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Kentucky Chronicles: Live from Lingen

Good Morning, last I left you with me getting ready to show at the big CDI at Lingen, Germany. Let me tell you all about it – another fabulous show under our belts!

One thing that is always interesting to me is how relaxed participants are about the veterinary inspection at most of the European CDI’s. I am sure at Aachen it is a bigger deal (I guess I will find out about that soon), but at the rest of the CDI’s I have competed at here, very few people really turn out for the jog. Coming from North America, we are used to getting dressed up, trying to make our hat head look somewhat stylish (in a flat and frizzy kind of way) and braiding and polishing our horses to the nth degree. Most of the other competitors jump off their horses, and will present them groomed but not braided, many still wet from a post ride shower, the riders in jeans or breeches, or lots of times a groom jogging the horse. The horses look fine, they are proven sound and ready to compete, but it’s just not the big deal it is in North America. For sure no “best dressed” awards are given out! And the judges and vets kind of hang out for a few hours somewhere and let people show up whenever they are ready to jog – at Lingen it was on a concrete path between a warehouse and (high speed) train tracks. We definitely got to see some high steppin’ horses when the train came whizzing by during the trot up!

Ayscha is very good in the jog, unlike many of the other horses I have had in the past – she shows off but always steps perfectly forward in trot, what a treat this is for me after having hung on for dear life to a multitude of wild things in the past. The wild ones tended to get me arched eyebrows from the judges and admonishments to “please train your horse better”. If they only knew that I did train them, and these horses jogged perfectly well at home, but then all hell would break loose when there were onlookers (usually only when these onlookers were important, too)!

I digress – the show at Lingen was only a dressage show – no jumpers, vaulters, or 3-Day event horses there. The ring was beautiful, set up once again in the middle of town. The stables were across the road in a huge warehouse. There were vendors all around the outside of the ring, and it seems that the public at European CDI’s really do enjoy making a full days outing at these shows, so there are many different food and drink vendors who sell a variety of good (sometimes spectacular) food.

It was a very close ring once again, with the spectators just a few feet away from the ring all around. Ayscha is learning to deal with this so well. She is very nervous in this show situation, but she seems to be able to focus on me most of the time during the test. We did a lovely trot tour in the Grand Prix, after the trot we were on a 73% average. There is a large scoreboard with a running cumulative average illuminated as the judges marks are entered into a computer. We started our canter well, but then she got a hair behind my leg just as we were coming into the one-tempis. I couldn’t get her in front of my leg well enough, and she got all tangled up in her legs! We got straightened out by X, after which I tried to fit in all 15 one-tempis. Did you know that is almost possible? We got 13 before running out of diagonal. We recovered in time for decent (not great) pirouettes, and finished the test quite well. I got 3’s for the one-tempis, and it is a double co-efficient. That gets very expensive! So, I was happy to finish with a little over 67%, and a 7th place in the Grand Prix, and a spot in the Grand Prix Freestyle on Saturday evening. Whew!

The following night we warmed up in the dusk, and into the fully lighted ring we popped. OK, I thought she was nervous in the Grand Prix, but this was a whole ‘nuther kettle of fish. I am always proud to ride her, she is such a gorgeous creature, and this was no exception. She did beautiful trot work, did a huge spook in the walk (she got a longer rein and really took a look around – I don’t think she liked it too much)! But I managed to get her back and we were off to a pretty good canter tour – a spook at the same place in the two-tempis, but we did get to prove we could do ones. So I was quite happy to get almost 70% from 5 top judges. I have to say I was smiling almost the entire test – I do love my freestyle music (it’s Carmen and Pachelbel, but in Flamenco style).

Ashley Holzer and Pop Art won the Freestyle that night with over 76% – It was so great to have her win at a big CDI in Germany, to see the Canadian Flag raised and hear the Anthem. Wow. There were no Americans there, which was a shame. I think the American riders are off to a wonderful show in Austria (the Swarovski people own the stable in the Alps – it is just beautiful and lots of sparkly stuff there….)

So now I am back in Belgium – Robert wants me to try and get Ayscha’s canter more uphill – I do understand what it needs to be like, but I think it might take more than a week to get there. Her trot work is just fantastic, but she does need to get stronger in the basic collected canter. That’s OK; it might take us a year to get it where we want it. It takes time, and I really just am happy we are getting around the ring with few mistakes now. I hope this week in Rotterdam we can make a mistake free test.

That brings me to Rotterdam – it’s coming up and it’s a huge show – a CHIO (same designation as the Olympics and World Championships). We are now a TEAM, and there are team awards. AND I get to see the amazing Totilas and Parzival in flesh. I have seen the videos and I hear that in person it is even better – so this is going to be fun!

Until next week,

Shannon and Ayscha

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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