Articles: Press Release
WEG interview with Leslie Morse
The FEI World Equestrian Games 2006
August 25, 2006
(This interview came from Laura Petroff who interviewed Leslie Morse on her experience riding for the team at WEG)
The weather here has been a study in contrasts: long stretches of sunny blue skies interrupted by fast-moving slate-grey clouds that drop sheets of rain on the crowds -and the horses & riders. That sort of contrast also shows up in many of the dressage tests here, with rides that show astounding brilliance interrupted by a wobble here, a missed step there. Perhaps no rider demonstrated this contrast more than US competitor (and now Bronze Medalist) Leslie Morse on her 12-year-old stallion TipTop 962.
I interviewed Leslie today at the Grand Prix Special Championship. Although she's not competing, she's here to watch friends from other nations, and to cheer on her teammates Guenter Seidel and Steffen Peters.
GW: Tell me about the road that led you here to the WEG.
LM: The road was filled with a lot of ups and downs. I had hoped to make it here on Kingston because he had more experience, but unfortunately, he had a mild injury. The incredible thing is that I was lucky enough to have another wonderful horse with three beautiful gaits - my TipTop - and I believed he could rise to the challenge of a competition like the WEG, even though we only had about ten Grand Prix's under our belt. And I had never competed at a WEG.
GW: So what was it like, to compete here?
LM: Tuesday morning, when TipTop was getting braided, he knew this was big. When we were in the warm-up, crowds started to gather, and then when we entered the stadium, there was a cheer from the crowd. TipTop just filled with energy - it felt like he grew to about 20 hands tall! Then when we started the test, the crowd became completely silent. It was amazing. And TipTop was right there, right on my aids.
The first half of the test was amazing. He did beautiful half passes, he had a beautiful trot. I was having so much fun. Then he was able to show off his walk - which is really a highlight for him, he has such reach. He was really trying to stay relaxed. But at some point, the crowd was so quiet, and clicking of the cameras, and the reflections on all those camera lenses -- it was just too much for him. He lost his concentration; he started to back off from the cameras. I knew we were in trouble. We made a mistake in the tempis, and I tried to pet him and get him through it, but his nerves got the best of him. And then to top it off, in the canter pirouette he pooped. (laughs) And that got us 2's and 3's, where as we were getting 7's and 8's before that.
GW: So what was the high point of the ride for you?
LM: Of course, I remember how super he was for about 3/4 of the ride. He was getting 7's and 8's. He showed what he is capable of doing - he gave us a glimpse of the future! But I was also incredibly struck by how supportive the crowd was. When we made an error, the people in the stands made these sounds - not against us, but with total empathy, as if they were feeling what we were feeling. The joy of victory and the agony of defeat, TipTop and I felt them both, and the crowd felt them with us. Unfortunately, the folks back home may just read our score -a 64-and think: Oh, they did badly. But TipTop didn't do badly: it's just that he was so brilliant that he couldn't keep it going for more than 3/4 of the test. And that's part of the learning about how high to go, and how fast to get there.
GW: How did it feel to watch your teammates ride, and to ultimate realize that your team had won the bronze?
LM: I was in the stands with the owners of the horses because I was so nervous. It was all about being proud and cheering with them. And then I had a great time sitting in with Lisa Wilcox, doing commentary for Horse TV on Gunter's ride. There's no show like the Aachen show, so it's really been a pleasure.
GW: So, watching everyone else compete today in the GP Special, how do you feel that you didn't qualify and can't go on to the freestyle?
LM: If I told you I wasn't disappointed, I'd be lying. But still, I have to say that I feel incredibly proud of what TipTop and I, and the entire US Dressage Team have accomplished. On a personal level, I'm getting incredible support from all the European riders - they're actually talking about TipTop becoming a force to reckon with in the next Olympics. People have told me that TipTop gave them goosebumps. That gives me such confidence, because we want to move people. I think that's what this sport is all about. And on a team level, we've qualified for the Olympics by winning the bronze. It's the first time I've competed as a team member, and I'm bringing home a medal. Mostly, I feel like the luckiest person in the world!