Sunday, September 14, 2014
WEG 2014. Wow!!! World records, Rain, crowds, Nutella crepes, Laura Graves and dancing ponies! These were just a few highlights from my mother's and my trip to Caen France to watch the World Equestrian Games.
We I knew it would be a special experience, but never expected the magic that would happen during our 6 days there. The first day the weather was overcast and rainy, not a favorite for us California girls, we were all bundled up much to the surprise of the locals in their T-shirts who looked at us like we were Eskimos. There were 100 dressage horses in the competition in all, the most ever for the dressage part of the WEG, so they split the team test into two days. Each and every rider was so focused and all of the horses new it was game time. One aspect of the competition that stood out to me was how serious everyone is about dressage in Europe, we are slowly but surely becoming more horse savvy in the US, but at the WEG there was a filled rugby stadium of 20K people to watch dressage and they are into it, gasping when the horse missed a tempi change or a quiet wowwww would fill the stadium after a perfect piaffe. It was so fun seeing each country show support for their teams, Spain would do their version of a train clap while the horse was making it around the outside of the arena, the Dutch wore extremely bright orange shirts and jackets that you could see from a mile away, the Americans always had on some form of red white & blue with matching hats and carried little US flags waving them wildly after each US team member rode. One of the surprises of the trip was that we were in the same hotel as the US team! Running into Laura Graves or Robert Dover in the lobby was such a treat and the entire US team and USEF staff were so welcoming. After the US team rode for an incredible 4th place in the first leg of the competition, it was time for the Grand Prix Special and Freestyle where the riders would compete for individual medals. There were so many incredible rider and horse combinations that I had never seen in person and let me tell you, YouTube does not do them justice. Damon Hill, Parzival, Verdades, Bella Rose, Valegro!!! Just a few names of the horses that danced their way into my heart. Laura Graves is a huge topic in dressage right now and she deserves everything that's coming to her, so young yet a very mature person and rider. Laura and Verdades made a lot of new fans worldwide at the WEG, and the sky is the limit for that pair. Charlotte and Valegro are just as good as everyone says, the arena was their canvas and they painted a stunning picture as they ran away with the gold medal in the Grand Prix Special and the Freestyle. There was no beating Valegro this show but none the less the 18 freestyles were unforgettable, with Laura Graves placing 5th in the world and Steffen right up there at 10th. US dressage is fighting their way back into medal contention internationally and a true force to be reckoned in the years to come. On our off day we took a tour of the massive beaches of Normandy and the beautiful American Cemetery, it really put in perspective what the US and allies had to overcome in order to win WWII and gave me an even bigger sense of pride to be an American and hopefully ride for my country one day.
The overall the experience at the WEG was unforgettable and so inspiring, especially being a Young Rider and seeing so many younger people competing successfully. It doesn't have to be a fairytale dream that is decades away, it's attainable & shows that with an immense amount of hard work, anything is possible. It definitely motivated and inspired me for the U25 next year, my goal is Aachen, and my dad always says a goal is a dream with a deadline, and I'm more determined than ever after France to chase my dream. Watching the WEG was fun but hopefully in the future, I can experience it from the back of my dancing horse.
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Nearly the last two weeks I spent hanging out around Ingolstadt, Germany. It isn’t a place one instantly thinks of when you think about a vacation! However, it is the town where my dad grew up and around where most of his family still lives. My grandfather, or Opa as they say in Germany, lives there. With my school and riding schedule I haven’t been able to go over and visit for many years. I went to see him, my Aunt Andrea and Uncle Alex and their kids and one grandson. We did all the usual family visiting and hanging out. We also got to see some really great things around Ingolstadt.
Ingolstadt is one of the ‘unknown’ really great tourist destinations in Bavaria. It is one of the only completely walled cities left in Europe. At one time in history it was a military fort to defend Germania against the Romans, Huns and other invaders. The entire city wall still stands. So cars can’t go into the town. You have to park and walk into the city through one of the few gates. The main gate is very beautiful. I put pictures of it on Instagram and twitter. It looks like a moats castle entrance at Disney’s Cinderella’s castle. The original castle where the heads of the garrison lived still stands. It isn’t a castle for noblemen so it isn’t filled with furniture and paintings. It was a soldier’s home. It has been turned into a military museum. This is a museum that is great for kids and families. It isn’t boring endless art or stuff you can’t touch. There are giant ancient cannons you can sit on and take pictures. There are moats and room size panoramas off famous battles made out of those little handpainted lead army guys. There are suits of armor and weapons dating back a thousand years. For me the coolest part is the main hall. It is a giant room that was used to train in winter when it was too cold outside. There are long ramped steps up to the hall because they used to hold indoor jousts there. The flags of the knights of the times hang from the rafters. I can almost imagine being there and watching the large war horses practicing battles.
Another great thing about Ingolstadt is this is the real home of the historically infamous Dr. Frankenstein! He supposedly did his human experiments at the university here. They have a medical museum in his former home. It is like a history of the medical field. I think people in the health care world would find it fascinating. Also anyone who has ever been or will be sick will find it interesting in a sick way too! They have chairs where they tied people down and bored holes in their heads. They have all types of saws and tools for extracting demons. One really gross treatment included sticking pins through the eye balls. Anyway it is another unusual museum that kids would find a lot more entertaining than the usual when traveling. There are parks and great gardens. Also it is only about 30km northeast of Munich so you can easily take a train or drive down to Munich. If you go in the opposite direction from Ingolstadt you can visit Nuremburg and the seat of the war crimes tribunals after WWII. The black forest and all of the traditional clock making, schnapps houses, and home of the Grimm tales are very close as well.
If you head west you can see Ludwig’s famous Castles and a bit East and South you hit Garmisch and some of the best Alpine skiing in the world. So I guess the greatest thing about Ingolstadt is its nearly central location in Bavaria. Maybe that is why they built the original garrison there in the first place. To easily defend all of Bavaria. Anyway, I am exhausted from all the travel this summer. I was so happy to get home and ride Sj. I really miss him when I don’t see him every day. I am only home until Thursday and then it is back to Europe again! Third visit in six weeks. I am not sure if my body knows what time it is. I am excited to go get to work with some great people, exciting things to come!