Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Year Ago

I was planning on doing a little retrospective of all the big horse shows I got to go to last year, starting with Badminton, but then I got so depressed when Badders was cancelled that I put it off and then promptly forgot. One of the photographers that I met and befriended while in England is currently back at Tattersalls in Ireland, however, and as that was probably one of my wilder adventures in terms of getting there and back again (though Bramham does give it a run for its money) I couldn't help but take a little time to reflect on where I was a year ago this week.

(Charlotte Agnew popping off the CCI** double banks nice and carefully)

At the time, Tattersalls was probably my least favorite of all the big shows I went to last spring (Badminton, Tattersalls, Bramham, and Luhmuhlen), mostly because the weather was unrelentingly harsh for someone with no indoor shelter to retreat to for three days, and it was an unbelievably exhausting ordeal to pull off. But in retrospect, it was one of the more surreal venues I've ever been to, and the quality AND quantity of riding I saw was unbelievable.

 (And they had to jump stuff like THIS!!!)

The event took place over EIGHT SOLID HOURS OF FEI COMPETITION (something I've never experienced before or since) on what felt like an endless patchwork of perfect galloping fields surrounded by the biggest and most intimidating hedges an American like me had ever gotten up close to. Even walking the course felt like an adventure, as there were many ditches left unbridged for the brave spectator to leap, hoping very hard to not end up in the standing water several feet below. The course was MASSIVE, with some of the biggest "STB" (that would be "See-To-Believe") fences I've ever seen... and for the most part, the competitors made them look easy. Horses are awesome.


 (Naughty jack russells - the ubiquitous horse show accessory)

 (Not a small corner in the water)

 (Trakehner on a mound, with spectators watching)

 (Supah tidy)

 (Blast off!!)

 (Winner winner chicken dinner)

 (Just another massive corner... over a ditch... no big deal)

For my travails to and from, they went a bit like this:

After surviving Ryanair, the most miserable cattle-call-style airline in existence, I bused my way to the town of Ratoath (an adventure in itself of trying to understand thick Irish bus driver accents). From there, I bought a single (massive) Indian food meal that I then proceeded to make last an entire weekend, hitched a ride from a friendly delivery man, and (not having tickets) snuck into the event in the back of his truck. Classy times. I slept in my tiny one-man Target tent, which not only proved totally useless at blocking out the gale-force winds that ripped across the plain at all hours of the day and night but also made an unbelievable racket in the process of being totally useless, and was generally freezing and sleep-deprived for 72 solid hours.

(Damn you, Ryanair)

I got to drink a lot of Guinness straight from an Irish tap, both during the day and at night, and I got a glimpse of Irish eventing parties (which are legendary among the eventing community)... but admittedly, was wayyyy too chicken to join in myself (though I was woken up at 3am by the party getting so loud and rowdy that the sound carried the half-mile down the hill to where my tent was pitched).

(mmm.... Guinness - the fat of the Irish land)

After the event was over, not having anyone to hitch with, I sidewalk surfed a couple miles back into town, bused my way to Dublin, had hazy and mostly-forgotten but adventurous night in Dublin, somewhere hand-wrote a 2500 word Oxford tutorial paper along the way, and made it back in time for my 9am tutorial on Monday. It might have felt a little rough at the time, but in retrospect... man, what a lucky life I lead.

(Ha'Penny Bridge at night in Dublin, one of my favorite cities)


jenj said...

MY GOODNESS those fences are HUGE. Holy crap. I don't think I could ever jump something like - I just don't have the guts!

But wow, they make it look super easy!

Me said...

So very jealous of your courage to travel alone - I have a feeling it's very liberating....

Katherine Erickson said...

I love traveling alone! Besides Ireland, I've done two longer trips to Europe alone and have been to ten countries on my own, including some sketchier places like Turkey, rural Greece, and Romania. While traveling with friends is a blast, going alone is a wonderful time for personal reflection and creativity--I've always felt like I've left each trip with a much better sense of myself, a journal full of notes, and tons of photographs that I'm still proud of. Plus, when you go alone, you get set the itinerary! haha =)

Me said...

So hopefully this isn't weird but can I pick your brain a bit about the whole traveling alone thing? Like safety, how you figure out where to stay, etc? I'm graduating from nursing school in Dec and am thinking of taking a couple of weeks to travel around Europe but would prefer to go alone. All my friends have always gone in pairs so they're no help! :)

Katherine Erickson said...

So safety was always a worry for me, especially since the first time I went to Europe alone I had just turned 18 and had never really been abroad before. I'm naturally a bit paranoid so being very alert comes pretty easily to me, so by keeping a pretty low profile, avoiding overtly risky things like getting drunk in a sketchy part of the city at night, and packing light enough that I could always feel like I had a good handle on my things (this was actually surprisingly important), I never ended up feeling unsafe ever.

I use the Rough Guides books, which are more targeted at backpackers/people on a budget, and always book places to stay that they recommend. I haven't really been led astray by them yet. That being said, I usually pay a little bit more to not be in a mixed gender dormitory-style hostel, just because that's not a situation that I would feel comfortable to be in by myself. But I know other people that have done that with no trouble. You should go - I'm so jealous!! Where would you be thinking of going?

Me said...

Oh my gosh! Thank you for the info! I'm torn on where to go - part of me wants to go to Europe (London, Dublin, Normandy, Paris, Lisbon, Vienna, Venice, maybe Zurich, and the list goes on!) and the other part of me really, really wants to go to New Zealand. I've had some friends who went to NZ and they rave about it! Europe is really attractive because it's so compact but there's just something about the idea of going to NZ that is really pulling me. It would be the right time of year to go south as well (although I hate the heat!).

I'm definitely going to check out Rough Guides - I will most definitely be on a budget! :) Any advice on how to plan the budget?

Thanks so much for all the info! I know you're super busy with graduation and everything that goes with it. Have fun these last few days!

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