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!!