It has been an absolute whirlwind since I have arrived in Germany, so I do apologise for being a bit slack with the updates. Firstly, we have been training very hard in preparation for the qualifiers and upcoming remaining ones. Lotus has been improving everyday and she is really in top shape. We are all very surprised at the stables by how much she has developed and grown, both in muscles and in height! She is now a big girl!
Late March saw my boyfriend, Matt, fly over from Australia to spend 5 weeks here supporting me through the qualifiers. It has been great to have a bit of company, and I have really enjoyed showing Matt around Roxel, the little town that is now home.
Mum flew in at the start of April to help me in preparation for Deauville. I was very happy to see her, and of course Mum took over some of the organising of accommodation as it was doing my head in. But between a bit of French, German and English we got some rooms!
We had planned to leave for Deauville on the Wednesday, with trot-up on Thursday. To travel internationally, you need travel papers from a government vet for the horse and clearance to travel. We had arranged for him to come Tuesday, but somewhere in the mix, he ended up arriving on Wednesday night at 6pm. Our plans of leaving were now completely irrelevant and so we stuffed ourselves with pizza for dinner, had an early night and set off at 3am Thursday morning.
Lotus was mightily unimpressed when I stumbled into the stables at 3am Thursday morning to put her on the truck. She spent the first hour pawing her way to China in the horse box as a form of protest. Eventually she realised that breakfast or not, she was stuck in there for the 714km to France, and her breakfast was the hay in front of her.
Matt learning to drive on the other side of the road.
We hit every form of weather through the 4 countries on the way to France. I was expecting massive signs saying we were entering new countries, but no, the roads just kept on going. Thank you Telstra for informing me every time I entered a new country by telling me how much a 1 minute phone call was going to cost.
We made our way through the Netherlands, Belgium and then finally into France where we headed across to Deauville. I honestly felt like I would never see the end of the 9-hour trip! We arrived about lunchtime on the Thursday to get Lotus all settled in and our tack room organised to my OCD standards.
Trot up was at 3pm, and Australia was first up. It was lovely to meet all the other European-based para riders that are here campaigning as well. We then trained Thursday afternoon before heading back to the hotel (that took us an hour to find) and getting ready for the team test on Friday.
Friday’s team test went very well for our first international show. Lotus was extremely focused in the arena, so much so that she was a little too keen on the leg and we made a mistake in our medium trot. We managed to recover the marks in a super extended trot so all in all it was not bad. The scores were a bit harsh, but we placed 5th on 63%. I can’t complain given that we were beaten by medallists at both Olympics and the Europeans!
Waiting for the presentation.
The first day of the competition was not a great one for the Aussies. 4 from 6 horses were eliminated on the first day and that meant that Australia was out of the team competition. A bit disappointing for the riders, but sometimes it happens.
Saturday morning I had an 8:18am start, and we were up in the dark feeding Her Highness and getting ready to be on by 7:40. Lotus was a bit better than the day before, having adjusted to the atmosphere and she certainly felt a lot more at home in the ring. We had no mistakes in the test for another 63%. Again, I was disappointed with the score, and we got nudged down to 6th place by the final rider by 0.04%.
We qualified for the freestyle on Sunday, and a quick training session in the rain Saturday afternoon was in order to practice the test to music. Sunday morning I was again on early at 8:27am and 3rd to go in the freestyle. I followed the British rider, Sophie Wells, and her amazing horse. It was a bit nerve racking following a gold medallist! But Lotus and I did out best to have one rather costly mistake in our very first freestyle. One judge had us on 68% in 2nd place, and the other judges having us on 65%-66% but it seemed one judge didn’t agree, giving us a 60% which bumped us down to 6th place again. It seems that making your mark in the dressage world requires a lot of patience.
Warming up for the freestyle. Despite the sun, it was very cold!
