Friday, October 8, 2010

Anky van Grunsven blogs about a new WEG experience: Reining

I really enjoyed beying here at the WEG. Some time ago I decided to withdraw IPS Painted Black for the Dutch dressage team and to focus on reining. One of the Dutch reining horses got lame and I got a spot on the team. I seriously considered going to the WEG, but I am so glad that I went! It was the right decision and Whizashiningwalla BB and I did our best test so far here at the WEG. We scored 71,5, which was a new personal best and I am very proud of Whiz. I did not make it to the second qualifier round, which made me a bit sad. I had hoped to make it to the best 35, but with a 39th place we just missed that. Despite that, I am proud!

I would like to thank my sponsor Cavalor, who made sure that their American supplier brought horsefood to Kentucky for Whiz. I stayed to watch the dressage competition as well. I train two Italian dressage riders and I also help the Dutch eventing rider Tim Lips with his dressage. So still there was enough to do even after I was finished competing!

We have been at the showground a lot and the weather was nice and warm. At the moment it’s a bit colder. The past days we went swimming with the children. Later this week I will definately go shopping and buy myself a new cowboy hat!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Seven-time USEF Four-in-Hand Driving Champion, Chester Weber (USA), on his final preparations for the 2010 Games

Chester Weber and the Road to WEG 2010

It was a busy month but June proved to be quite rewarding for my team in training. We successfully captured first place at the Garden State Driving Event in Allentown, New Jersey and finished the competition over 34 penalties below the rest of the teams. I have the opportunity to work with my horses and play with their strengths and weaknesses.

During the last weekend in June I competed at the Bromont International Driving Competition in Quebec, Canada. I am very pleased with my win and really proud of my less experienced team of horses. The marathon course was quite challenging but the horses were up to the test. My young horse Reno really stood out and is proving to be very consistent.

My next competition was the Iron Horse CDE in Illinois, July 30 to August 1st. I teamed up with my sponsors Charles Owen and SUCCEED to auction off a helmet for a spin on their national “Helmets 4 Riders” campaign called “Helmets 4 Drivers”. I want to congratulate Mary Sheerin, the winner of the Charles Owen helmet certificate. Proceeds from the silent auction were donated to Habitat for Humanity.

My team and I are on the last stretch towards WEG. We are traveling north to Cedar Lane Farm in Oldwick, New Jersey where James Fairclough, Tucker Johnson, Josh Rector, David Sanders and I will be participating in a USEF hosted outing for the four-in-hand driving competitors. We will be in New Jersey September 1-3 and will be training with our coaches Peter Tischer and Michael Freund.

In this phase every detail of our training and performance is under close scrutiny and we feel the team is on course to peak at the Games. It is very exciting and we are also mentally focused to put forth our best. So as they say...let the games begin!!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Canadian Reiner Lisa Coulter on her journey to the 2010 Games and those who have supported her along the way

Well we are literally just a few short days from WEG and a lot of emotions are stirring. WEG will be THE biggest accomplishment in my career. It also fulfills a lifelong dream of representing my country with the most elite equine athletes in the world. But this growing sense of accomplishment and pride lends itself to another realization. I see clearly that none of this would mean much without the loud cheers, tears, hugs, support, criticism and love from those who have mentored, believed in and raised me.

This spring two of the most important people in my life were diagnosed with cancer. It came as a shock and sent us all in a tail spin. Bob Thompson has been my backbone for many years. I have trained horses for Bob for a long time. He mentors me in business and most importantly he is my very best friend. He believed in me when I was still breaking colts and his support has never waivered. I owe so much to Bob’s dedication and ultimate belief in my ability. Bob is battling hard and will be victorious. He has taught me how to win in life and I dedicate my WEG rides to our victory. Bob told me I would be competing at WEG one day and he felt that long before I did.

My dad, Marv Carlson, was diagnosed the same time as Bob. Words will never express the adoration and love I have for my father. My dad is the reason I am fulfilling my dream of riding at WEG. He taught me determination, hard work, tenacity and absolute and ultimate belief in myself and my dreams. The spirit he instilled in me is the reason he too will be victorious in his battle. I also dedicate my rides at WEG to my dad and thank him with all my heart for always being by my side and giving his whole life to his family, especially my daughter Clancy.

No matter what happens at WEG my family and friends are already embracing the journey we have been on to get here and cherishing the seemingly simple fact that we are all here. I owe my life to these two men and a couple rides are a small, small gift. However, my hope is that they see the gleam in my eye and feel the spirit in my smile and know they are responsible.

I was going to talk about preparations and final steps to WEG which are so very important at this time but they seemed a bit trivial to what really is going on in my life. I wanted to take this opportunity to embrace all those who have loved and believed in me. They took a very small town girl and put her in Lexington, Kentucky at the World Equestrian Games! Victory is already ours and the rest will be history!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Lauren Barwick (CAN) Para Equestrian Athlete and 4 star Parelli Instructor

I have been looking forward to the 2010 WEG especially since it is being held here in the USA. Since I started competing internationally in 2002, I have traveled mostly to Europe to compete against the top riders, but this time it will be a hop, skip and a jump over to Lexington. My England 2012 horse is not as of yet emotionally ready for a competition of this size so I have been trying to keep my gold and silver medal Beijing 2008 horse in training for Worlds. Maile has age and physical limitations against her, however her accuracy, with her heart and desire will help her through WEG with great results. Maile has had a fantastic 2010 show season with her highest results most recently in Canada at a 3 star International show scoring 78% in her freestyle, and overall grade 2 championship.

Her training involves mostly supelling exercises, stretching and cardio strengthening. Since this will be her last International competition with me as a grade 2 rider I have decided not to change her freestyle from the one she performed in Hong Kong winning a gold medal.

My second horse in training for WEG is L’Amistat (Manny). I have been partnered with him since January. We are still getting to know one another and he is learning to adapt well to my aids which are very different from an able bodied person. He has great technique and knows dressage well. He just needs to improve on his expression, exuberance, and communication with me, his partner.

With WEG being in the USA, I am looking forward to all the sideline support. With the competition being so close it will allow friends and family the opportunity to support all riders.

As a Para Equestrian I am ecstatic being involved in the first World games that have all the FEI sports competing at the same venue within the same time line. This is really a step forward for our sport and I hope spectators take advantage of the opportunity to be inspired and empowered by watching what is possible!!

I am fortunate that I actually get to be involved in the 2010 WEG in two ways. My sponsors and full time educational program, Parelli Natural Horsemanship will be there for the full two weeks as demonstrators. I have three other horses that will be at WEG as a part of the Parelli demo team. Before the Para Equestrian Canadian team goes into team training camp, I will participate in demos with Parelli showing their principles and the kind of foundation I believe will help a performance horse achieve their optimum potential.

Lauren Barwick – WEG Competitor: Para Dressage
Parelli Level 4 Mastery Student
2008 Gold and Silver medalist (Beijing Paralympic Games)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Four-Time World Champion Four-in-Hand Driver, IJsbrand Chardon (NED), Well on His Way to Kentucky

Successful last rehearsal
After I had driven a good dressage test in Zelhem and Saumur, I had planned to start with the horses of Argentinean four-in-hand driver Baron Wolf von Buchholtz at Riesenbeck. Von Buchholtz has not recovered completely yet from his hunting accident last fall and I have trained his horses this season.

After my somewhat disappointing score in Aachen where I had to miss my all-round horse Argus, I decided to change my plans and to start in Lähden instead of in Riesenbeck. German four-in-hand driver Christoph Sandmann organizes a wonderful international combined driving event at his place every two years and this year, the complete world top was represented again. Including my biggest opponent for the World title, Australia’s Boyd Exell. I wanted to battle against him one more time after Aachen and drive a good dressage test.

I had brought the seven-year-old Whooper to Lähden, who was also part of my winning team in Saumur in 2009 and 2010. My team went very well in Lähden and everyone said that the difference with Boyd in the dressage should have been bigger. I stayed ahead of him in the marathon and I drove a double clear round in the cones, despite the pressure Boyd put on me. I won the competition and that felt super, especially because I now have the feeling that I have made up for Aachen. Lähden was my last competition before the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky and I will focus completely now on the World Championships.

It is my habit not to drive any more competitions four to five weeks before a World Championship and to create my own training camp. I focus on the six or seven horses, which are eligible for the World Championship. I drive them once a day and they are also ridden once a day. We will probably also train a few days at a competition site in The Netherlands or abroad.
I don’t know exactly yet which horses I will take to Kentucky. Argus, who was injured before the horse inspection in Aachen, is back in training again and he is doing well. Whooper did an excellent job in Saumur and in Lähden and he for sure contributes to my dressage team. In the marathon he does not perform less than Argus and he is strong and safe in the cones.

