians in the world to ensure a full diagnosis."

More details about the condition of Courageous Comet, who US eventing team veterinarian Brendan Furlong said would make a "full recovery," can be found here on TheHorse.com.

While I was certainly disappointed for Holder and Comet, the fact they had even made it as far as they did—the fact they were even named to the US team—certainly deserves some accolades.

We stayed for most of the afternoon at eventing cross country, and I have to say I was quite nervous seeing some of the horses barely grazing over the various jumps and fencing. Some lost their footing, while others refused certain obstacles, which made it all the more impressive when another horse-and-rider pair glided over a particular jump with no hesitation.

A WEG contender makes his way over one of the more challenging jumps

Toward the end of the day, as we were walking down a hill and away from the course to grab some food, we suddenly heard whistles blowing furiously and people screaming for a medic. Iman du Golfe, an Italian horse, had been injured at fence 20, and I immediately felt my stomach go in knots. There was blood, there was a screen put up around the horse. But…it turned out he was okay, as was his rider, Juan Carlos Garcia, who was taken to the hospital to be treated for minor injuries.
Iman du Golfe had a suffered a deep laceration and a small bone chip in his left elbow region, but veterinarians at Rood & Riddle reported the next day that the horse would most likely make a full recovery, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

I will have more coming for you next week when I talk about another fun encounter I had at WEG—meeting Ron Turcotte, jockey of Secretariat, who was signing autographs at the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation booth. Such an honor!
In the meantime, I would like to hear more about some of your own experiences at WEG. Was it all you had hoped it would be? Was there anything that surprised you? What was your favorite event or best part of the experience?

Read more behind-the-scenes stories about WEG on this blog on TheHorse.com.

15 Comments

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Wahoowa95

Thanks for the great story on Courageous Comet. As an eventer myself, I have seen a number of ex-racehorses go on to compete very successfully in eventing (as well as hunter/jumpers). So it's great to raise awareness on this as a very viable 2nd career.

We went to the team jumping finals on Oct 6 and were quite impressed with the caliber of the horses and riders. The courses looked quite challenging and a worthy test of the world's best. Very exciting!

12 Oct 2010 3:11 PM
Rachel

He lost the shoe at the around the 3+ minute mark, so went 8 minutes over that cross country course with 3 shoes...the commentators were saying he's the horse all the other competitors want to try!

I've loved him for a long time...Becky is a great partner for him. They had a very nice dressage routine, too.

I couldn't be there, but I watched it all!

12 Oct 2010 4:53 PM
txhorsefan

Thank you very much for the update on your time at the WEG and seeing Courageous Comet.  I'm sorry to hear he had so much difficulty, but its a relief to know he will be all right.  Hopefully just his being a part of the US Team will give others a desire to choose a retired TB for their next eventing partner.

12 Oct 2010 5:29 PM
Dianap

Thanks for the great piece about Comet. At the TRF WEG booth we played the video of Comet breaking his maiden at Belmont. It was great to watch him in race and then see him at his real calling.

12 Oct 2010 8:30 PM
MRO

I taped the TV coverage to watch during the evenings this week. I had hoped to catch a glimpse of Courageous Comet. He appears to be such a beautiful boy. Hopefully, he'll help to convince more 3 dy eventers that OTTBs are the way to go.

12 Oct 2010 8:55 PM
Catnip Lane

I went on 7 days and enjoyed every minute of the games!  Not only was the competition exciting, but all the other exhibits and demonstrations were entertaining and informative as well.  I watched a lot of the horsmanship gurus (Clinton Anderson, Pat Parelli, Lynn Palm, John Lyons, etc) and was amazed at all the information that was available for free with a day pass!!  I watched my first vaulting event (freestyle team) and was totally blown away by what they can do on a galloping horse.  I wish I had takent the time to see some driving.  Overall it was a great experience!!

