Well if there is one thing I can say about the girls over here at McLean Reitsport it is that they are far from lazy! Between working long days, studying and maintaining a social life there is hardly time to catch a breath. Since my last blog update I have been to Equitana Germany, attended my first horse show, we have been visited by Amelie Gropper and Simone Pearce, we celebrated Bennet Conn’s birthday as well as Easter, a beautiful baby boy was born and – believe it or not – it looks like Spring is finally coming!
It has been weeks since Equitana now and I think I am STILL recovering. I can genuinely say that I have never seen anything like that in my life! Nothing could have prepared me for the sheer size of this event. I have attended Equitana in Melbourne a number of times and have accepted that it is simply impossible to get through the entire show in one day. Well, I attended two days of Equitana Germany and can confidently say it would be impossible to get through everything there in one week!
On first entering Equitana I was impressed – the stands were all enormous and boasted the world’s top brands from Equiline to Samshield, Kingsland, Petrie, De Niro, Kyron, Mattes, Pikeur, Eskadron, KEP, GPA, Animo and much much more. Once I walked through this hall and realised that there were nine (from memory) more halls, some more than twice the size of this one, I nearly died.
On top of the quality clothing and saddlery brands, they also had a huge range of beautiful trucks and trailers in every shape and size imaginable. There were talented artists with paintings, drawings, cards and statues. Another feature which really captured my attention was the number of stands where you could have saddle blankets and bonnets made or customised. Lots of people were choosing colour combinations to have made into blanket sets in front of them and then customising them with crystals, embroidery etc. – you name it, they can do it! One store I loved had an online boot-simulator which allowed you to design the most incredible top boots I have ever seen. You could choose the boot shape and colour (everything from brown to purple, orange or crocodile skin) and then add details with stitching, laces, crystals, studs and pretty much anything else you could think of. I had a lot of fun playing with the idea of purple patent leather tall boots, however I felt these may not be so well received in the competition arena back home.
Equitana ran for a week and each day had a different theme. The first day I attended the theme was ‘Sport horses’ and I was lucky enough to watch the final of the indoor short course eventing. Wow oh wow! The best way I can describe what I watched in this amazing competition is the technicality of some of the hardest jumping courses I have ever seen, but with cross country fences in a dressage-sized arena. The arena was very long and thin which meant the riders were required to ride tight turns and fast changes of direction. The fences were portable cross country obstacles including brushes, arrowheads, suspended logs, oxers, skinnies and roll-tops. The class was judged on time so each rider completed the entire course against the clock.
As the class went on the riders took shorter and shorter lines and started to really kick on and pick up the pace – the whole audience was on the edge of our seats oohing and aahing. I loved that the competitors ranged from teenagers on ponies and younger riders on older schoolmasters to Olympians on younger horses and even the legendary Ingrid Klimke. The atmosphere was intense and the huge audience (a completely packed-out stadium) was riding every jump along with the competitors. Ingrid rode last to a very convincing win and the crowd were right behind her – what an experience! Watching this competition reminded me how important it is to perfect the hardest lines in our jumping training so that when we compete it seems effortless. There was a clear difference between the professionals who rode the challenges cool, calm and collected and looked like they had all the time in the world whilst posting the quickest times; and the amateurs who looked adrenalized, frazzled and fast which in the end only slowed them down. I could hear Adam Wootten in the back of my head telling me to stop jumping easy lines and train the things I think are impossible and I could understand why – thanks Adam!
For those who are into gadgets – I have never seen such a crazy huge range of equine performance technology! There were huge automatic horse walkers where the horses walk on a track that surrounds an arena, treadmills, swimming pools, solariums and everything in between. There was also a model Finnish house which looked like a small wooden igloo – it was very fun to see how all these new things worked! The equestrian industry is developing at such a great rate and to be in the middle of all these new technologies was very very cool.
Equitana Germany is easily one of the most incredible things I have ever experienced and I whole heartedly recommend adding it to the bucket list!
My first German dressage show:
Well my first German show was not exactly what I expected. A ‘tiny practice show’ at a local stable surprised me in two ways.
The first was that not every horse was a warmblood ridden by a professional. There was a huge range of combinations from kids on naughty ponies that bucked them off in the warm up to haflingers to professional riders on horses that made my jaw drop. I guess more than anything it was a bit of a reality check – I had this false impression that everyone in Europe was a Charlotte Dujardin in the making and by attending this tiny show I came to realise that everybody has a journey and everybody starts somewhere. We are all at different stages of chasing the same dream, no matter who we are or where in the world we are, and I really liked that.
The second thing that caught my attention was how much of a spectator sport dressage is over here. Although it was a very small show, with only one 40x60m arena, there was a crowd of people standing out in the cold to watch the horses and riders. Upon speaking to another Australian lady now based with McLean Reitsport, I have come to understand that here it is not seen as something only ‘horsey’ people can enjoy. Everyone from the local town sees watching a horse show as a nice, social event for a Sunday afternoon and so they come down for some food, drinks and entertainment. This is what we hope to achieve at our biggest events in Australia and it was so inspiring to see it at a small one over here. I hope that we continue to aim for this back home as it really added an atmosphere to the event.