I will go to Kentucky with a good feeling. I don’t have to improve much, I just have to keep the form we had in Lähden. It will be a very exciting battle and especially the dressage will be important.

My carriages, harness, bicycles and other necessities are already on the boat to Kentucky. The horses will fly on September 28th. All Dutch driving horses fly together and will be accompanied by my wife Paulien and team veterinarian Ben Horsmans. My horses have never flown before, but I don’t see any problems. They are top fit and I don’t think they will suffer. They will stay in a quarantine stable for two days and then we take them directly to the show grounds where we will start training again. I am looking forward to the World Equestrian Games!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Six-time Olympic Dressage Gold Medalist Isabell Werth (GER) on the road to Kentucky

Isabell Werth is writing a diary for as she prepares for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ from 25 September – 10 October. Here is Isabell’s latest entry...

Plans beyond the CHIO Aachen and towards Kentucky (WEG)…

I was back in the saddle very quickly after the birth of my son, Frederik, and I´m feeling really well. My plan is to get in the best shape possible before Kentucky, and it’s encouraging that Satchmo and I have become more and more consistent in our performances as the months have gone by.

I was really pleased with how both horses (Satchmo and Hannes) performed at the Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen, and with a score of more than 75% I feel we can be quite satisfied and happy. However, we have higher expectations over the coming weeks and months, and the plan is to sort out the mistakes and concentrate on the finer details of our programme.

Between now and WEG we will go to the German Championships in Münster and following that the nominations will be announced, so I’m hoping that we can find our best form for that performance. We now know that the Dutch riders are very strong and so is Laura Bechtolsheimer, so we will be hoping to finish closer and closer to Laura and Adelinde (Cornelissen). Edward (Gal) seems to be in a league of his own but the other two riders are definitely within our reach.

Satchmo, Hannes, El Santo & Don Johnson…

As it stands Satchmo has qualified as my number one A, and Hannes as my number one B, although four years ago in Aachen it was the other was round. I am happy to have both horses on this level, and it is pleasing that Hannes has been so consistent and is not as spooky as he used to be.

Over the next two years we will see what happens to my two big hopes – El Santo (9-y-o) and Don Johnson (8-y-o) – who have both improved a lot. El Santo has already shown his talent in Grands Prix; however, Don Johnson still has to show his, so at the moment he will only compete in the small shows before he is ready for the Grand Prix circuit.

A new partner – Roberto Blanco…

I have some new freestyle music, which I am really excited about; it is mixed by Roberto Blanco and is really different to my old style. My thinking is that if we can’t win, we want to have fun; the music just really inspires me, and I hope it inspires the crowd, and of course the judges!

We had a meeting in the studio and Roberto was singing his famous song Ein bisschen Spass muss sein, and the Tom Jones song She’s a Lady. His music creates a real party atmosphere, which I think suits Satchmo really well. It was surprising how great Roberto was; he was really positive and motivated and he even met Satchmo! It will now be interesting for me to see how the music works in a competition environment and how the crowd will react, so I’m looking forward to it very much.

The German Dressage team at the WEG…

I am sure that Christoph (Koschel) and Annabel (Balkenhol) will do a really good job, and it’s normal that they will both need a bit more experience. Christoph surprised everybody with the improvements that he has made over the last few months, and his horse has huge potential. He had extra pressure on his shoulders at CHIO Aachen when he was the first team rider, but he performed well and he will now just grow in confidence.

Annabel and Christoph’s horses are both young and inexperienced so it will be a few more years until they reach their best form. This year and next will therefore be difficult for the German team and I don’t think it will be possible to beat the Dutch, but give us a couple of years and we will be competing with the best.

Isabell Werth, multiple Olympic Games gold medal winning dressage rider, is a Rolex equestrian sports Testimonee

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Follow Australian Show Jumper, Edwina Alexander, on the road to the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games

Edwina Alexander's Diary

Courtesy of Rolex

Edwina Alexander is writing a diary for as she prepares for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ (WEG). Here is Edwina's fourth entry...

Plans beyond the CHIO Aachen and towards Kentucky (The WEG)…

Itot (Cevo Itot Du Château) will have three more shows after Aachen – Chantilly, Valkenswaard and Rio de Janeiro – and then he will have a month’s break. He feels in really great shape and has been jumping well.

I’ve received an email from my Federation (Equestrian Australia) confirming that I am on the team for the WEG, and they also confirmed that if I have another horse which qualifies then I am able to take it as well. I’m pretty set up for WEG and I don’t really want to take another horse if it’s not 100% ready.

I recently sold four of my horses, including two that had qualified for WEG. On the back of those sales I have just received a new eight year old (Ciske Van Overis) that has already qualified; she was seventh in the Grand Prix in Hamburg with Guy Williams, and fifth with me in La Coruña. It’s not my plan to take her to WEG but she will be a back-up in the meantime while Itot is doing his preparations.

Overall, I’m looking forward to going to WEG and I fully appreciate how tough a competition it is. I personally think that WEG is the most difficult championship that we have in comparison to The Olympics as I feel that it takes a lot more out of the horse.

Looking back to the WEG in Aachen, 2006…

I have some fond memories of the World Equestrian Games™ in Aachen in 2006, above all finishing in the top four. My goal then was to get into the top 25 so I thought I did pretty well to get to that point. My Federation is a very strong supporter of whichever programme and direction I choose, but at the same time I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself. Everyone has their aim and their goal, so I’ll try to do my best this year and my goal is to finish in the top four again.

It’s very important to create a good programme for your horse afterwards as the championships take a lot out of them; they have to be very fit as we found out after the last WEG in Aachen.

The WEG in the USA for the first time…

My horses are used to travelling and are incredibly fit, so I don’t see this being a problem. They are booked to go and will arrive in Kentucky a week before the competition starts, which I think is plenty of time for them to acclimatise. The travelling aspect won’t be a problem, and funnily enough it will actually involve less travelling than if they were to go to somewhere like Portugal, within Europe

The WEG – an individual or a team performance?

I think that Australia has a pretty good team and that this year is absolutely our strongest ever; we have two other strong riders (Chris Chugg and James Patterson Robinson) and their horses, and the fourth partnership will be selected following competitions in Hachenburg and Paderborn.

I would like to think that realistically we could finish in the first five, and of course a medal would be fantastic. However, for me it is difficult to think of WEG as a team competition; I have to focus on myself, and I know that might sound a little bit selfish but that’s how it is, and how it’s been since I’ve been competing in Europe, especially over the last five or six years.

Edwina Alexander, Olympic and World Equestrian Games Jumper, is a friend of Rolex. Edwina will be competing at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Canadian Reiner, Lisa Coulter, qualifies for the 2010 Games on her aptly named horse, Weg.

I did it!! I made the Canadian Team and am set to compete at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky!! I just got home from Chilliwack, BC where our team selection was held. Sharon Hall and crew hosted a wonderful show and really put forth a great effort in our selection trials.

I rode both Weg and Ace and both horses tried very hard. I figured I would ride them both to the best of their individual ability and see where we all ended up. The selection process was comprised of two runs and the top four composite scores from both days would make up the team. It was important to have two good solid runs both days without overdoing it and making errors.

After the first day Ace was half a point in front of Weg. Weg tried hard but fell out of lead in my small slow circle while Ace held together nicely but did not hit the stops as hard as Weg. I figured day two would be interesting for my horses. Weg went first and was super. He spun and stopped hard and never made any circle errors. Ace felt very tired and ended up 3 point behind Weg. Ace may not have held up to the 36 hour haul from Texas to BC as well as Weg and that may have been part of the difference. Regardless I am thrilled to be riding Weg! He is a tremendous stop and turn around horse and will be a threat in Kentucky. I love the fact that we bought him a year ago at the test event in Kentucky specifically for me to make the Canadian WEG Team. He is sound and fresh and ready. I have the good fortune to be going to Kentucky next week to compete in some CRIs as well as a schooling session for WEG horses.

My biggest thanks extends to my family and Bob Thompson. I would never have made it anywhere without your support and ultimate belief in me.

I have been dreaming and working towards WEG for over a year now (not forgetting WEG has been a goal for over 6 years as I unsuccessfully tried for the 2006 team). I have a sense of relief and confidence that is going to propel me into WEG full force. It all comes down to having the tenacity, support and hard work to fulfill a life’s dream.....oh and a very aptly named horse!...Who says there’s nothing in a name!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Maria Eilberg (GBR) Qualifies for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games

CHIO Aachen was great show with all the different disciplines taking place at the same time—Dressage, Show Jumping, Eventing, Driving, Reining and Vaulting—there was no time to get bored! Unfortunately Two Sox got frightened as I entered down the centre line for the Grand Prix; it was very difficult to stop him at X! Not the best way to start the test and it did cross my mind that perhaps we should have been doing the reining competition!

