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September 6, 2010

Now THIS Is A Horse Show!

Being at a huge international show like Valkenswaard is like nothing else!

One of the Global Champions Tour events, this year’s CSI***** Valkenswaard welcomed the best in the world. Held at Jan Tops’ Stal Tops in Holland, Valkenswaard was the last event of the GCT tour before the finals, which was just held in Rio De Janiero (Brazil).

Luckily for me, the show was not far from where I live and work and I got to go watch. It was the first time I had ever been to an international event internationally—I have seen many international level classes on U.S. soil, but never on international soil. Now I know why they say U.S. riders have to go to Europe to know where they truly stand among the world’s best riders.

First off, over here, when they say 1.60-meters, they really mean 1.60 meters—the track at Valkenswaard strongly resembled that of what I would imagine the track will look like come 2012 in London at the Olympics. Secondly, there isn’t just a first round and a jump off; if you’re lucky, you’re in for three rounds of competition when all is said and done.

How it works: Round 1 is a lengthy 1.60-meter track with open water, doubles, triples, etc. The top 20 percent from Round 1 come back for Round 2. Thus, even if you had a rail in Round 1, you still might make it to Round 2 if not all 20 percent went clear. Round 2 presents a slightly shortened track to those top 20 percent, and those who go clear and in time then proceed to jump off.

At Valkenswaard, only four of the original starters made it to the jump-off, and at the end of the day it was the USA—Laura Kraut and Cedric—who took home the top honors after being the only duo to go triple-clear.

In Holland, there are a few different types of horse shows, or “concours”, as they say in Dutch. Basically, there are training shows, national shows, and international shows. After being here one month, I have now seen all three, and they have one thing in common—they are nothing like horse shows in America. 

As many of you probably know, there are no hunters in Europe, nor are there any equitation classes. Additionally, professionals are not separated from amateurs. There are, at most, a few rings, not a dozen; riders take time to sit, watch, and socialize; music is always playing in the background (in fact, as a side note, I love the fact that music is always playing everywhere here—in the homes, in the stables, at the shows, in the car, etc.); warm-up jumps are shared not claimed; time-slots are given and enforced; and last but certainly not least, entries are affordable not outrageous.

Jumping Paard Levels:

Regional:

BB: .80m

B: 1.00m

L: 1.10m

M: 1.20m

Z: 1.30m

ZZ: 1.35m

1.40 + is International Level shows, CSI