It has been a busy few weeks leading up to our final qualifier in Roosendaal, Holland. Now that qualifiers the finished, and my university exams for the semester are also over, I finally have some time to sit back and update my blog!
After the disappointment of the Belgian competition, we went back to basics and really focused on making our test as accurate as possible with Lotus in the correct frame and coming through from behind. We kept the work very simple and Lotus enjoyed a lot of time outside in the field.
We were very lucky in the lead up to Holland as Germany finally decided to get on board with the idea of spring and we had sunny days with temperatures is creeping up above 20°! We trained outside a lot and I can now proudly say I have my ‘equestrian tan’ back with full force including the standard Polo shirt ‘V’ and brown arms with pale shoulders.
The week that we were due to leave for Holland, the weather gods were not on our side, and temperatures once again dropped below 10° and I was forced to dig out Lotus’s very clean winter rug. And the grub decided that it was too clean, and poo stains down one side where much more attractive.
We left for Holland on Thursday of last week and arrived in Roosendaal to a very warm, sunny afternoon that was not at all like the Germany we had left. Unfortunately, the cold weather followed us and for the rest of the weekend I was back to wearing three jackets and a scarf in the warm-up that meant a mad rush to strip off before presenting to the judges!
Lotus waiting patiently.
Friday’s team test was not our best work. Lotus warmed up well, but I had a bit of a rookie moment in the arena where the pressure got to me and ended up not doing much to help Lotus during the test. As a result, our score was understandably down. After talking with Briana over dinner on Friday night we came up with a strategy for Saturday, and a way to deal with my sudden onset of nerves! I went to bed Friday night feeling quite disappointed with myself as we had been training very well at home.
Saturday dawned to a very windy and rainy day. We had decided to train in the morning before the test just like we would at home and I could really work out some of the kinks in both myself and Lotus. It seemed to be a good plan as the test was the best we have done quality-wise, and Lotus did a very good job and tried extremely hard.
Our score was extremely disheartening and despite the test being 100 times better than the day before, our score had a really increased only by 0.3%. Whilst it wasn’t the end we wanted for our qualifying shows and Rio campaign, the show was a success from the training point of view, Lotus’s development and our experience as a combination at international shows.
We are now awaiting the team announcements for the Rio Paralympic equestrian team which will happening in a few days. I would love to say that we are in the mix for selection, however as most of horse people know, you have to be realistic. This year so far has been invaluable by way of experience and training. Lotus has developed much quicker then we thought she would when we purchased her in August 2015.
Together as a combination we have progressed quite quickly in a short space of time. Whilst I am not counting us out of Rio just yet, there are some fabulous combinations that have performed very well in Australia. I think regardless of the outcome Australia will have a strong team for Rio.
Going for a walk around the stables. Lotus' arch enemy - the Mini - is forever terrifying her.
Lotus and I will continue to train and do the open dressage shows here in Germany. Our goal is now to improve our scores at L level before making the step up to M level and we hope to have and S level start by the end of the year.
Lotus has enjoyed this week off from the training, spending her day eating the fresh spring grass and rolling in her favourite sand patch. She will have a few hacks out in the forest before beginning training again. Jules (German stablehand) tells me that Lotus is quite difficult to catch in the afternoon and then walks impossibly slow back to the stable where she makes a racket banging on her feed bin until dinner arrives!
The week for me has not been so relaxing. I spent the weekend in between tests buried in law books for my ever-impending exams of doom. The Belgian and German teams stable either side were very impressed that I managed to study in the middle of quite hectic stables!
Lotus is just as bored by uni as I am!
I had a mixed feeling about not making the freestyle for the Sunday. It rained all day and the grade IV freestyle did not start until 4 PM. Whilst disappointed that I didn’t get to ride to my Michael Jackson soundtrack, I was feeling a little bit relieved that I had the day to prepare at home for the exams.
This turned out to be a wrong assumption!
I woke up Sunday morning to a missed call from Ian (Briana’s groom) and a few urgent messages. As it turned out, Ian had lost car key somewhere between dinner, a taxi and a parkhaus in Munster. The bright, little red polo came to the rescue of Ian, and his French-Canadian friend Chris!
What should have been a five-minute job turned into a seven-hour adventure! It would seem that the Germans are not very good at breaking into cars! Armed with a wire coathanger, a hammer, plyers and a crowbar, my skills - that have been acquired over many years of locking myself out of houses, cars and safes - were put to the test.
Just when I was about to give up and smash a window on Ian’s poor little Opel, our dodgy coathanger managed to open the door. I should probably note that the urgency of getting into the car was not to get a spare key, but rather to get Ian’s apartment keys so he could at least get home. The saga continues as now we have to wait for a new key to come from Opel.
First thing Monday morning, bleary eyed from our trip home from Holland, and my road tripping around Munster the day before, I made the one-hour drive to Essen for the necessary evil - contract law exam. I instantly regretted the two coffees I had before leaving Roxel, as just 5 km from the exam venue I was stuck in traffic for an hour!
If I thought that was bad, it then took me two hours to move 2 km on my way home after the exam. Despite leaving Essen at 11 AM, I did not make it home until nearly 4 PM that afternoon! Ian had taken my little red fire engine on Tuesday which meant I was then stranded in my apartment and was unable to procrastinate from the dreaded property law.
Mmmm yummy grass. Lotus enjoying her mini-holiday.
In order to avoid traffic, I left for my exam precisely four hours early. I thought I was being very mature and planning ahead, (I also avoided coffee) but the universe once again proved its power of irony. I made it to Essen in record time and ended up waiting outside the exam venue for over two hours. After the exam, in which I was hoping to celebrate that new-found ‘I’m-free-of-Uni-for-two-weeks’ freedom by a quick trip home, it then took me over two hours to crawl just 1.5 km on my way out of Essen.
By this stage, I was in a state of post-exam-fuelled starvation and the McDonald’s sign that I was slowly crawling past at 2 km/h was taunting me. As luck would have it, as we went past the McDonald’s entrance, not one German would let the flying (at 3km/hr now) red polo across the lane to get into the drive.
The next 30 km of Autobahn were spent cursing in a variety of both English and German, directed at anybody who dare get in my way! I made it to the next Service station, where I half-ran-half-limped in my most special way, into the deli only to find that they were devoid of all things edible, save for 1 two-day old chocolate muffin.
I have to say that it was the best two-day old chocolate muffin I have ever had! I now have a few days to get organised for the start of my next semester, as well as start making a plan for some shows. We are all desperately hoping the sun will come back soon and we can start training outside again. I also need to do something about eradicating my equestrian tan!
Until next time,
Mil and Lotus
On the way home from my weekly trip to the Roxel markets where I pester the florist.