Mike, my brother, did really well at Hartpury. The amount of packing and preparation I had to do before leaving for Aachen was immense; he was taking 6 horses so I had to make sure that everything was organised before I left! It was worth it though, as he came back with several wins and top placings on each of the horses including the National Shearwater and International Small Tour Championship! We had 1 week to get things organised for Hickstead. Hickstead was the final selection for WEG and the team was announced shortly afterwards!

All the hard work has paid off; I have been selected for WEG with Two Sox! He was excellent at Hickstead and pulled out all the stops. There was a bit of pressure as Aachen hadn't gone quite to plan but I knew he was up to doing it! My brother Mike also had a great show with good placings in the small tour and big tour. It was lovely to go together as a family; we had our new lorry which was lovely and spacious for us all to live in.

After having arrived home late from Hickstead, we went off to the Somerford Regionals the next morning. We took two horses and they both qualified for our National Championships which was great and well worth the effort. We were beginning to feel somewhat jaded! Next stop is the Addington Regionals where we will compete on four horses and then not long after that our National Championships, where we hope to qualify 10 horses! The National Champs will also be ideal preparation for Two Sox before Kentucky!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Endurance Rider Kathy Brunjes (USA) Follows the U.S. Endurance Selection Trials for the 2010 Games

Endurance riders vying for a spot to represent the U.S. endurance community at the 2010 WEG participated in three separate selection trials during the 10-day period of June 18-27th.

Central started the process off with 14 nominated riders and 17 horses gathering in Danville, IL for an 80-mile trial that would demonstrate speed and stamina. Unfortunately weather conditions cut the trial short (to 54 miles) and speed could not be demonstrated due to footing on the course – rain and wind caused mud, wet fields and slippery grass, swollen creeks and trees crashing down across trails. Heat and humidity tested the horses and riders for the 54 miles. Veteran international endurance riders Valerie Kanavy, Margaret Sleeper, DVM, Michele Roush, DVM, Jan Worthington and Ellyn Rapp, along with some newer candidates (Kim Orr, Deborah Reich) successfully completed their shortened trial.

East sponsored the next trial at the Fair Hills location (Elkton, MD) with nine horse/rider combinations presenting. The course was 80 miles, and weather cooperated this time around for riders. Heat and humidity was again a factor, and tested both horses and riders. Four riders completed the course successfully (Nicki Meuten, DVM, Lisa Green, Deborah Reich and Meg Sleeper, DVM).

The final trial was held in Prineville, OR with lower humidity factoring into the demonstration for horse/rider combinations. Five selectors, Chef d’Equippe Becky Hart, and three veterinarians traveled across the country to put the West coast nominees through the same requirements asked of the East and Central riders/horses. Jeremy and Heather Reynolds, Lindsay Graham, Ceci Stasiuk, Christoph Schork, Charisse Glen, Carol Giles and Dennis and Sue Summers were among the 18 starting the 80 mile trial, which completed nine of those starting.

The final trial (the “Observation Trial”) was held back at the Danville, IL site (during the week of August 8-12) with all those nominated riders and horses who participated in one of the earlier selection trials invited to attend. From this final trial, a short list of 10 rider/horse combinations will be invited to attend further training prior to the WEG. The short list will move into the Shaker Village complex (Harrodsburg, KY – just a short distance from the Kentucky Horse Park) and await final selection to the Endurance WEG squad. The endurance squad will be named just prior to moving into the WEG venue (week of September 20).

More to come …..!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Four-Time World Champion Four-in-Hand Driver, IJsbrand Chardon (NED)

Well on my way to Kentucky

After the Dutch Championships I successfully competed at Saumur, France. I won the dressage, I drove a very strong marathon in which I came second and I won the combined competition. I went to Saumur to try two other horses in the marathon and it went very well. With Victory and Whooper in the wheel and Zidane and Isovlas Paganini in the lead I could take any turn. I just had a small incident in one of the obstacles when one of my wheeler horses fell down. Luckily it was solved quickly and the horse did not get injured. (IJsbrand Chardon won the marathon in Aachen 2010. Photo Credit: Rinaldo de Craen)

After Saumur I started to prepare my team for Aachen. I took my best team with the same horses I used at the 2008 World Championships in Beesd. Unfortunately, my all-round horse Argus injured his leg just before the horse inspection in Aachen. He was really lame and was taken out for the competition. Luckily he is getting better now and I will be able to use him again this season. He probably twisted his leg. It was extra sad because I had considered bringing another horse to Aachen instead, but I decided not to do it. If I had done this, it would have all been different, but that is the sport! Now I had to use my marathon horse Tomasson in the dressage. I had several small mistakes, which resulted in the 6th place in this phase. For the first time, we had to drive the cones before the marathon and I was very happy with my double clear round. I came back very strong in the marathon where I was assisted by my wife Paulien and my son Bram, who celebrated his 17th birthday a few days before. We won the marathon by a fraction of a second ahead of Boyd Exell from Australia, who keeps performing very strong. We came second in the combined competition behind Exell. Despite the bad luck with Argus I am happy with my results and I believe we are on the right way to Kentucky. It was good to compete in Aachen against Boyd Exell, I now know where I stand. I have a good feeling about my horses, they are in good form. Chester Weber was in Aachen as a spectator and I consider him and Boyd as top favourites for the medals. It was a shame that Chester was not competing in Aachen!

To drive the marathon as last phase of the combined competition was all right. We started in reverse order of the standings after dressage and cones, so I was one of the last to go. The marathon was broadcasted live on television and the TV people had insisted on this experiment to be able to produce a winner of the combined competition at the end of the marathon. To me, I prefer to have the cones as last competition. Now, we did not have as much tension as we used to have in the cones. The obstacle driving competition can be nerve wrecking and is always very exciting, anything can still happen, for both the individual and the team standings!

My next show will be in Lähden, Germany, at the home of my fellow competitor Christoph Sandmann. I need to drive a good dressage again to make up for Aachen and I look forward to battle against the top drivers again!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

2006 WEG Vaulting Silver Medalist Rosalind (Rosey) Ross (USA)

Rosalind Ross has been traveling to Europe as a team vaulter since she was 9 years old, though she started vaulting at a much younger age. Rosalind, "Rosey," is a very expressive vaulter and puts her great choreography, skill, grace, and elegance into an emotional performance. Rosey is a gold vaulter (the highest vaulting category). She has been on many teams throughout the years, and has been on many vaulting clubs, starting at Coastline and Mt. Eden Vaulting Clubs.

Rosey is currently in college at Emerson, Boston. She is majoring in literature, writing, and publishing.

When riding the high of two consecutive Selection Trial wins, there is a danger of becoming complacent about training. Thankfully, my team is of completely the opposite mentality. Having experienced success early in the season, we are now training harder than ever to achieve a standard of excellence that even we have not yet defined. Vaulting is a sport in which it is crucial to continually progress and evolve, even throughout the peak competition season. Often times, the routine one performs in the first competition of the season is far different from the routine that vaulter ends up performing at the World Championships. As the routine becomes more secure, the vaulter may choose to raise the level of difficulty or heighten their expressiveness through choreographic changes.

The first of three U.S. Selection Trials was held at Garrod Farms in Saratoga, California, May 15 and 16. I was very impressed with the high level of competition and unusually high turnout of competitors. Clearly, having the World Equestrian Games on our home turf this year is a major incentive for U.S. vaulters to step it up. It has been years since there were as many as five A-teams vying for the spot of National Team in our country. Each and every team put on a respectable performance. My team, F.A.C.E., aboard the horse Palatine lunged by Carolyn Bland, ended up winning the competition. Our freestyle routine was far from perfect, but evoked enough compliments from the audience to leave us feeling relieved that we had created something our country would be proud to stand behind, should we be selected as the team to compete in Kentucky.
I believe I speak for my entire team when I say that we are more proud of Palatine than anything. The Garrod Farms competition was his debut as a true “team horse,” in which he certainly proved himself. To go from never having carried more than one person on his back, to nearly effortlessly carrying three people for the duration of a four minute routine, is an amazing feat for a horse to accomplish in less than a year’s time. Though I have vaulted on many fantastic horses over my sixteen years in this sport, I can honestly say that performing on Palatine is one of the most relaxing and liberating experiences I have had. For me, the most enjoyable vaulting happens when the horse’s movement is in such a soft, even, cadence that it becomes possible to forget that your stage is moving. Though of course not every second of the performance is so effortless, the majority of our routine now feels that way.