We had a great first International show, with Lotus and I getting more relaxed in the arena every test, and the judges giving us a few more points here and there the more they got to know us as a combination. We drove home Sunday night, pulling in at 8pm. Lotus was one very happy pony when she saw her stable and bonus – dinner was already waiting for her. Thank you Ian!
Monday was spent washing everything and making my little apartment into a Chinese Laundry. Lotus got to spend the day outside in the sunshine, rolling around in the sand to her little heart’s content. She gets so dirty the easiest thing is just to hose her down before she goes back to her box.
Lotus then had a few days off whilst I got stuck into Uni again. I had two essays due in the 10 days between France and Belgium. The preparation for Waregem did not go as well for us as the preparation for Deauville. Lotus was feeling quite stiff and I was also struggling as a result of sitting on my butt for the vast majority of the days doing assignments.
We left for Belgium, just 4 hours away, on the Wednesday before the event. Lotus settled well into her stable, and we had trot-up Thursday. All was good and Lotus was accepted with no issues. In the training on Thursday afternoon, Lotus was feeling very good. Friday morning we had our test and the test started very well. This was our first outdoor show together and there was a lot to see. Our scores were up until in the medium trot, a dog fell off the grandstand right next to the arena as Lotus went passed. Amazingly, a man in his wheelchair was so busy watching the falling, yelping dog, that he too crashed his chair into the grandstand. Lotus and I were concentrating so hard, that the sudden bangs scared the absolute life out of us. Lotus tucked her little tail between her legs and ran for the exit. Unfortunately, we couldn’t recover the scores after that as Lotus was understandably tense. A bit disappointing but the feedback from the judges was very positive.
Lotus checking out the sights at Belgium
Saturday was just not our day in the individual test. Lotus and I were not at our best, and our scores were quite down. I came away from the show feeling very disappointed, but sometimes it just happens that way. You have a good show, and then you have a bad show. We drove home Sunday as we didn’t qualify for the freestyle, and Lotus enjoyed the day off.
A snippet from our test.
We then went back to basic training techniques, working on simple changes and transitions to really maximise our marks in the next qualifier. That week saw Matt fly home to Australia. I was very lucky to have him here for 6 weeks, and it has been the first time in 2 years Matt has been able to see me compete. It was a sad goodbye at Frankfurt airport as we won’t see each other now until Christmas.
Mum and I then had a week together before she flew home on Saturday. Lotus has been training well again since Belgium, and we now have 2 weeks until Roosendaal. The weather has been very lovely here (after a snowfall in late April) and we have been able to train outside in the sunshine.
Finally we can train outside.
In the meantime, I have been proving once again I am not responsible enough to live on my own, flooding my kitchen the other night whilst trying to cook dinner. In my defence, one does not normally look under the sink to see if the pipe is connected before filling the sink…however, from now on I will.
I ordered pizza the other night ( a novelty for me getting it delivered to my door!), and the poor man made a rather grand entrance by slipping down my stairs. My ham and pineapple pizza made good friends with the wall. I don’t know who was more embarrassed, the pizza guy, or the fact that I order so regularly he knows me by name and my order off by heart. Clearly, I need more of a life on Friday night that does not involve pizza, Netflix, and property law.
The excitement didn’t stop there, with Mum and I nearly getting arrested on her last day in Germany. We were heading to an appointment, when we came to a four-way intersection where we had right of way. As we were nearly through, a man on a bike saw us at the last minute and braked so hard with his front brake he literally flew straight over the handle bar and face-planted into the cement! For sure, it would have been a Fail Army contender if I got it on camera.
Long story short, the guy made a complaint to the police that we hit him with our car, which involved the police then coming to question me in the hair salon! As it turned out, the guy was on his mobile phone (which is illegal to use when riding a bike) and finally after an “intensive interrogation” by the two Police officers, he admitted that he made the story up because he damaged his bike and wanted a new one! So much for our relaxing day.
Thank you to everyone who has sent me supportive messages over the last weeks. It is so lovely to receive them from home.
I promise to be a bit more up to date with the blogs!
Mil and Lotus.