I was reminded recently in a not-so-subtle way that it had been a year since my last blog post, and that people at home wanted to know exactly what I get up to over here. I must confess that, in the wake of what seems to be a rather disturbing increase of cyber-bullying in the equestrian world, I have been reluctant to put myself out there. It is a difficult thing, as I have been of the opinion for some time that if people were genuinely interested, they would pick up the phone and contact me directly.
A late-night conversation with my Dad resulted in him stressing: “Honey, people are never going to do that. Life is too busy, and they don’t have time. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking of you.”
After stewing on it for a while, I voiced my opinions to those closest to me, and whilst they understood, the general consensus was that there were a large portion of people who were genuinely interested in life and training in Germany, and that I should endeavour to post on social media more often. I must also add that with this in mind, this blog post has sat on my computer, unpublished, for the better part of two months.
2017 proved to be a difficult year. It started, for the most part, well. My family had come for Christmas, and I was able to spend some much-needed time just enjoying Lotus without the pressure of competition. Leroy had moved to Germany with me, and after a year of being dog-less, I was feeling much more content with my little Chihuahua in tow.
Leroy on the night he arrived, looking a little bit jet lagged.
On the competition front, Lotus and I had our first M* start with a respectable – but not our best – score. The next competition brought about a wonderful feeling, super changes and our half-passes were improving by the day. We rode our best test… and got the worst score we have ever received. Upon exiting the arena, I promptly burst into tears. I was consoled by the fact that sometimes, you get a judge who just doesn’t see what you see, and that next weekend was another show.
Unfortunately, at the next show, something very similar happened. For whatever reason, something wasn’t working. We just had to find out what that something was. To add to the frustration, the summer season was just about to start, uni was in full-swing and my dear friend Monique decided it was time to move back to Australia.
Lotus and I at Senden Show in May, 2017.
Whilst I understood her motives, and supported her completely, I couldn’t help but feel a little selfish and sad that she was leaving. We had, for the better part of 18 months, spent every day together with horses, training and then would sit on my couch in our standard ‘fat pants’ and eat like people who didn’t have to worry about staying fit for riding. Suffice to say, the day came where I watched her leave on the train to Düsseldorf airport and once the train had disappeared into the morning sun, the tears started to fall.
Reunited again - Monique and I at the my Polterabend (German engagement party) November 2017.
Not long after this, a series of problems with both Lotus and other areas resulted in a rather large, and scary decision: we were going to move to a new stable. It was a big, big change and I was absolutely terrified. Due to the adjustment period, and an injury Lotus had sustained a few weeks prior, meant that we missed the remainder of the summer show season and the Autumn Championships. It is often at these times that you find yourself without a horse, and not much to do but look back and agonise over every decision you’ve ever made.
At the end of 2016 I had made the decision to remain in Europe for the long-term. I had sold my horses at home, as well as everything horse-related. I had officially moved my life to Germany as opposed to having half in Australia, and half here. It was at this point that I found myself starting to wonder if I had made a very bad decision.
The new stable was all-German. The routine was different, the people were new. I had to oragnise a new training schedule, new farriers, new vets and Lotus underwent a major adjustment herself. Where I had once been quietly confident in my German language skills, I was now sinking rapidly into a world of stress.
Lotus at the new stable - September 2017.
I was in my second-last trimester of study which meant we had to demonstrate our competency as lawyers in a court room. We were given a case, told which side we had to argue, and then in front of a panel of “judges”, argue our case. As I was not in Australia, I had to organise a video link which meant my hearing equated to 5:30am. I was terrified. In the end, I passed, and won the case but the stress had gotten to me. I made it outside the building into the frigid air and sat on the pier overlooking the harbour before gathering myself up and battling on to face the next pressing issue of what to do about Lotus.
Do I sell her? Should I just return to Australia? Should I take out a loan and buy another horse? Do I find someone to ride her? I asked myself these questions many, many times over the next months.
In early November 2017, I waved a rather sad goodbye to Leroy as I put him on a plane to Australia. True to form, he made it very easy, howling and crying the whole trip to the airport and drawing exasperated stares from a plethora of Germans looking on with interest. As I was returning home for six weeks over Christmas, I felt it was unfair to leave him in a kennel and so his quarantine was arranged and his flights booked. It is significantly harder to arrange to fly your pet back to Australia then it is for him to leave, unfortunately, and so it was decided that after I returned to Germany in 2018, Leroy would stay behind.