The second U.S. Selection Trial was held at the Portola Valley Training Center in Portola Valley, California. We had another clean competition, securing our second win. We also guaranteed ourselves an invitation (along with the second place team, Woodside Vaulters) to the CHIO in Aachen, Germany in July. Due to financial reasons, we initially thought we would have to decline the invitation. Fortunately, with some aid from the U.S.E.F., the trip became possible. We will traveled to Germany in the end of June to begin training on a borrowed horse, and then competed in Aachen July 9-11. Immediately after returning home on July 12, we traveld to southern California for the third Selection Trial (July 17 and 18).

Since the last competition, we have wasted no time in taking our training to the next level in order to prepare for international competition. Though a couple of our team members live on the east coast, our coach/team manager in San Diego, and our horse trainer in Tennessee, we have all managed to congregate in the Bay Area for the past few weeks for some focused training time together. We spend nearly every waking moment together, living and breathing our passion for the art we create, and hoping that our efforts will carry us to the top of the podium in Kentucky!

Monday, August 2, 2010

2010 German Para Dressage Champion, Angelika Trabert Qualifies for the 2010 Games

ARIVA-AVANTI went with me to the first competition, got a little bit distracted by sun light that was falling through wooden bars, but she behaved well. So the next day we were on the road again to our first international competition in Mannheim. What can I say: I am a very lucky person and I have the honor to ride Ariva-Avanti! She was just awesome. Two starts and both times we came first. It was as if she had done that a million times before. I must admit that we had thought things over very carefully so as to not stress her too much. Michaela (Heinrich’s wife with whom I stable my horses) groomed for me. Heinrich coached me and Uta (our regional trainer) trained Ariva for the 20 min permitted per day. Those days Heinrich called Ariva’s breeder. He was so excited that he almost wanted to book flights to Kentucky right away. Since Ariva-Avanti is totally new "In the scene" I was asked by our trainer to show her once more internationally. Mulhouse/ France was the closest event and so we travelled South on the 16th of June. The competition was rainy and cold, but it was worth it!
The French did their very best to hold a competition in a friendly and warn atmosphere. Ariva herself was excited but showed again her qualities and her potential. We still have to grow together, BUT also this time, out of 3 starts we won three times. For the first time the Germans won the Nations Cup by 0.6% ahead of the Belgium team. The trophy was presented by Mrs. Jonquil Solt, former chairman of IPEC (International Paralympic Equestrian Committee). We were very proud. Ariva has to be trained carefully, she needs time to understand what I ask of her. But I am sure it is only advanced horses (like Ariva) which understand the different aids for turn on the haunches, halt or rein back, all without legs!

Yesterday was “day X”. The German Championships were over and the nomination of the German Para-Equestrian Team for the WEG took place.… and YES YES YES, we made it!!! Ariva-Avanti scored 70,476% in the team test, 71,21% in the Championship test and 73,25% in the Freestyle wish meant two first places and in the freestyle, second with 0,15% points behind Petra van de Sande (Netherlands), who was the winner at the Europeans in Norway 2009 in the Championship test! I was more than satisfied with those results. Ariva is for me already an outstanding horse, with a great character, esprit in the test and intelligence to understand my light aids.

Now we have to work on details and the freestyle performance, but Kentucky watch out, here we come!

An update on LONDRIA, … the positive is, that the vet gave us the OK to start training her again! The negative … she won´t be fit for the German Championships. This is sad on one hand, but the horse comes first, so the most important thing is to have the horse fully recover! We know what potential she has (winning gold and silver with me last year at the Europeans)!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Show Jumper Lauren Hough (USA) Blazing a Trail Through Europe on her Way to the 2010 Games

Currently on the long-list for the U.S. Show Jumping Team, Lauren Hough is blazing a trail through Europe on her way to the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.

The last two months have been spectacular.

The Global Champions Tour is the foundation of my schedule and a better series of events cannot be found. With unparalleled sponsorship the series provides a platform for top riders to compete for excellent prize money at wonderful venues with excellent footing and crowds of interested spectators. My European marathon of horse showing began in Valencia, Spain the first leg of the GCT. It's a neat venue as they drain a huge man made water feature at a city park to create the ring. The atmosphere is always festive and the spectators enthusiastic. For me the show was a good start to a long series of shows. Both my horses were strong competitors, Prezioso S placed third in the 5* Trofeo Iberia Aerea de Espana and Casadora placed third in the 5* Trofeo Masssimo Dutti. (Photo Credit: JL Parker)

A quick flight home for me to train and then off to Hamburg, Germany to meet Quick Study, Available Versace and a young horse Winand. I had a consistent show with top placings in every class we entered but luck was on my side as I was the last to go in the GCT Grand Prix at Hamburg and Quick Study and I were able to clinch the win with the only double clear round. That was a great win, friends Edwina Alexaner and Laura Kraut, who placed second and third, joined me on the podium as we celebrated with a huge champagne bottle presented by the sponsors.

Quickly back "home" to Rodrigo Pessoa's, where we are based in Belgiu, and then a flight to Rome and on to Turino. As much as I love Italy I always seem to loose my luggage there. But I was prepared and recovered my luggage in plenty of time. Turino is a neat town and a lovely venue. It is also a new venue for the GCT set against the beautiful mountains of Italy. Casadora and Prezioso S were consistent performers getting ribbons in several classes.

Back on a plane for Belgium and "home". This week I get an extra day at the farm as we are driving to Norten Hardenberg a more local show in the Germany. The ring at this show sits below a huge castle on a hill really amazing backdrop. It was a good week for me winning the €10,000 Preis der Hardenberg-Wilthen AG and placing second in the €50,000 Norten Hardenberg Grand Prix riding Casadora. The two young horses I brought placed well in every class they entered as well.

Another week of showing nearby and low key which is nice. Balve is a traditional old show with a fantastic crowd and a beautiful setting. The weather was hot this week in Germany, but the horses were good and and placed in many classes.

I am off to GCT Cannes a venue I like very much. It is held in a small park surrounded by apartment buildings that are on the pennisula over looking the mediterainian. There is actually a childrens swing set just in front of our stalls. It is very tight but the stands are full every night (the classes run at night) including Thursday the opening night. The high caliber of sponsorship and spectators makes this such a exciting event with unique qualities. The horses were great this week.

Home once again but not for long. Rotterdam is a Nations Cup event and I am on the US Team. This is an important show for me and for my country. The US stands in 6th place mid way through the series and we are battling to be able to compete in next years Nations Cup Series and the following years Olympics. Only the top 6 teams from 2010 will be able to compete in 2011. I am also challenging my fellow countrymen for a spot on the US Team at the WEG. The three tours comprised of a long list of riders chosen in selection trials this winter are competing for the 5 positions on the team.

Its been a cold and rainy week and thursday was not a good day for me but I will put that behind me and focus on the task ahead. George decided that I will go first for the US in the Nation Cup Class. Beezie Madden's horse was under the weather and Candice King and Skara Glen's Devos moved up to take their place.

It was a good day the team pulled together, with Beezie helping from the ground, we managed to win the Nations Cup!

A few days of R & R on my way to Monaco and feeling refreshed.

Global Champions Tour, destination Monte Carl. This is an interesting show. The venue is a parking lot at a marina on a beautiful harbor. The ring is small and things are tight but its amazing what you can do with a parking lot. The town is fun and the spectators lively. The Triumph Project is the primary sponsor and benefactor of this event. The Triumph Project is an awareness campaign funded by the Davis McCullough Foundation to enlighten the world through unified efforts both in the United States and abroad of the betrayal of our equine ally.The Triumph Project sponsored a Pro Am event, Bart Soetaers and I won the class which was a rousing success with the crowd. Prezioso S and Casadora were consistent and placed in each or their classes.

Home again, Home again. Then off to Estoril.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Irish Dressage Rider Judy Reynolds Blogs About Her Journey to the 2010 Games

I’m just back from the Schindlhof – Fritzens CDI 4* in Austria. The owners of Schindlhof, Klaus & Evelyn Haim-Swarovski have once again held one of the most enjoyable, friendly and generous shows set in the most picturesque location that I’ve been to. It’s the 25th year the show has been held, and the 15th show in memoriam to Manfred Swarovski, Evelyn’s father and a great horseman who passed away in 1995.

The grounds are 900m, that’s about 3000ft, above sea level in the middle of the Tyrolean Alps. The famous ski resort city, Innsbruck, is only a 15-minute drive from the show. The grounds themselves however are 800 km’s (10 hours straight in the truck with no traffic) from my base in Voerde, which by the way is only 50m above sea level. I usually like to leave on long journeys as early as possible to try and avoid the heavy traffic around the Dusseldorf-Cologne area. If left to my own devices I probably would have been done and gone by 6am, but as Johann wasn’t coming we had a final training session the morning of departure with the two horses I brought, Remy and my younger horse J.P.

