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2010 CDIO Rotterdam

Here I sit roasting in my caravan in Belgium – How did it get this hot? Very suddenly! Last weekend in Rotterdam I had to buy myself another winter parka and buy Ayscha a fleece blanket (exactly what we need in Florida) ☺ It was so cold there my hands were frozen stiff and didn’t work well at all, and I swear the rain was coming down sideways at times.

Rotterdam was another learning experience – and not all learning experiences are great fun. Ayscha was in roaring heat again leading up to the show. One thing I learned is that bringing a mare to a breeding farm is perhaps the best way to bring a mare into a very strong heat. She sees and smells all the young stallions and the mares and the cutest foals ever, and she tells me her clock is ticking – She is only 9, but she wants a baby now! Anyhow her concentration was not at her best, and she was sore over her left lower back. Then we also pushed her a little more in the lessons before this show, and the combination was just too much, she was not a happy camper.

She passed the jog with flying colors, but she did not feel as soft and secure in the connection over her back as usual. One thing I have been able to say with confidence is my lovely and very green mare tries so very hard for me in the scary rings at WEF (Florida), Wiesbaden, and Lingen – but here she did not want to try for me. The only thing this can mean is that she was uncomfortable, so I decided to retire her from the Grand Prix. This was so disappointing for me – I was quite dejected for a day or two.

I was not too disappointed to take great pride in my other teammates – Ashley, Belinda and Bonny put in lovely tests to finish the CDIO in 3rd place right after the Netherlands and Germany – this is HUGE! It makes the possibility of a team medal in Kentucky more than just a pipe dream. Bonny rode a very fine Grand Prix Special, while both Ashley and Belinda qualified to ride in the freestyle on Saturday night against the very best in the world (including the mighty Totilas and his rider, Edward Gal). Saturday night we are thankfully seated in covered seats (with at least 3 coats on each) while we cheered on our teammates and competitors alike. The weather was pretty atrocious – windy, frigid and at times pouring rain. Poor horses and riders! Belinda with Anton and Ashley with Pop Art both performed just fantastic freestyles – both mistake free and with extra expression that was missing a bit from their Grand Prix tests. I think they were both scored too low for the great tests they did – but that is one reason why we are here in Europe – to get the exposure to the audiences and judges. There is no doubt that the more the judges see a good ride from a horse and rider, the more likely they are to reward handsomely. It’ s human nature, and I am sure if I was a judge I would not be immune to this, so I understand this is part of getting to the top of this sport.

Hubertus Schmidt had a lovely test with his young Donnelly, what really made it special was that the rain stopped for a moment and he rode under a dazzling rainbow! He was the only rider blessed by this rainbow, and it made for some beautiful pictures. Imke Schellekens was fantastic on Sunrise – her music suited the mare perfectly and they truly did seem to be dancing under the lights. Almost every footfall seemed to be right on the beat, making it really apparent that the horse and rider are very consistent in their tempos and rhythms.

But I have to say that Edward Gal and Totilas were just magnificent. The heavens opened up on them, and it just poured throughout their show. It didn’t matter one bit as they put on an almost flawless demonstration – I could get really picky but I won’t – I truly believe they deserved every one of the 90%+ points they got from the judges. The music is very powerful, and does not have such a distinct beat as Imkes. It suits Totilas perfectly and gave me goose bumps. Totilas himself is a freak of nature – he moves with flamboyant scope yet with complete ease. Most other great horses show tension when they are moving with such height and ground cover, but this beautiful black stallion made it all look easy. The criticisms that have followed this talented horse as he develops were not apparent at all in this show – and he is only 10 years old. I don’t think we will see another horse like this for a long time (except Edward says the full sister to Totilas is also super talented) so we should enjoy watching him while we can!

On the Monday after the show I had the vet out, and while she was still a little back sore (after 3 days off) we decided that it was resolving well on its own. She was out of heat, so I relented from my stubborn stance and put her on Regumate. It is now legal for mares to compete FEI on this drug, which helps to balance the hormonal levels that race around them in spring and summer. She is much happier already and I started to ride her again on Wednesday. So far I am riding in a snaffle and with no spurs, but I can happily report that she is back on my side, working super and doing all the Grand Prix happily. Whew!

Robert is gone for 9 days and things are very quiet here at Jewel Court. I am so content to ride quietly and take time to just feel as I ride – it’s a lovely break from the hectic pace of the first 5 weeks of our competition tour. This week I will put the double back in, and perhaps ride in little spurs, but I have to keep telling myself that I do not have to push my girl this year at all to be brilliant – she is just lovely and she is just a baby at Grand Prix – all I need to do is have a clean test and we can score very well. Next year I can push for those over 70% scores – she will be confident enough then to be able to give it to me.

So Aachen is our next destination – it is still pretty unbelievable for me that we get to ride there! I will try to give one more update before I head off for the big show – I hope everyone who is reading this is enjoying a wonderful summer. Stay cool and have super rides!

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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