13 Oct 2010 8:14 AM
annie

YES...CC is beautiful and was going great....then he lost a shoe. What a shame, his poor foot, running on that ground without protection. The course was scarey, hard to watch at times. Lots of TB's. The US show jumpers don't like TB's, they should, because they really boombed out.

13 Oct 2010 9:13 AM
Pedigree Ann

The winner of the 3-Day was at least 3/4ths Thoroughbred - officially a warmblood, his sire and damsire were both TBs. The second finisher is 7/8ths TB. Charisma, the legendary New Zealand-bred mount of Mark Todd, was 63/64ths Thoroughbred. The Thoroughbred is the basis for all the cavalry breeds, and it was testing cavalry mounts that the 3-Day was originally designed to do.

13 Oct 2010 9:58 AM
Linda in Texas

What a beautiful horse. The photo of Holder and "Comet" coming out of the water was breathtaking, he looked like a statue, just perfect and 14 years old and my favorite color to boot.

What a wonderful testament for a retired racehorse. I hope this gives other's the thought of following in Holder's footsteps with the likes of all the Courageous Comets waiting.

It is inspiring and gives true hope for second lives for all thoroughbred horses.

13 Oct 2010 12:04 PM
KarenK

Thanks for highlighting the joy of owning and riding an ex-racehorse. I'm blessed to have one named Bourbon Boogie in my life, he's a pleasure to be around as well as a great foxhunter, eventer, dressage horse, and trail rider. I had the pleasure of watching Cross Country at WEG from his back as a Mounted Steward. Best seat in the house!

13 Oct 2010 12:56 PM
Rachel

The USA eventing team had 7 out of 10, including substitutes, that were TB's, though I think CC was the only OTTB...Woodburn is a New Zealand bred TB, Neville Bardos is an Australian TB and Bally Noe Castle is an Irish TB...substitutes for the WEG Event Team also had TB's Mandiba, Tru Luck and Leyland....Canada has several TB's on their eventing team.

Poggio from the 2008 Olympic Team was also an OTTB...

13 Oct 2010 4:13 PM
HollyT

Becky Holder and Comet were the only team I really got to watch on TV the day it was one and let me tell you what, that horse is amazing. I've never seen one so calm and so responsive going though an eventing course. That horse would have bent over backwards for Becky if she'd have asked. You could tell too during the ride that Becky noticed he had lost his shoe too and compensated for it the best she could without injuring her horse. That is a great rider. I can see these two going far together.

13 Oct 2010 6:13 PM
ALGAJA

I love Courageous Comet. I have ever since I saw him go at Galway Downs in Southern California. I watched his XC it was fabulous. I wish he would have been able to finish.

14 Oct 2010 12:07 AM
Laura

I have watched Becky & Courageous Comet at Rolex a number of times, they are always one of my favorites.   Was at the Head of the Lakes this year for Rolex and got to see them jump, and got some great pictures of them.  

14 Oct 2010 12:55 PM
Springfield

WEG was not the "world class" event I'd hoped it would be. As you mentioned there was much walking to be done about the broad expanse of the Horse Park. I trust you took notice of the quarter of a million golf carts that were zipping about? Where was there a decent shuttle system that took one anywhere in the park? The pathetic tractor-drawn people carriers were slow, not friendly to the disabled or elderly and only stopped 4 places in the park. The carbon foorprint must have been huge with all those gas-driven carts. Why weren't there more shuttles stopping everywhere in the park? Did every team, volunteer and athlete really need all those carts. What an experience it could have been if visitors could have mingled with competitors more easily! There were hundreds of carts parked at any time outside buildings and venues.  

Don't even get me started on the price-gouging. From the hotels, to the foot on site, to the $20 to park in a pasture and then hoof acres to a shuttle, to the closing ceremonies that started at $80 and then decreased in price until they were letting everyone in the gate the night of.

I think too many politicos were involved in the "planning" who viewed this as merely a cash cow and not enough horse people who would have known waht was really needed.

I hope there is some sort of feed back site set up so we can do better the next time, if there is a next time.

21 Oct 2010 12:06 PM

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