So off we set for the show a little after 1 o’clock on Wednesday afternoon. Myself & Patrick, the 2 boys and the hound contingent of Blitzen and Pina -Pina is a little Jack Russell who actually belongs to Johann. Pretty soon after I moved to his yard I was watching TV after a long a day when I heard a short sharp bark outside. I didn’t think too much about it until I heard it again a couple of minutes later. I opened the door on the side of my apartment and in runs Pina! She’s quite old (No-one’s quite sure exactly, estimates put her at 11 or 12. Pretty old in doggy years, around 84 I think) she has a really good character and gets on very well with my long standing best friend Blitzen. So that night Pina decided that she was going to live here, and Blitzen and I decided that was ok. The show was Pina’s first trip outside of Germany, very exciting for an 80+-year-old Jack Russell I’d imagine!

I do all of my own driving, and even though we could have got there in 10 hours, there are rules for truck drivers regarding driving time and rest so the journey took a bit longer because of the rest-stops and minor delays along the way. In my truck Patrick can go out the back to check the horses and offer them water and carrots etc. I say offer them water because they never drink any! They know if they hold out on the water then they’ll get lots of carrots and apples to keep them hydrated. We tried cutting up apples and putting them into the water bucket to tempt them into drinking. This only served to annoy Remy because he can’t get them out easily, and nearly drown J.P because he doesn’t give up! We arrived at the show a little before 2am, which meant that we didn’t get to enjoy the scenery as we drove into the Alps. Even though it’s my 5th time to go to Fritzens the scenery still knocks me out. When I opened the curtains the next morning I got a full reminder of how amazing the place is. The weather was perfect. Blue skies, the sun beaming down and in every direction huge snow capped peaks. Fantastic! It was good to be back there.

On Thursday morning I let the boys have a lie-in after their long trip the day before. I took them out for a little exercise at 10am. The vet check wasn’t until 3pm, which gave me plenty of time to show them around before things started getting exciting. They were both pretty happy, presumably because I hadn’t woke them up to early! I took Remy for a walk in hand and Patrick took J.P.

J.P wasn’t entered in anything at the show. He’s just ready to do his first Prix St. George test at national level so he came along to get some show atmosphere experience, and so I could continue to work him. And in fairness to him, he went quite well. Jazz offspring are not known for their level-headedness… it was because of this that it was so surprising that between him, Remy and myself he managed to keep it together the best over the weekend...

My parents arrived on Thursday evening to lend their support and whatever help they could. My father and mother, Joe & Kathleen, come to as many of my competitions as possible. They never miss this one however, for many reasons. They also really enjoy Klaus & Evelyn’s welcoming and friendly nature, and my father has forged a good but sometimes strange friendship between himself and the owner of his favourite Alpine hotel, The Speckbacher-Hof, located a little further up the mountain than the show grounds. We went for dinner with my parents in their hotel that evening. As ever when my parents are in town Blitzen insisted on coming too. Anna Merveldt joined us a little later. It was nice to see her. Since she moved to Italy the opportunity to catch up doesn’t come very often. As always at the Speckbacher-Hof dinner was excellent, and as I had no tests on Friday we were able to stay a little later than usual. We all went into the residents’ bar for a drink after dinner. Dad’s friend, Andy, joined us and we all had a good laugh. However, It wasn’t long after dinner that I started to feel the drain of the two long days so we decided to call it a night. We got ready to go and called Blitzen. He didn’t move an inch. Except for his head, which he cocked to one side and looked at me as if to say, are you joking?

Of course when my parents are at a show Blitzen generally is nowhere to be seen. Well if you can see my mother you’ll catch a glimpse of him! He gets so excited when he see’s her at the airport or getting out of a car, that he actually forgets to breathe for a couple of minutes! Dad is a vegetarian, yet whenever he has a furry guest in the hotel he tends to take full advantage of the cold meat selection on offer at the breakfast buffet. No wonder I’m not the only one who gets a little depressed for a couple of days when Mum & Dad leave. So having left Blitzen nice and comfy in 4star surroundings, Patrick & I headed down the mountain for another night in the truck.

I have to say I was pretty nervous when I started to clean Remy and get him ready for the test. And as any rider will tell you, your horse picks up on how you’re feeling. This created a bit of a snowball effect and before long we were like a coiled spring. Not what we need before a Grand Prix test at a 4* international.

The test didn’t go so well. We went pretty much mistake-free, piaffe was a bit forward (something we’re working hard on) but everything else was ok. It just lacked the wow factor needed. And the tension showed in the movements so we weren’t able to draw the big points from the judges. Isabell Werth won the class with Satchmo on 73.5%. We finished mid-table and I was pretty happy that we managed to qualify for the special on Sunday.

Every evening at the Schidlhof tournament the owners have some entertainment arranged for the competitors and guests. Friday evening is one of my favourites! You might have recognised the name of the owners and hosts of the tournament, Swarovski? On Friday evenings they open their wonderful showrooms and factory outlet shop at the Swarovski factory in the town and we all get to enjoy the fascinating tour, and at the end, take advantage of a very nice discount in the biggest Swarovski-crystal shop you’ve ever seen! Having shopped myself into a happy state we went for dinner in a very nice little Italian restaurant in the centre of the town.

Saturday: The Grand Prix for competitors who wanted to ride in the freestyle to music was scheduled for Saturday. I had no tests so we had a fairly relaxed day. I worked the 2 boys as usual. Remy was much better than the day before and I thought over the test from Friday and what might have been. J.P went very well again. I worked him in the outdoor riding arena where he got to see lot’s new things and wavy flags etc. I had really expected him to be a bit more worked up by all the excitement and activity at a busy international show but he was really well behaved. After lunch I watched some of the riders in the class. Victoria Max-Theurer (AUT), Ulla Salzgeber (GER), Valentina Truppa (ITA) and America’s own Catherine Haddad amongst others rode in a hotly contested class, which Ulla Salzgeber won on 70.5%.

Later that evening Patrick and I had well needed showers and put on our glad rags for 8pm. We met with my parents and around 250 other guests outside the riding hall for a drinks reception and the start of the evening’s entertainment. A concert with the excellent Soprano singer, Eva Lind, was held in the hall that had only a few short hours earlier been the warm up arena for the tests! It was unrecognisable as the same place. The hard working crew at the show had covered a large area of the ground with temporary wood flooring and chairs and had set up the necessary extras required to put on a concert involving an orchestra! In this setting the enormous crystal chandelier, hanging from the ceiling was perfectly at home! After the concert we moved to the catering marquee. Everyone was seated at perfectly prepared tables scattered with tiny multi-coloured crystals and an army of excellent waiters served us a very tasty but definitely bad for my diet 4 course meal. We got the chance to dance away some of the calories before the evening ended and we headed back to the truck to get some rest shortly after 1am.

Sunday: The special started a lot better. I even got a 9 from one of the judges for my entry! It continued quite well for a while, he stayed up and with me and listening, until we came to our first piaffe.. I’m not sure what happened exactly, but as we started to ride the movement we got about 2 or 3 really good steps when all of a sudden he threw his head in the air and began to resist the aid. It took a moment to get this under control and from then on he got very tense and our marks suffered as a result. Our test that was on 70% (Patrick & my father informed me later. He could see the scores on a live board) was murdered down to the low 60’s. I was extremely disappointed. After we performed our duty in the prize giving, where Beatriz Ferrer-Salat was named the worthy winner of the class after a score of 74%, we packed the truck and left. It was along drive back with lots of time for reflection on the events of the weekend.

When you get down to it, Remy and I are still trying to navigate the Grand Canyon size valley between riding Grand Prix at national and at international competition. There are a few things we still have to work through and with only 78 days to go before Remy is due to leave for Kentucky horse park, I wouldn’t be honest if I said I wasn’t feeling the pressure. Two of the other Irish riders qualified for WEG have unfortunately had to withdraw. Yvette Truesdale’s horse, Has To Be Fun, has been out action for a while now, and there’s not enough time for her to get him back to full fitness. Anna Merveldt has withdrawn due to personal commitments. This is obviously a huge disappointment as it was my first opportunity to ride for a senior Irish team at a world championship and it would have been a fantastic experience. I’m sure it’s an even bigger disappointment for Yvette and Anna though and my heart goes out to them.
So now, unless Angela Crane can get her 2nd qualifying score, and I wish her the best of luck, it looks like it might just be me flying the Irish flag in dressage at the biggest equestrian event of my life. If I want to go to Kentucky and really show what Remy and I can do –and I really, really want that- we have to work harder than ever!