There is never a dull moment here at McLean Reitsport and we have had a number of visitors come to stay. The lovely Amelie Gröpper came to work and train with us for two weeks. Amelie is a very talented, hard-working young German rider and it was very exciting to watch her training her horse ‘Carl’. Seeing the standard of Amelie’s riding at just 17 years old on a horse she has trained herself really showed me how good you have to be to keep up with the best – motivation levels through the roof!
We have also had one of Australia’s most popular Europe-based young riders, Simone Pearce, staying with us for a few weeks whilst she relocates. Simone had three horses here: her super cute grand-prix pocket rocket ‘Little Lion,’ her Australian bred ‘Faust’ and her new ride, the uber handsome jumping stallion ‘Now on Top.’ I have loved having another Aussie girl around and it’s been great to pick Simone’s brain. Having been based in Europe since she was seventeen, starting her career as a working pupil and moving on to be a professional rider for some of Europe’s biggest stables, Simone is a walking encyclopaedia of all things European dressage and jumping from fashion to stallions and competitions. I have loved watching Simone ride some of our sales horses, as well as train ‘Now on Top’ with Charlotte Westerlund. She has also allowed me to ride the very cool ‘Faust’ which has been a great experience! Simone left yesterday for Holland to train with ‘Now on Top’ – can’t wait to see this combination out and about on the European show jumping circuit!
Upon arriving in Germany I was told that over here every public holiday or celebration is a big deal and Easter weekend certainly proved that! The Saturday night we celebrated Bennet Conn’s birthday with a pyjama party and it was great to have a large group of Australian riders now based in Europe all together. I loved catching up with Angela Donaldson who I used to work with at Oakside Stud in Adelaide and who rode Danson Wolkenaction before I purchased him. Angela is now riding for Sprehe and has quickly started to call Germany home – they are lucky to have her over here! Australians know how to party and we were all dragging our feet to take the horses out on Sunday morning.
Easter Sunday brought an even bigger celebration. Without much idea what I was in for, I headed out with a few of the German members of our stables to an Easter Party held by a local farmers association. When we arrived what I saw far surpassed my expectation – an enormous indoor arena had been transformed into the best party hall I have ever seen. A stage and dancefloor up one end, tables and seating at the back and then four portable bars set up throughout the middle. Filling every square inch of the rest of the indoor were young people from the local town celebrating, catching up and, most importantly, dancing. We had a fabulous night and I’m very grateful to everyone for including me in the celebrations – I’m quickly learning that the Germans know a thing or two about partying as well!
The most important celebration of all since I have been here, however, has been the birth of Warwick and Carolina’s beautiful baby boy. Benjamin Neil McLean was born on the 27th March at 10:40am and he is the most beautiful little bundle of life I have ever seen. ‘Benji’ has a great range of outfits, including a star-printed onesie his father sported the adult version of at Bennett’s birthday party; and loves going ‘cross country’ (aka having his stroller pushed across the most uneven ground you can find). He has grown so much already and is a little celebrity wherever he goes. Congratulations Linus and Warwick on your gorgeous son.
Spring is coming:
FINALLY! I thought I was destined to a life of thermals, the heater cranked up as high as it goes and sleeping under two doonas but these last few days the sun has started to shine and I think I’m finally thawing out. It’s been great to be able to enjoy a few barbeques in the sun and socialise after work – not to mention riding outside! Last Sunday I went on a hack out in the field with Simone Pearce and Anna Ahava, a young Finnish rider based here and I think all six of us (the horses included) were happy as can be wandering along and soaking up the sun.
I should also mention that Rock Tape is one of the best things I put in my suitcase! My osteo had suggested I use Rock Tape to help improve my posture and I had seen it advertised in relation to equestrian by Amanda Ross. Deb Palmer bought me a roll at the Boneo Classic and since being here I have used it to create a shoulder brace, to support sore wrists and on a toe which was unceremoniously stepped on by a young stallion. I remember Morgan Duel speaking once at a Young Ambassador Training Camp about how essential bailing twine is in any tack box and I’m 100% sure this super handy product challenges it for top spot – I am officially a Rock Tape convert!! You can check this great stuff out here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/RockTape/516042828539810?fref=ts
Next week we are off to Hagen Horses and Dreams Meets Australia and I couldn’t be more excited! This event combines top level competition in dressage and jumping and is one of the biggest weekends in the European Equestrian calendar. Over 67,000 visitors are expected to attend. One of the show’s biggest features is that the host country changes each year and with Australia being the most distant host country to date (16 612km away as the crow flies) it should be an event to remember. You can find out more here: http://horses-and-dreams.de/eng/home.html?hid= – I promise to take lots of photos!