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Thursday, July 2, 2015

My experience in Germany

   Well my first big European competition was a very exciting experience!  Before anything else I want to say thanks again to everyone who helped me to be able to be here.  The USEF committee and donors that made the program possible, I hope you continue this program because it is life changing and eye opening.  The Dressage Foundation, the Renee Isler Dressage Support Fund, and Lendon Gray and Courtney’s Quest Scholarship for helping to defer the financial costs and giving me the opportunity to stay a few weeks longer for additional training.  Thank you to my sponsors Custom Saddlery and IRH for making SJ and I look good and to do our best.  Thank you to Nike for giving me the privilege to represent you and the honor of having your spokesperson here to not only support me but to get to experience the amazing sport I love.  Thanks to Sheryl Shade the most supportive and knowledgeable agent anyone could ask for.  Thanks to their daughters Shade and Ryan for giving their mom’s up for a weekend so that I could have them.  Next time I hope to see you both here!  Thanks to Jessica Hainsworth a true friend and my partner in all things dressage.  These things would be so stressful without you.  David Wightman it was so fun getting to know you and I am up for staring contests, singing, and general goofiness any time.  Thanks for being there for us all.  Genay Vaughn one of the greatest rewards of getting selected this year was to get time to spend with you.  You always give me a reboot and I think you are the best friend a girl could have.  Catherine Chamberlain (Cat) thanks for being such a great teammate and being so supportive.  I enjoyed getting to meet you and hope we can do it all again soon!  I love your sense of humor and your focus.  George Williams, when I say we clicked in training I really mean that. I don’t just mean about riding, but politics, sportsmanship, strategy, teamwork and a list of other things.  I really appreciate all you did to help make me successful in the ring and out of it. I also want to say thank you for all the extra time you took with my “posse.” They were all awed and impressed.  Finally, to my extended family of supporters I have to say my heart overflows with your generosity.  Uncle James you were there every minute jumping in any way you could.  You went literally countries out of your way to be helpful and supportive.  You got people on trains, stood in line for coffee, carried bags and all manner of things, all while expressing deep interest and support for me.  Grandma and papa I know you couldn’t come physically because of work but you were here in spirit.  I love you and thanks to you and my mom for all your help.  You guys are the rock on which I stand.
     I put the thanks first, because if we put them at the end I know sometimes you just quit reading!  HaHa and they deserve top billing.  So What did I learn here.  First, I have to admit some of the most valuable things I learned here are not what I expected to learn. I had heard that shows here can be crazy.  At the RDHMW I remember Devon Kane telling us about the craziness she encountered here and it stuck.  Though I had been told how different it is, this is really something one must experience to appreciate.  Some of the things they casually do here, we would lodge a formal complaint about at home. Scooters with four kids on them zooming between mounted horses and jumping off right in front of you, while you’re walking on cement next to a moving tractor lifting bales of hay while a loose dog runs around your feet!  I kid you not! It is truly an atmosphere one must experience to believe.  It isn’t bad or wrong it is just totally a different culture.  I am so lucky to get to learn to deal with it as a young rider which is a great benefit of this program.  I think that Europeans grow up in this chaos which makes them more prepared for it later.  
    Second, I realized that while dressage has been my life for over a decade, this sport I love doesn’t have the same history or awareness and support it does in Europe.  I mean, I always knew it was ‘their’ sport but I didn’t realize what that meant until I got here.  The facility the show was at opened in 1322!  That is 450 years before the US became a nation and longer than we have been one!  The show atmosphere, and the stress got to me a bit the first day and I was nervous.  We improved every day as I got more comfortable. That is another great benefit of this program.  I didn’t do as well as I could and I am sorry for that. The individual day I started to put everything aside and to focus and I was lucky enough to move up to 12th.  The interesting thing was that from like 6th to 12th place we all were 67% so the spread was so close. It showed us how competitive my old guy can still be.  On freestyle day, SJ shines.  We ended up 7th so I was ecstatic with him.  We were warming up in a torrential downpour but just as we started to get ready to go in, the rain cleared up and the sun came out.  George and I had looked at my choreography (done by the brilliant Karen Robinson of Applause Dressage) and it was done so that there is space at the end to input things that might have messed up.  I had three different options we had worked out so that I adjusted a bit at the end.  I want to thank Karen for always making me the best freestyles. 
    Another thing for young riders coming over in the future, the June weather is unpredictable.  Bring clothes for all four seasons and layer.  Having lived the last few years in Southern California and Florida I haven’t been this cold in a long time. But the Germans do know how to put on a show regardless of weather! Almost 900 combinations with just jumping and dressage.  NAJYRC I don’t think has that many with eventing, endurance and reining.  The horses were fabulous.  I saw a pony passaging!
    I have to say sitting in the dining tent was a bit of a surreal experience.  At the table on your left there could be the Dutch with their vibrant orange jackets and pale blonde hair.  The Russians sitting next to them are leaning forward and are highly animated. Twenty seven countries are staggered everywhere speaking differently, looking different in their bright colors.  The atmosphere is electric.  NAJYRC is similar in that the Canadians are always identifiable in their Red. Yet this is really different.  It is as if 27 different groups like the Canadians are around and each has a history, an identifiable dressage story and characters.  But as I sat there, it felt comfortable and a bit like coming home.  We belong here and with enough support and experience we will continue to take a seat at the table and flash the red, white and blue. 
    Another difference is that there are guys here.  I don’t mean one or two in jumping, guys in dressage.  There isn’t just the lone one that makes him unique, special or identifiable.  There are dozens.  In fact, many teams had more males than females in jumping and there was a fair number in dressage. 
    The transport trucks here are awesome.  I will dream about the little one that is like a minivan with a box stall, and the full size half-million dollar Mercedes RV thing with the 6 stall and living quarters.  Wow.  Someday, if I can ever get one of those I will be in heaven.
    So far I haven't run over anything while driving around these narrow roads! My German is limited but I do ok speaking.  Driving without GPS would be a nightmare though because the words are so long that you pass the sign before you have sounded out half the word!
    Then it is home to Albert Court in California! 

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