I believe that we have to try to get to as many international shows as we can between now and the world games as possible. For want of a better phrase, ‘international match fitness’ is what we’re lacking. We’ve only competed at five international-Grand Prix’s so far and a few more would definitely help us prepare for what will be required in Kentucky.
I’ll keep you updated on how we’re progressing.
Bye for now, Judy.

Monday, July 19, 2010

2008 British Grand Prix Freestyle Champion, and British National Champion Dressage Rider, Maria Eilberg (GBR)

My elbow has been getting better slowly and I have been riding again. I still have to take it a bit gently but it is very difficult when having to do anything around horses! My family have been incredibly supportive and Mike and Dad have been doing a great job at keeping the horses going for me, I might even have trouble getting them back!

The beginning of July was quite intense with sorting entries. I was having to wait on selection for Aachen before entering Hartpury and then Hickstead had to be decided as well-they all had to be in by the end of June so I found myself having to meet the deadlines all on the same day! I have been selected for Aachen with Two Sox, Mike will do Hartpury which is the same week and then we will do Hickstead together. We are in the process of getting a new lorry which we hope will be here in time for these next shows . . .

So it had been a busy but efficient week until we had what could of been a major disaster. Dad got kicked. Initially we thought it was in the head but fortunately it was through the side of his cheek, the cut went all the way through so it was literally a hole! He has also wrenched his shoulder but all in all we have to be extremely grateful. Initially he did have loss of memory but gradually it's coming round. We just have to keep our fingers crossed that nothing else happens!!

Dad seems to be doing much better, we are having to keep a close eye on him but hopefully he has got away with it! The swelling on his face has come down and he is all colours of the rainbow with bruising!

Because I am having to look after my arm for Aachen and re team selection for WEG, Mike has been helping me out with the stallions. He competed Worldwide and Woodlander Rockstar for me today. He will look after them while I am away for Aachen and then everything should be back to normal.

We have the Badminton Young Horse Finals this coming weekend and then things kick off again with Aachen, Hartpury and Hickstead. It is going to be a busy month!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Irish Dressage Rider Judy Reynolds Vies for A Chance to Compete at the 2010 Games

My 2nd qualifying score with Remember in Stadl Paura means that Ireland has 3 dressage riders qualified for a major championship for only the 2nd time…EVER!! I look forward to linking up with already qualified Anna Merveldt (aka Peetsy) and Yvette Truesdale to represent Ireland on the Big Stage!

Hi. My name is Judy Reynolds. I’m a long time reader first time blogger. Where to start? I suppose some details about me and my journey so far is as good a place as any. I’m 28, from Kildare, Ireland and I’m a professional dressage rider. I live in Germany with my partner Patrick, my dog Blitzen and three of my horses Remember, Vancouver and Bodessa who are all at different stages in their training.

Patrick and I have been together for over 8 years. I met him first when I was working part time at my fathers transport company. He left his job in Ireland and moved to Germany with me 3 years ago. Before Patrick joined me here it was myself with only my faithful hound Blitzen for company after the long days at the stables. His steadfast loyalty and honest advice are a big reason I’ve been able to dedicate myself to my training in Germany. I consider him a major factor behind my success, and Patrick isn’t bad either ;)

We live in a small town called Voerde, which is about 60 km’s north of Dusseldorf. I’m based at Johann Hinnemann’s stables with my horses for training and competition. I’ve lived in Germany for almost 7 years now, I spent the first few years in Bavaria where I trained with experienced Irish rider Anna Merveldt and then with Ulla Salzgeber. Around 2 years ago I moved to my current location to work on bringing my #1 horse, Remember (or “Remy” to his friends) from ‘Small Tour’ to ‘Big Tour’.

Remy is a really talented 12-year-old KWPN gelding. I bought him 6 years ago from a small producer in Holland. As a 7 year old he hadn’t done very much, he was competing at elementary level (German level L). He’s not the biggest horse -only 166cm, but I’m not the biggest girl, only 158cm (on a good day!) so the picture works. What Remy lacks in size he makes up for in presence. He has fantastic paces, in particular his canter. We had our most successful year so far in 2008. We had many wins at German national shows at Prix st George and Intermediare I level, beating some of the big name German riders in the process; we also won at the CDI Lipica, Slovenia. The successes of 2008 were culminated with me being named Irish dressage rider of the year by the main Irish equestrian publication, The Irish Field.

2009 was a quieter year on the competition front as we concentrated on making the step up to Grand Prix level. At our first time out at Intermediare II level last year we won the class with over 66%, this may have gone to my head a little at the time though because shortly after I entered for two international CDI’s at Vierzon in France and Hickstead in the UK. Neither show went particularly well but there were definitely some positive points. We picked up a WEG qualifying score at Hickstead and I learned something valuable about ensuring you and your horse are secure in the work before you take it in front of international judges. Anyway, lesson learned.

After Hickstead I went back to working hard on securing the new movements, which Remy had to learn to make the step up to Grand Prix (piaffe, passage and one tempi changes). Later in the year we competed at a couple of national shows to check what we were doing at home could be transferred to the competition arena and picked up another win and a few placings along the way.

2010 started with a bang and we won scoring over 70% at national shows here in Germany. At Easter we got our 2nd qualifying score for WEG at the CDI*** in Stadl Paura, Austria.

More recently we travelled down to Munich CDI***** where the best in the world were competing including Edward Gal, Adelinde Cornelissen, Isabell Werth and Ulla Salzgeber. It’s inspirational to watch these riders work their horses and ride among them.

I had my first Grand Prix win recently at a national show not too far away from home and I was also presented with the Deutsche Goldenes Reitabzeichen (German Golden Riders Badge) which you get for having 10 wins at ‘S’ level (Prix St George and above). This was a great honour for me and I am only the second Irish dressage rider ever to have earned it. It was so nice at the show in Krefeld as the Kuehnen family really made the presentation ceremony very special for me, and the spectators -though possibly seeing me for only the first or second time- gave me a brilliant reception, cheering and clapping during the lap of honour. I didn’t stop smiling for days! (Pictured from left to right: Judy's trainer Johann Hinnemann, Judy on Remember and the Vice President of the Rheinland Federation, Herr Heiner Nachbarschulte at the National Show in Krefeld, Germany where Judy won her first Grand Prix and received the Goldenes Reitabzeichen)

In between all my travelling around to shows with Remy I get the other horses out competing as often as possible and also go home to Ireland every 4-6 weeks to teach the growing number of students I have there.

Next up on the calendar are some more national shows in Germany and at the end of June the Fritzens CDI**** in Austria, this competition is run by the Swarovski family and is one of the most beautiful shows of the year. Set into the Austrian Alps and the hospitality is second to none.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Reiner Lisa Coulter (CAN) On the Road to the 2010 Games

Once again Angels Mark came through for me! I just got back from the Derby in Oklahoma City where Angel and I competed in the CRI. We put together a great run and won the CRI. That was just the run I needed to send me off to compete at the team selection. I was looking to keep my confidence and competitive level up going into the WEG trials.

The team selection for Canada will be held at Heritage Park in Chilliwack BC. There will be a great group of horses and riders competing to make the team. The show and facility are top notch and will host a super qualifier for us. Sharon Hall is tireless in her devotion to hosting great Reining shows and supporting all levels of Reiners in Canada.

I have decided to take Ace and Weg. They are feeling great and as ready as they can be. It will be very interesting to see how they each compete and which one comes out on top. They both have the capabilities to make the team and it will come down to which horse is more on that particular day. They are also very different and it will be up to me to ride them each to their best ability individually.

Making the team will not be easy and I am eager to get the show on the road! My sights are set on Kentucky and making the team will be a big goal accomplished. I feel ready for WEG as well and am so thankful I went to the test event last year. I feel like that gives me an edge as I had the chance to get comfortable with the facility and show pen.

I will give it my very best at the team selection and hope the next blog will be filled with great news! I am thankful for the friends and family who have supported me on this venture as nobody has success without support!

I wish everyone good luck and success on their path to WEG!!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

2008 British Grand Prix Freestyle Champion, and British National Champion Dressage Rider, Maria Eilberg (GBR)

Addington Premier League which seems ages ago now was great as a warm up for Wiesbaden and Lingen. No matter how many times I have ridden the Grand Prix I always feel rusty if not having competed for a month or so so it was good to have a practice run! Two Sox was full of beans and very happy to be out at a party again, perhaps a little too happy as we entered the Grand Prix at a buck! He had another little whiz just before the 2s but I wasn’t too bothered as I was glad he was feeling fresh. I had planned to do the Grand Prix only but as he was feeling so well he did the Special the next day as well which he was more settled for. Woodlander Rockstar did his first PSG which as I expected was a little green but he did everything and didn’t feel phased by the work. It was good for me to have a go so that I know what needs working on!

