Good Morning – another sunny and brisk day in Europe greets me. It gets light here before 5 am, and it gets dark sometime just before 11 pm. It is hard to go to bed at a reasonable time when I am still outside at 10 pm on most days!
On my last blog I was on my way to Wiesbaden. It took me 4 hours to drive to the show from the home base in Belgium, but the horses took 7 hours. The big trucks are only allowed to go 90 km/hour, and the driver has to take a 40 minute break after 4 hours of driving. The car drivers are not governed the same way however – as soon as the German border is crossed there is often no speed limit and it’s just crazy how fast some of the drivers go! I learned very quickly not to stay in the fast lane – Pass quickly and get back in the right lane before someone in a Porche or Mercedes mows you down!
Wiesbaden was an absolutely gorgeous city on the Rhine River. It’s crazy how they can make a complete horse show grounds out of a beautiful park with nary a horse on the property for 360 days of the year! German efficiency abounds as everything needed for a huge show is trucked in, including footing and stadiums. Just unloading the horses takes hours – and forklifts to get the trunks where we need them. Imagine hundreds of horses being unloaded at the same time from gigantic horse vans in a place designed to park a few tiny cars… Hmmmm.
The show included international dressage, three-day eventing, vaulting and show jumping, so there were just tons of great horses here. For the first couple of days Ayscha was a bit overwhelmed by the atmosphere – imagine having to ride through a sea of people, including grannys with walkers and babies in strollers while the three day cross country is going on 10 feet away. The horses are galloping pell mell and the people are 10 deep on the same path I have to ride on to get from the barn to the ring and back again. Ayscha quite politely shouldered her way through the crowds and we made our way without running anyone over.
The dressage ring was in front of a beautiful palace – it was a fairytale setting! The only part that was not fairytale was the extremely close proximity of the hundreds of spectators. They were within feet of the arena, and while it was just super to have so many people watching, Ayscha was peeking at them throughout the test – it was pretty scary! I love that the public is so into watching dressage – and they seemed to be a knowledgeable crowd. Many of them brought picnics and spread out to watch the warm-ups and all the tests – it was literally a day in the park for them! I think both Ayscha and I learned a ton during this show – after this tour in Europe very little should be scary for us.
We rode in the Grand Prix on Sunday – it was a qualifier for the Grand Prix Special. Ayscha did a lovely test, mistake free and ended up with over 66%, which was enough for us to make it to the Special on Monday. !YAY! One judge gave us over 69%, which of course I think we earned – but unfortunately one gave us a 63%, so that kind of cancels out the good mark. I was very careful riding her as she was quite looky and and still worried, but my girl stayed with me the whole time. I need to make all the work bigger and more powerful, but that will come as she gets both stronger and more experienced. I have to keep remembering that she is only 9 years old, and the youngest horse in all these competitions so far. The competition was very fierce, as the top German riders are all out in force to get points for WEG. The most obvious thing was the incredible quality of all the horses competing here – in Florida there were up to 50 horses in the Grand Prix ring, but truly only the top few would be competitive here.
My Grand Prix Special on Monday was also good, but she was a little more fragile in the connection, she was a little tired I think. I got a nice walk to piaffe transition, and the final pirouette/one tempis/pirouette line was pretty good, and those were the two movements I was worried about. I got creamed from a couple of the judges because my curb rein was way too loose (she doesn’t like the curb so I ride primarily on the snaffle, but it should not be so obvious – oops).
So back home on Tuesday and then tons of laundry, which is a slow process when the machines are small and a load takes two hours to complete. Then drying the clothes by draping them over every piece of furniture in my caravan. Wednesday Ayscha got a rest, so I was up early and drove five and a half hours back to Germany to Wolfram and Brigitte Wittigs training stables. Another beautiful barn. Wolfram trains Isabel Werth and a number of other top riders, and he still competes Grand Prix very successfully. My friend Viola (who helped me find Ayscha) brought one of her Prix St George horses to the barn, and I had a great lesson from Herr Wittig. What a treat! After a short visit I drove the long way back and fell into bed back in my caravan.
Thursday I gave Ayscha a light ride (Robert Dover was in Prague having a well deserved holiday) and Friday work started again. We are working on a more through and uphill canter – it is hard for Miss Ayscha to keep it all together in the canter still, but she seems to get stronger and more confident every day. On Wednesday Astrid Appels from www.eurodressage.com came to watch us train and see beautiful Jewel Court Stud, and there is a lovely article right now about the day on www.eurodressage.com. Right after Astrid’s visit we loaded the horses up and took off for the show in Lingen, Germany, and now I am sitting in the stables waiting to braid my horse – we jogged yesterday and I show the Grand Prix later today. Hopefully I can get a good enough score to ride in the Freestyle tomorrow night.
If you want to see some of the rides, there is a great website at www.clipmyhorse.de – it shows all the shows live streaming, and if you become a member you can get to archived rides as well! It’s a great site if you like to follow the shows in Europe.
Off to braid now, wish me luck! Show nerves are starting…..