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Hello from beautiful Belgium!

Hello from beautiful Belgium!

The trip was loooong – it started at 9 am when the transport truck came to pick Ayscha and I up at our farm in Loxahatchee, Florida– he took us down to a quarantine barn near the Miami Airport – where we stayed until 8 pm that night. The best thing? An incredibly cute mini pony and her teeny 2 month old foal. I guess the mare came in for a pre-flight quarantine, and promptly had a baby! Babies can’t be exported, so they have to wait until the (did I say teeny tiny) baby is old enough to fly. That should be soon, but it will mean a much more boring quarantine barn. The baby looked exactly like a stuffed toy!

I had a vet come in and tube Ayscha with fluids and electrolytes because when she is stressed she won’t eat or drink. That made me much more comfortable for the flight. The flight itself was uneventful (thankfully) and we landed in Amsterdam at about 2:30 pm the next day. Then we waited….. and waited…… I had another vet come and give Ayscha IV fluids while we waited….. and waited. Finally 7 hours later we were give the OK to leave and off we went to Belgium on a great big truck. At midnight we arrived at Jewel Court Stud, and boy it was a very cold night! Double blankets for my Florida horse, and a warm mash. She was finally hungry enough to eat, and she rolled and rolled in the huge beautiful stall – the shavings were 2 feet deep! The other Canadian horses were already happily ensconced in the barn, so they welcomed her with nickers and snuffles.

I am staying in a caravan at the barn – what it lacks in amenities it more than makes up for in location! I wake up to two year olds galloping in the fields, and can wander outside any time to check on the horses.

The next day I rode her lightly – she was vibrating with excitement the entire ride, but I had to keep it short and only walk/trot. There is an indoor and outdoor with absolutely gorgeous footing, and a giant jump field with permanent derby jumps in it. But the best thing of all is the hacking – they have a huge forest at the edge of their property that has meticulously groomed trails throughout. So far I have been safe in my venturing, as I think it is completely possible to get lost in there! But Ayscha just loves going in there! She snorts the whole time, and dances along, but never thinks about turning around, she is always interested in what awaits her around every curve and corner. We have gone in there after every lesson for a hack – it’s quite a reward for working hard.

Oh – that reminds me I should tell you about our lessons! Robert Dover arrived the same day I did, and he was at the barn first thing Thursday morning. I just hacked Ayscha but he taught all the other riders. I started with him on Friday, so that means I have had 3 lessons with him so far. Every day she is getting stronger and back to her old self, in fact today I had the most amazing passage and piaffe. There are no mirrors in the outdoor, but Robert said her knees were up to her eyeballs in the pi and pa. I could see them (what??? Was I looking down???) and THAT is pretty exciting to see (and ride)!

I have to say how great the other riders here on this tour are: Belinda Trussel from Toronto, Bonny Bonnello from Calgary, and Wendy Christoff from Vancouver. Soon we will be joined by Ashley Holzer who lives in New York City. It’s quite a diverse crew, but boy do we all get along well. I think it’s the first time I have been on a team where it actually feels like a team. We all watch everyone’s lessons, and give and get so much positive feedback. It’s a wonderful feeling to have others along with me during this endeavor. We are all working on our fitness regimens too – most of us are used to riding 6 – 8 horses a day, so riding only one feels weird. I have been running (the weather is perfect for it) and I found a gym today that offers spin classes, so I will be starting those tomorrow. Robert’s a fitness fanatic, so his leadership has definitely made an impact on all of us.

Ayscha gets an easy day tomorrow – just a little work on collected and extended walk in the indoor (so I can see her in the mirrors) and then a hack in the woods. Then Tuesday is working again, and Wednesday I will be warming up and riding a practice Grand Prix test. Thursday we travel to Wiesbaden, Germany for the first CDI competition. This is a very big show (nothing like jumping in with both feet) at a stunning place – we ride on a huge grass arena with a castle right behind us.

I am scared and excited about this first show – It is a big step for my baby girl – and the last time I rode in big European shows was in 2004. But I know how good my horse is, and I know that I can ride her calmly and well, and we will prove that we belong there. Next week I hope to be reporting on really positive results!

Born in Austin, Texas, Shannon grew up outside of Vancouver, Canada. Her mother Jacqueline Oldham is a "S" judge in dressage in both Canada and the USA. Shannon was lucky enough to grow up with horses in her backyard, and evented up to the Intermediate level as a teenager, as well as show jumped and worked on the Thoroughbred racetrack, all this despite having a dressage enthusiast for a mother. She went through the Pony Club levels, to attain her "A" status at 18 years of age, and also got her Canadian Coaching Level2 status. After completing a Bachelors degree in Animal Science at the University of British Columbia and a Masters degree in Equine Nutrition and Physiology at Texas A & M University, Shannon went on to be faculty at Lakeland College and Olds College in Alberta, Canada, and then moved to Massachusetts with her husband Lorne to take up a faculty position at Johnson & Wales University. In 1994, Shannon spent many months in Holland as a working student for Bert Rutten- this was when she decided to get serious about dressage. She rode in her first international competition in 1995 in California, and was long-listed for the Canadian equestrian Team in 1996 with Madison. In 1995 she bought her first real star, Korona, as a 3 year old from Bert Rutten. Shannon trained Korona from the beginning. This partnership was very successful: beginning with an Individual Silver Medal at the Pan AM Games in 1997, they never looked back. Korona and Shannon represented Canada successfully at the Grand Prix level for many years. In 2002 at the World Championships in Spain they were the top Canadians, finishing 23rd in the Grand Prix and 25th in the Grand Prix Special. After winning the Canadian league World Cup Final in 2002, they represented Canada at the World Cup Final in Sweden in 2003. In 2003 they also were a part of the Canadian Team at the Open European Championships in England, which secured an Olympic berth for the Canadians for the following years Olympic Games. In 2004 they had a very successful training and competition tour at top International competitions in Holland, Germany, and Austria, but did not represent Canada at the Olympics- Korona was ill during the first of the Canadian Olympic Selection Trails.

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Posted in SmartPak Features, Stories & Adventures, Team SmartPak, Travel

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