Winyamaro and I have just returned from a fun-filled, successful horse show in London. This is a trip that I really enjoy, and it is becoming an annual pilgrimage for me at Christmastime. The Christmas show at London Olympia is definitely worth the trip!
Rita, it is not an easy trip. W, his trusty groom/driver, Anna Pettersson, and myself, left Vechta in the early morning hours of Dec. 12. (We were actually delayed half an hour by the untimely disappearance of Gizmo who is terribly interested in the neighbor bitch at the moment, but at least I knew where to find him.) We drove across the German border into the Netherlands, on to the northern Belgian coast and then into France.
A car ferry runs 24/7 between Calais, France, and Dover, Great Britain. This was our goal, and we managed to reach it by noon. A short wait for the boat, driving the truck onto the lower level and then lunch at the ferry restaurant—this was the early part of our afternoon. We landed in Dover at 2 p.m. and commenced the ever exciting drive on the left side of the road to London!
London is of course absolutely wonderful at Christmastime. Nearly every year I have good friends who meet me in the city for the show. We not only get most of our Christmas shopping done during the show, but we almost always take in a musical or some other production.
This year—after a good training session and a successful vet check—we went to the fabulous musical/drama, “War Horse” at the New London Theatre. This is the heart-rending story of a young Englishman who follows his horse to the front during WWI, hoping to find him and save him from the perils of war. A must see if you are in London!
The Grand Prix was on Tuesday in the beautiful London Olympia stadium. This arena always makes me feel like I am riding on the stage of an opera house. Something about the broad, draped gold ribbon and the ring of box seats on the second level just gives the impression of opera. Or perhaps it is the height of the ceiling and the soaring steel architecture—in any case, the feeling is uplifting and grandiose. I love this stadium.
W is getting better and better this year. He laid down some serious points in the trot tour and showed some highlights in his flying changes which landed us in fourth overall and got us into the final set of five in the draw for the freestyle.
Now, Rita, the freestyle evening at Olympia seriously rocks. The house is always sold out, and the crowd is often very appreciative and generous with applause. Lots of horses have difficulty with the electricity in the arena because the atmosphere is so different from the quiet, sedate Grand Prix on the day before.
I am proud to say that W hit his stride in London during the freestyle. Even though it was not our strongest technical test, my equine rock star stayed with me through the entire test, did not get excited about the crowd, and laid himself out there for a freestyle to be proud of!
I had gone to London with the hope of placing in the top 10. So our fourth-placed finish in the freestyle felt like a bonus! The points that it added to our ranking in the Western European League also moved us into the first ranking for at least a few days!
I think this is the first time that an American has ever led the WEL in the history of World Cup!
The glory will be fleeting as another WC qualifier is taking place in Frankfurt, Germany, as I write this. Both Isabell Werth and Ulla Salzgeber have the possibility to surge ahead in the rankings. But I’ve printed the list from today and will frame it with a nice picture of Winyamaro from London! We will enjoy the lead even if we only held it for 72 hours!
Home, unpacked and getting ready for Christmas!
I’m Catherine Haddad and I’m saying it like it is from Vechta, Germany.
Training Tip of the Day: Teach your horse to relax in an electric atmosphere. Even if you have to sacrifice some technical points while doing this, it will pay off in the long run.