Wiesbaden was eventful! I had never been before--so many people and different events going on all at the same time! The warm up and main arena are situated in the middle of a park so you get a lot of people who are just interested to see what’s going on and children, so many children! I was working Rockstar the one morning and not only did he have a tractor harrowing the arena but a bus load of children appeared and started to have a coat throwing competition: Who can throw their coat the highest?! He was so good and the next day he had the vaulting horses to work around!! On the way back home we ended up being in the middle of the cross country course which was exciting, I heard the whistle and wham, I had a horse coming behind me at a gallop! Two Sox was a star and on great form. He was a little fresh when we arrived but soon relaxed and felt so loose and supple after the journey. He is so content with himself now taking everything in his stride and not being phased by anything. He used to get quite nervous at big shows and it would show with him being tight, anxious and not eating. Now he thrives on it, at the age of 16, loving the atmosphere and applause, and trying to get hold of any grub that is going, he is one happy horse!

In the Grand Prix he did pretty much a clear round, the piaffes perhaps being a little forward and the zig zag a little tight so a few edges but he did do his best ever extended trot which I was very pleased about! He finished third with 68% not far behind the winner which was really encouraging. We opted to do the Freestyle which I wasn’t quite sure about as it was to be the next evening under floodlight which was bound to be very spooky! I was drawn last to go at 11pm. The atmosphere was buzzing and electric, he came out onto the warm up quite nervous. After a good bit of suppling he started to relax and I had to keep him moving more or less the whole time so he didn’t have time to wind himself up, all he could hear was lots of murmuring from the people watching and there were shadows everywhere. When it was time for me to go in for my test we had to make our way through the crowds of people to main the arena, it was a huge party atmosphere with commentary and interaction with the audience and judges, like a demo. As the last rider was being interviewed the crowd gave huge applause and he got a little excited but did a great test, just two little blips, a small mistake in the one tempis on the half circle where he got a bit disorientated heading towards all of the people and a slight rhythm blip in the last ext trot down the centre line- I didn‘t support him enough. He finished third again with 73%, very close to second place, I was very pleased! I thought that perhaps the whole evening would have taken a lot out of him but no sooner had we taken him back to the stables and taken his bridle and saddle off did he walk straight into his stable of his own accord and start eating his hay! (Photo: Celebrating Wiesbaden!)

Unfortunately Lingen didn’t go exactly to plan! I was cycling back to the hotel when I fell off the bike and broke my elbow, I was going to fast down a hill and didn’t make the turn! Luckily it seems to only be a small fracture so I should be riding again in a couple of weeks which is very good news! I am also extremely fortunate to have my Dad and brother at hand to keep the horses going in the meantime.

The next goal is Aachen which I hope I have done enough to be selected for, it will be the final selection before WEG so fingers crossed!

Monday, June 28, 2010

2006 WEG Vaulting Gold Medalist and Recent Cornell University Graduate, Megan Benjamin (USA)

Believe it or not (personally, I’m still in denial), I am a college graduate. After four years of 20-page history research papers, grueling exams, late nights in the library, and plenty of parties, on May 30th I graduated from Cornell University.

It was certainly a bittersweet moment. As challenging as my academic career at Cornell has been these past few years, I have loved every last moment. More than anything, as a California girl, I’m sad to leave my Cornellian friends, who will scatter across America’s northeastern cities from New York to D.C. to Boston. Luckily for us, there’s Skype and gchat, and as they reminded me as we said our goodbyes and I worried aloud about when I would see them again, “Megan, it’s not like you were ever on campus this semester anyway, and we’re still friends.”

Fair fact. Since January, I ventured to four different countries (Brazil, Denmark, Netherlands, and Canada) on four different occasions to teach clinics and compete abroad, went back to California for vaulting training camps and more competitions, drove over to Princeton, NJ to visit my boyfriend of four years, and flew to Portland, OR and Louisville, KY for the annual meetings of the American Vaulting Association and the United States Equestrian Federation, respectively.

My friends and family don’t quite understand how I managed to graduate (and maintain a pretty sweet GPA, I might add) from Cornell while simultaneously traveling the globe, training for WEG, and keeping my close friendships and relationships intact. The truth is this insane travel schedule and level of stress has been my norm for a long time. There are many things that are important to me, and I approach each and every one of these things with the time, effort, and dedication I believe they deserve.

As my mom has told me during times of stress, “You can have it all, but not all at once.” It is certainly true that if you stretch yourself too thin, it’s difficult to excel at any one thing. Although I’ve managed the delicate balance of my million and one passions these past four years of university, it’s time to scale back. As I write this, I am on a plane from Cornell to California. When I arrive, I will have a single focus for the first time in years—vaulting.

With no more academic obligations, I am finally free to train with my whole mind, body, and soul. With less than 4 months to go before WEG’s Opening Ceremonies, this is perfect timing. My calendar for the next few months is brimming with national and international competitions, vaulting practices, fabric shopping and uniform fittings, gymnastics and dance instruction, strength training, riding, and (of course) hours upon hours of barn chores. I’ve waited four years for this moment, and you can bet I’m going to take full advantage of every second.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Twenty-Second National Title for Four-in-Hand Driver IJsbrand Chardon (NED)

Twenty-second national title for IJsbrand Chardon

At the end of May, I won the Dutch National four-in-Hand Driving Championship for the twenty-second time in my career. A Dutch Championship is always special and I never get bored of winning it! The Championship took place during the World Cup Qualifying competition in Zelhem (the Netherlands) and I also won the international class, ahead of my compatriots Theo Timmerman and Koos de Ronde.

It was only decided two weeks before the event that Zelhem would host the Dutch National Championship, but I did not mind that. At the start of this year, I choose to start my outdoor competition season and training schedule 5-6 weeks later than normal. The World Four-in-Hand Championships during the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky take place in the first week in October, which is much later than my usual ending of the season. In Zelhem I was pleasantly surprised by my dressage performance, for which I used my World Championship Team. If I drive like this in Kentucky, I will be very happy! The dressage is a decisive factor and I am extremely pleased with the way my horses went.

The marathon was a different matter though..! I noticed very well in this phase that we only had a short period of training before Zelhem. My fellow competitors had all driven more marathons than we did and I really had to work hard to keep up with the speed! The level is very high at the moment and I was still happy with my fifth place in the marathon which abled me to keep my lead in the Dutch Championships and the international competition.

I also had different, but experienced people on the back of my carriage in Zelhem. My wife Paulien stayed home because our eldest daughter Jeannette (18) had to do her school exams. We believe school is very important and that is also the reason why my son Bram (16) will not be able to compete in one of the nicest international pony driving competitions in The Netherlands this summer. Bram has moved on to national level with his pony team at the start of this season. He and I now regularly compete at the same shows, so he won’t be able to backstep for me all the time. But Paulien and Bram will for sure be on my team in Aachen and at the World Equestrian Games!

The final obstacle driving competition went very well, I drove a clear round within the time allowed and it was a great feeling to hear the national anthem being played for me for the twenty second time!

I know what to work on to perform better in the marathon and I will use different wheeler horses in Saumur this weekend. After Saumur, the next important competition is Aachen. I will meet my strongest opponents there; one of them is Boyd Exell from Australia. I consider him as a medal candidate. I feel it is important to scale yourself and not to stay on your own isle.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Endurance Rider Kathy Brunjes (USA) Blogs about the Endurance Selection Trials for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games

Back from the Shine and Shine Only CEI */** outside San Jose, California (held May 15). Many west coast endurance riders came together to either finish qualifying themselves and/or their horses for the WEG or to bring young horses up through the FEI mileage/qualification system. My good friends (and fellow team-mates) Heather and Jeremy Reynolds provided a very nice horse for me to compete on; this was to be his first 120km. The trails were some of the most beautiful I have ever ridden, and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect for this east coast rider! Unfortunately, my mount developed a small cramp in his hind-quarters at 60 miles, and we were withdrawn at that point. Heather and Jeremy went on to win and place second in the 120km on their horses. The course was well-marked, officials were helpful and ride management provided a spectacular venue (both scenery and hospitality). I’m ready to move!

