Sorry for my extreme absence of late: the internet has been spotty or nonexistent for the past few days, and Pa and I have been way too busy to do much sitting around and updating. Luhmuhlen already feels a bit like old news, so I'll keep my update pretty brief. The big excitement is that today, after four months of training, is race day!! Pa and I are currently in beautiful Tromsø, Norway, land of the midnight sun (we're at 70ºN - the edge of the arctic circle is 66ºN, so we're well within it!), and I'm getting pumped for my race, which doesn't start until 10:30pm this evening. Today will be a lot of resting and carb loading - excited!
(Jokin' around on the snow mass up on the mountain)
I know that, because of my injury, I probably won't be breaking any land speed records today (let's face it, even without the injury that wouldn't have been happening!) and I might have to walk a bit, but I'm feeling very confident that I'm going to be able to do it. We took a cable car up onto a mountain overlooking the city yesterday and I could see the entire race route, and while it looks a little daunting, it also looks very beautiful and doable. Bring it on! =)
Anyway, back to Luhmuhlen. It's pretty hard to sum up the event in just a few words or sentences. On one hand, it was AWESOME. I love Germany (and will be starting summer classes in German the day I get back to America - excited!) and so to experience the German countryside AND German horse culture was pretty incredible. The competition was great: exciting, exhilarating, and best of all safe (there were no serious falls or injuries all weekend). The calibre of competition was, as I've come to expect from these European shows, incredibly incredibly high, and it was a treat to get to watch so many great horses and riders, and try to take just a sliver of their talent home with me.
(Mirage D'Elle had to be one of my favorite horses of the competition, despite some naughty moments!!)
Luhmuhlen was also an interesting change from all the British shows I've been to of late. In many ways, it was quite similar to the events I'd been to, but in other ways the Germans found unique ways of doing things. The food was different (and some of the weirdest show food I've ever seen), the announcing was different, even the crowds seemed a little different (though of course there were still more than a few tweed-clad British type stalwarts - would it be an event without them?).
(I don't think I'd ever actually seen Will Faudree compete - he is a seriously impressive competitor)
(The dressage leader, Frank Ostholt)
The best part, though, was getting to share the weekend with my dad. Pa has been my go-to horse show parent for years now (though Mom does a great job when she does step in), and so it was really cool to get to spend the weekend enjoying the show with him. He loves Germany also, so we had a lot of fun toodling around with our German-English dictionary, trying to learn new vocab words and master German pronunciation (I've still got a ways to go on that one!).
(The UK-based American, Julian Stiller, on the absolutely, unbelievably adorable mare Chapel Amble)
Of course, the big disappointment was the American performances. I was almost more excited for Luhmuhlen than Badminton in terms of getting to watch Americans, because while the US Badminton competitors were more the 'usual suspects' (Karen O'Connor, Buck Davidson, etc), the Americans at Luhmuhlen were some of our country's mot exciting up and coming riders. I was really, really excited for them to show off their talents to the world, and felt quietly confident that it was going to be a good showing for the homeland in Europe.
(Frank Ostholt into the water in the CIC***)
Alas, it didn't quite work out that way. I don't want to take away from any of the riding from our American riders, because everywhere I saw them they looked great and looked every bit the part of the competition. Obviously everyone (except Will Faudree on his CIC*** horse) ran into some trouble in places we didn't get to see, but they were clearly small mistakes and not gross incompetence or indicators that they didn't deserve to be there. I'm sure they will all be back stronger and better as a result of this experience, but of course was also quite sad that they didn't get to shine that weekend.
(A German rider looking a bit shocked and awed)
(Tiana and Finian - Tiana has always been so nice to me every time we've met, even though she doesn't know me from Adam, and so I really respect her and want her to do well - plus she's a seriously impressive rider!)
(Ringwood Magister has to be one of the most strikingly beautiful horses on the international circuit today)
The competition itself rounded out on Sunday afternoon, in rather poisonous weather conditions that made me very happy to have a seat in the new covered stadium they had just built for the upcoming European Championships. It was a show of German domination, with the home team taking home the top spot in both the CIC*** and the CCI****. Pa and I were trying to quantify what makes the Europeans so much more successful than the Americans at the moment, and it was really hard to describe. They just are better right now. They sit better in the dressage, are more tactful in the show jumping, and more accurate on the cross country. They have incredible depth, and everyone is mounted on a horse that would make any top eventer swoon with envy. It's unbelievable.
(Pa took this photo and I think it's one of my favorites from the whole weekend - I might have some competition!)
(It randomly pissed down rain about midway through the afternoon, then cleared up again - but when it rained, it really rained!)
(No thank you!)
The weekend was over before we knew it, and with it my European horse show experience. It's been so incredible that I can barely even describe how lucky and grateful I feel. I've gotten to take thousands of pictures, have been featured on Eventing Nation, the USEA website, and Eventing Magazine, and have gotten to experience my favorite sport at the very highest levels of competition. I'm coming back to America feeling fresh, hungry, and eager to start improving again. Here's to a good race tonight, and a great summer ahead! =)
(Mirage D'Elle 'declines' the corner at 8 rather dramatically!)
(Peter Thomson goes nice and neat into the first water)
(Will and Pawlow looking classy in the CCI****)
(Frank Ostholt looking super dramatic coming into the first water)
(Pa took this great shot of William almost coming a cropper! He saved it though (of course))
(Aww Chapel Amble, too cute for words)
(Will and Andromaque finished on their dressage score - very impressive!)
(Chapel Amble looking cute as usual - besides one stop on XC they had a very respectable weekend)
(Will on Pawlow, who very randomly stopped at the next fence - it was totally out of the blue and mystifying, as they looked lovely otherwise)
(William with coat tails a-flying)
(CCI**** winner Andreas Dibowski)