Collecting Leroy from Sydney airport, after his two-week stay in the Melbourne Quarantine Facility.
After six weeks in a very sunny and hot Australia, I returned to a snow-covered Europe and a suddenly empty apartment. There is always a small transition period when you return back, and I found myself hating the cold, the sunsets at 4pm and the general miserable atmosphere that settles over Germany at this time of year. It suddenly hit me, late one night as I was listening to my excessively loud neighbours upstairs, how much we – my parents, and my fiancé - are all sacrificing for me to be here.
This resulted in a tearful phone call to my Dad who, whilst desperately wanting me to come home, tried to reassure me that I was doing the right thing and it would get better soon. I am happy to now say that six months on, and after every possible scenario was conceived, discussed and discussed again, everything has completely settled down. Lotus and I are very happy and comfortable at the new stable, I no longer feel as if I am facing a board of enquiry when I have to speak to German and Lotus is training better than ever with the immensely successful Helen Langehanenberg.
Landing in Zürich at 9am into very heavy snow, and very dark!
Earlier this year, I was engaging in my weekly Monday battle with Lotus when Helen peered into the arena. She immediately called me over to check Lotus’ bits, as she had feared that somehow Lotus had her tongue between them. As it turned out, she didn’t, but Helen got a close up of what she said was “the biggest tongue she had ever seen.” She immediately suggested that I try the double bridle from her best horse – Damsey FRH.
With renewed vigour, the next day we tried Damsey’s bridle. I was sceptical, but unbelievably in awe of that fact that I was riding with a bridle that had won many, many championships and gold medals. It seemed Lotus was feeling the vibe, for she had never trained better. And so, I spent the next week meticulously cleaning the bridle after each use, and envisioning a green and gold browband in place of the red, yellow and black colours of Germany that adorned my horse’s fat head. Motvation at its finest!
In our quest to qualify for the World Equestrian Games, Lotus and I have had a bit of bad luck with timing. After becoming engaged in 2016, Matt and I decided it would be best to have the wedding in 2018. I agonised over the date for months, as I knew that the qualifiers would likely be in the first half of the year but we wouldn’t have specific dates until the start of 2018. For many reasons, late 2018 would not work, and so we settled on April.
The ever-supportive fiancé. Matt and I at our Polterabend, November 2017.
Anyone who has ever tried to plan a wedding will tell you how important it is that you get your venue sorted immediately. We were finding that some places were booked out 2-3 years in advance and without a date confirmed for when I needed to be in Europe, it was immensely trying to find a venue that could tell us their availability.
No sooner had I picked a wedding date, the dates for the qualifiers were announced and they fell within the two weeks either side of our big day. It was a disaster. Matt, ever understanding, offered to move the wedding for a third time. My parents said that no matter what, they’d help me get through this. I had support from all sides, and all I wanted to do was throw my hands up and say it’s too hard and I won’t go to the qualifiers.
After talking with Helen, she encouraged me to make it work. “What do you have to lose?” she asked me. I sat on it for a few days, tossing things around in my head before speaking to my parents and Matt in a conversation that lasted hours. I felt as if I had asked them to do so much already, and asking Matt to sacrifice the first months of our marriage so I could be in Germany just seemed too much, and utterly unfair.
They reminded me – tactfully at first, and then rather harshly – that you don’t get these opportunities very often, and whilst its hard, nobody was ever successful by taking it easy.
The end result is, after much planning, phone calls to the airlines and drinking far too much coffee, I will be arriving into Australia no sooner than 2 days before our wedding after riding in Belgium the two days before, and France a week before that.
If we can pull it off, it’s going to be a hell of a story.
Another snowy February.
My last view of home. Beautiful Sydney Harbour as I departed for Europe - December 2017.
My dear friend, Anke, with myself at the Giant's Causeway - Northern Ireland. November 2017.
Lotus in her new box. Summer, 2017.
Freezing cold in Ballycastle, Northern Ireland. Late 2017.
Lotus now happily back in training, and enjoying a walk. January 2018.