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The Carriage Commentator


Luca Cassottana


Watching & Warming Up

Travel these days is never certain.  After hearing that there was likely to be disruption at Heathrow due to the temporary cessation of flights for HM The Queen’s funeral, so that there were no planes over London during the processions, Tuesday would inevitably bring delays.  Not that something as momentous as a State Funeral always triggers travel problems – a change in the wind often seems to be enough.

However, it was refreshing to be proven wrong and despite being heavily requested to relinquish all our hand luggage on the Rome flight due to it being so full, all went well.

In one of life’s odd twists, I found myself sitting next to two couples who live in the village opposite the family farm in Aberdeenshire.  The confessed to watching the carriage horses and red deer as they play golf on the course on the other side of the River Dee.

Having failed to do any of the planned work on the plane due to gossiping, I bid my new friends farewell then had and inevitably Italian delay / misunderstanding in being picked up.  All was resolved in time and I was bundled into a van with one of the official FEI vets called Giacomo whose patchy English was vastly better than my non-existent Italian.

Since the Test Event in Pratoni in May, rain in the region has been sparce, but it felt like several months’ worth arrived on our journey past the City and to the verdant parkland of Rocca di Papa.  Although it didn’t last, it was enough to give the foliage and pasture a spruce up.  It’s fascinating watching the process of the people on the ground here dismantling the eventing infrastructure and constructing the driving.  For anyone watching the coverage when everything looked so tiptop, to see the cross country course a few days later, reminds one of the song ‘After the Ball Was Over…’

Meeting up with Caterina, Luca and the resident press team was welcome and made the place feel more familiar.  I then took a turn round some of the obstacles with Louise Parkes who has been writing for the FEI for years but not so versed in driving, so was keen to look at what the drivers and their horses will be facing.  We bumped into the Dobrovitzs and Dries Degrieck, who was talking about one of his horses being blind in one eye.  The obstacles look challenging, as they should at a World Championships, and there seem to be precious few opportunities to take any straight lines.  There is also a proliferation of knock down balls which have rather tilted the way the marathon is negotiated these days.

Running to Italian time, we enjoyed a lateish meal in the historic town of Frascati where most of us are staying.  In this region, they are masters at conjuring something fabulous out of a few fresh ingredients and the pasta somehow tastes so different from anything we find in the UK.

So, first thoughts.  The organisational team have done amazing work here since May when Pratoni was still being developed.  The setting here in the hills would be hard to beat and the arenas and course look superb.  Seeing all the mega lorries and kit parked up, the temporary homes and villages for the competitors and their entourages for the week is always awe inspiring.

But what really makes the spine tingle is seeing the extraordinary horses being gently exercised around the site, as singles, pairs and teams. Seeing them work together, watching the communication between the whole team is a privilege that never loses its appeal.