The first of our WEG selection trials will be in Danville, IL. Central riders and horses, along with some East and West riders nominated on multiple horses, will be tested and examined over a course being laid out by our Chef d’Equipe and local volunteers. Immediately following the Central trial will be the East (Elton, MD at Fair Hill), then the West trial will conclude the initial selection process in Prineville, OR. Approximately 60 horse/rider combinations will be demonstrating during these trials. Added to the 45+ riders listed on the Endurance Rider Ranking List (ERRL) are the Wild Card invitations, extended to riders with their nominated horses who did not make the ERRL in the past 20 months, but have demonstrated a potential that has caught the eye of both the Selectors’ Committee and the Chef. Up to ten Wild Cards were allowed in the procedures, and eight invitations were extended to attend one of the three trials.

I recently took my nominated horse, Theatric, to a three-day competitive event, using this as cross-training before we went into our last week of sprint work prior to attending our East trial. The weather is warming up, humidity has entered the picture and we are keeping our fingers crossed that everyone stays sound and healthy for the next three weeks. Riders will have a chance to ask questions of our Chef at the upcoming informational call on June 7, and there will be one last chance to qualify nominated horses before the selection trials at the Ft. Howes CEI*** on June 13 (Ft. Howes, MT).

More to follow……..
Stay sound! Kathy

Monday, June 14, 2010

Vaulter Ali Divita (USA) Blogs About Her Beloved Horse, Lorino

Vaulter Alicen Divita (USA) was set to compete in the CVI in Saumur, France when her beloved horse, Lorino, fell ill. Below Ali recalls some of her favorite memories with Lorino, who is now on the road to recovery.

After my parents graduated from college, my dad got a job in Hawaii. Still living in California, my mom sold her horse to buy a plane ticket to go visit him; my dad told her that one day he would buy her an even better one. Sixteen years and four kids later, my Dad kept his promise. That is how Lorino came into our lives.

I remember that first day when he came to the barn, I took him out of his stall and used all of his new brushes, making his already clean coat even shinier and smoother. I had never had a horse before, but I grew up always wanting one. Even though I was already a young teenager, I felt that same little girl awe as I stood there with my 17.1 hand Hanoverian “pony”.

I remember learning to ride with him. I think I was the smallest girl in the lesson, but Lorino towered over everyone. All of the other girls could control their little ponies and would guide them in a perfectly straight line; daintily leaping over the sweetly arranged jumps one after the other. Then came Lorino and me. Barely making it around the corner, we serpentined towards the center of the arena, reigns being pretty much ignored on both ends, toes pointed into the stirrups, all four of our eyes sparkling at the jump ahead. Lorino would leap with all his might, clearing the 6 inch jump by at least 3 feet, all four feet at the same time, like a mix between a kangaroo and a little boy on a trampoline. It was clear we were going to have to find a creative way to express our “unique” energy.

I remember teaching him what vaulting was about. My mom would get him trotting on the lunge circle, and I would slowly start trotting next to him. Immediately he would stop. I would keep running forward, softly holding his bridle leading him forward, “No silly just like me, keep going.” Eventually he learned to keep going at the canter, and soon I was able to run all the way towards him, grab the grips and use the momentum of his stride to pull myself up onto his back. This is how we learned to work together. When I stand on his back, my legs extend all the way to his hooves, when he pushes off the ground the energy comes all the way back up through my arms. Maybe the director of Avatar was trying to get at this. I am pretty sure that if Lorino and I braided our manes together the result would be slightly more awkward, but the connection is there, it is the most natural feeling in the world.

I remember when I was in high school, coming to vaulting straight from school, totally exhausted and not even sure why I was sad, and just leaning into his shoulder feeling completely safe because he knew. It is that level of communication that does not require words.

I remember walking with him back and forth through the parking lot to cool down after morning practices, both of us still breathing hard. Our heart rates went down as the sun came up, I felt like I was watching the rest of the world wake up. Lorino would push my shoulders with his nose, both of us just being there in the moment. Sometimes Lorino would take advantage of these moments of awe, because he has one fault: food. Somehow he had a way of leading us closer and closer to the trailer each time we circled. Then, just at the right time he would make his mad dash to the cookie jar, pulling me along with him and reminding me that a “lead” line is only defined by the end that can pull harder.

I remember driving all over the country with him and my mom. At each gas stop he would poke his head out the window, ready for his treats: that was the whole point of the ride right? I would feel so proud as people would marvel at how big and pretty he was, he was always the one I told the smallest kids they could pet, “You can always trust Lorino,” I would say.

I remember last year, stumbling through my routine at practice, starting to lose hope as I missed a handstand and landed on my shoulder. With my ear pressed into his back gripping the handles I had a moment of wanting to give up. But with the energy of his stride, I actually felt Lorino encourage me. He put in enough effort for both of us, moving forward he told me I could do it, “Just like me,” he said with his stride, just keep going.

This Sunday was the first time I realized that Lorino is not always going to be there. Coming back from yoga I wondered why my mom wasn’t home, I called my Dad and he told me that they were at the emergency vet. Lorino had been looking uncomfortable earlier that day, but after walking him around for a few hours the vet and trainers said nothing seemed to be seriously wrong. My sister, Shannyn and I got in the car and drove straight out to see him. When I saw him standing there with an IV in his neck, I started to cry. Things got better and worse as the night went on, and eventually it was just my mom and I in the early hours of the morning.

After some much-needed bonding time with my mom, I started thinking about the term paper I was supposed to be working on for my East Asian Art History Class. They say that before Buddha was born as a human he was born hundreds of times as various different animals. I told my mom and she said, “So Lorino could actually be a future Buddha?” A Buddha is supposed to have extreme wisdom. We looked over and Lorino was spraying water everywhere as he scratched his butt on the automatic water dispenser. “I am not sure if wise is the first word that comes to mind,” my mom said. But as we stood there laughing I couldn’t help but think about how good it felt to be there with my mom and our horse, in the middle of the night, during finals week, having completely forgotten about everything I was stressed about earlier that day. Buddhists say we are taught by skillful means; he moves in mysterious ways. Sometimes it is obvious what we learn, or what we take away from our relationships, and sometimes it is a blessing wearing a very strange disguise.

We were lucky that we were able to give Lorino surgery, and he is doing much better now. It doesn’t look like I will be vaulting on him at the selection trials this year, but that doesn’t mean he is not still with me. Just as when we meet new people we bring with us what we have learned from our previous relationships, I know that I will always have what I have learned from Lorino when I vault on other horses and when I continue on in life. We are the result of our different experiences. It is about being strong enough to hold the move steady, but loose enough to absorb the stride. As a rider you may think you are in control, but I think really we are just being taken on a ride. So all I can say is enjoy it, and make sure to keep your eyes open.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Latest from Olympic Show Jumping Gold Medalist, Beezie Madden (USA), on her European Tour

Show Jumper Beezie Madden (USA) blogs about the end of her first European Tour with her mare, Madmoiselle. More to come as she continues on her second European Tour with her gelding, Danny Boy.

Our third and final Tour 1 Super League show took place in St. Gallen Switzerland and finished last Sunday. The team was the same as in Rome and LaBaule with the exception of McLain who rode Rothchild in the Nations Cup instead of Sapphire. Since Sapphire had little to prove, Rothchild got the chance to do his first Nations Cup.

Unfortunately, we again did not have a good day as a team. The conditions were tough as it had rained most of the day on Thursday and most of Wednesday night causing the cancellation of all the classes on Thursday. They did allow the Nations Cup horses to jump a warm-up round on Thursday evening. The ground was still quite soft on Friday for the Cup, and some horses handled it well and others did not. Our first round was dismal again.

Richard had eight faults, McLain had 13, I had nine with Mademoiselle, and Mario rode anchor with five faults. The time allowed was very short and, along with the difficult conditions, made for tough jumping. The French team, however, came out firing again and was in the lead after the first round. Our second round was only slightly better.

Richard was clear, McLain had eight, I had a disappointing 13 faults, and Mario had nine. We finished a very disappointing 7th place. I think some of our horses were feeling the effects of having already done two Super League shows with a lot of traveling and not much time off.

In the Grand Prix, we had another mediocre showing. Richard placed 10th with five faults in the first round and four in the jump off. Mario also made it to the second round with four faults in the first (the top
13 from the first round came back for the jump off) and completed the jump off with eight faults. I had nine faults with Mademoiselle, so I did not have the performance I hoped for to make the team for WEG. I can't, however, be that disappointed with her since she jumped three Super League Grand Prix's, two with four faults and one with nine. Our process of getting to know each other is ongoing. And with a little more time under our belt, I feel we can be very competitive at the highest level.

My focus now has to be on Danny Boy and his performance at Rotterdam next week and later at Aachen. With good results at those two shows, he could be in striking distance of making the WEG team. Keep your fingers crossed for us!