After a recent trip home to Australia in which, in amongst International Shows and flights, I finally managed to make it to my wedding, I found myself genuinely surprised at the sheer amount of people who had mentioned these blogs. One such person, for example, was a dear friend who has been doing my mother’s nails for the better part of two years.
It was during one of these so called “nail appointments” that this woman spoke about how she not only read my blogs, but had been moved to tears – a feat which has previously been unrivalled by anything she may have otherwise read. It was at this point, on a cloudy Tuesday, that I stood rather ineloquently with my mouth hanging open with surprise that anyone actually read these blogs before blurting out rather articulately: “I’m sorry for making you cry, Jamie!”
Our flight waiting to leave Düsseldorf bound for Abu Dhabi, then Sydney.
It is my aim with these blogs to not only update followers, friends and family with competitions, results and other associated horsey-news in one go, but also to be honest (sometimes brutally so) about how the “horse life” can be in Europe. I have seen so many people in recent times fall victim to the social media age, and by that, I mean comparing themselves and their horses to what we see online.
If you were to look at my Facebook page, my life looks absolutely amazing. Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely fortunate to be in a position where I can pursue my passions and dreams in the horse-central hub of the world. It is an incredible opportunity that probably will never come around again. BUT, it is not without its challenges and this is something that you fail to see on social media: some days it absolutely sucks.
In all honesty, I have probably spent just as many days in tears as I have smiling. Lotus, whilst I love her, is the biggest pain in the a*** I have ever had the privilege of knowing. There have been times when riding her that I have simultaneously laughed and cried out of sheer frustration and absolute insanity. I recently had someone rather well-known in the Dressage world compare her to Jekyll and Hyde. Whilst I secretly agreed with them at that moment, I acted mildly offended and hugged my dear Bug.
Lotus in Deauville CPEDI***
I am the type of person who operates on 110% stress all the time. I cannot function any other way. For example, I have just recently graduate from an 8-year-long double degree in Law and Criminology. Most people, after studying for this insane amount of time would probably collapse on a beach somewhere and simple enjoy life for a moment.
Not me. I thought, seeing as though I have all this time on my hands, that it would be a great idea to start a Masters in Law. Something that requires 50+ hours a week of study when I am competing every second weekend and hunting for a job. Great plan.
After 8 years, I finally received my two degrees.
At the beginning of April, my Mum, Anke, Lotus and myself headed off the Deauville CPEDI*** in France. It was the first European WEG qualifier on the calendar; Lotus had been going mostly well in training, but true to form, I was putting all sorts of pressure on myself to be amazing and whoop the pants off everyone.
Whilst we didn’t manage any great feats of pants whooping, I was pleasantly surprised to place 3rdon day 1 with the team test. Our score of nearly 66% was our best yet in an FEI show with still room to improve. After chatting with Katharina, we made a new plan for day 2 and were rewarded with another 3rdplace and an even bigger score of just under 69%. Our freestyle was a new routine for us both, with our music design from fellow para rider Caitlin Radford, and we were extremely happy with a touch under 70% for another 3rdplace with a few costly mistakes.
Lotus in CPEDI*** Deauville.
The second WEG qualifier was Waregem CPEDI*** in Belgium. It was unfortunately just 10 days after France, and normally this would be way too taxing and trying on Lotus to manage two Internationals in two weeks. But, with Mannheim CPEDI*** (GER) being the weekend of our wedding, and Roosendahl CPEDI*** (NED) cancelled, we really needed to ride in Belgium.
In a word, Belgium was hot. After coming through a long and cold winter in which our daily temperatures averaged around -5, I suddenly found +27 to be extraordinarily warm. Day 1 saw a fantastic warm-up and I was so ready for my pants-whooping to come about. However, dear Lotus had other plans. Down the centreline we trotted, and Lotus suddenly froze, becoming rather ring-shy and tense.
A mistake in the first extended trot and walk saw the score rather low for the day. A disappointing start, but we had a new plan for day 2 where Lotus was much better in the individual test, with many improvements from the first day and an even better trot saw us scoring some 8.5’s. But, as is the way with dressage, a few movements were really hammered and our score was the same as day 1.
Lotus in CPEDI*** Waregem.
After doing some score-counting with team trainer Erik and a quick check with officials, it looked as though we had just missed out on a spot in the freestyle. I was disappointed, but silently grateful as we had a 7-hour drive back to Germany on Sunday to make our flight to Sydney on Monday. My silent satisfaction was short-lived! Due to an administrative error, we received a call at 11pm Saturday night frantically telling me I was to ride in the freestyle, but my start time was not until 5pm Sunday evening. The dressage gods were obviously laughing at me somewhere!
Our freestyle was the definition of ‘freestyle’. We had some great moments, and some bad moments, but in the end finished up with just over 66% for 7thplace. It was a rather mad dash to pack up, and load Lotus on the truck and head back to Germany by 1am.
Monday was a blur. We returned the horse truck, checked Lotus, unpacked the competition gear, packed our bags for Australia and loaded 6 bags into my tiny VW Polo to head to Düsseldorf for a 9pm flight. I should probably point out that one of those bags solely contained my wedding dress!
Home again in Sydney.
We arrived into Sydney early Wednesday morning, precisely 48 hours before our wedding, to a very relieved fiancé and happy Dad waiting for us. I had been on the go for 3 weeks straight, and it was on Thursday lunchtime when my best friend and Matron of Honour arrived that I promptly broke down and sobbed for the next two hours about the madness of it all. Despite all of this, the wedding on Friday was amazing. Matt and I thoroughly enjoyed our day, although it went by way too fast.
One of our beautiful wedding shots.
3 weeks at home also flew past, and only a few days ago I found myself once again saying a tearful farewell to home, friends and family. My apartment is horribly empty and frustratingly silent, but I am back into the full swing of training with the plan to head to either Hartpury CPEDI*** or Überherrn CPEDI*** in the first week of July as the final WEG qualifier.
With two more selection events in Australia, and one more here in Europe before team announcements, the road to WEG is certainly just beginning.
Dear Janie. 26 years old and still going strong.
Lotus enjoying some summer sunshine whilst I was in Australia.
Lotus, Anke and I in Deauville, France.
Training at home in Billerbeck, Germany.
Stupidly excited to have our WEG campaign and Para story featured in Equestrian Life Australia.