Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Last Day of the Competition!

Presentations for the Freestyle
Me in under the "blow dryer" at the Schafhof that heats and blow dries the horses after work
Nina coming off the lorry at the Schafhof after the show

My dad, Tom, and I standing in the snow at the Schafhof
Nina and I having some kisses
Shaking hands with Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff in the Presentations for the Freestyle
Presentations for the Freestyle
Nina and I with our Ribbon
Nina and I in the Warmup
Tom Putting on Nina's Polos

I think there is a good foot of snow covering Frankfurt now, and it is still snowing pretty hard. It looks absolutely stunning here though. All the trees are covered in white powder and nobody plows the roads here so everything is covered in a thick layer of white. It really is beautiful. Everybody has christmas lights decorating the city and christmas trees. This combined with all of the snow we keep getting really puts you in the Christmas mood! Christmas is my favourite time of the year so I really don't want to leave here yet!

The show today went really well and Nina felt like she had some fun in the ring! As long as she's happy I'm happy, and she felt the best she's felt all show so I couldn't be more proud! She was so good with all the people today too and the music blaring. Honestly, she was just the best and I couldn't have asked for more from her, she was just great today. It was bittersweet competing today because it was our last ride and show competing in the Young Rider classes. She was the most relaxed and at ease, and it was a lot of fun to ride today. I love it when she gets in the groove and enjoys herself. It was a great way to end our Young Rider career going out with her happy and doing her thing in a beautiful stadium at the YR World Cup in the Festhalle. We came 5th today! Even though it wasn't our best performance, we had a few honest mistakes, Nina just felt so relaxed and happy today that I couldn't be more thrilled. She got lots of bananas after our ride, her favourite, and she made lots of banana sauce that got all over her face. It was pretty funny seeing her covered from ear to whiskers in blobs of banana goo. I don't know if she was wearing more than she ate but it was pretty funny...right up until when Nina thought it would be even funnier if she goobered banana sauce all over my face!! I think she decided that I could smell better, and why not smell like her favourite treat! I love her, she is such a character. I think Nina and I are ready to make the next step and move on now, but the junior and young rider program is so great for the youth of the sport to learn, compete, and develop into professional riders. The YR World Cup is an experience I wish all young riders could live. Tom, my mom, and I are going to sit down when I am home and develop a package that next years representative can have to use as guidelines to better prepare themselves for this experience. There really is no template to follow in terms of what you need to do before you go, and as a result, a lot of stuff was done last minute before we went because we didn't know about it. I think having something to give to our future representatives will be a great way to give back and make things easier in the future.

This experience has been incredible and I am so grateful to DB Schenker and Josef Lederer for sponsoring the YR World Cup, as well as Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff for making this event happen. Her generous hospitality made myself and all the other young riders feel so welcome right from the beginning. Inviting us to stay at the Schafhof and arranging shipping to and from the airport and show was also greatly appreciated by all the foreign riders as well! It made it easy to come here and do what we love, which is riding and being around the horses, and not have to worry about anything because the majority of our worries were taken care of. Patricia from ECOGOLD, I have to thank you for setting up this blog and supporting the Canadian Junior and Young Riders for a couple of years now. We love your saddle pads, and I know I was so excited when you gave me a brand new one for the World Cup! There isn't a day that goes by that I don't wear your ECOGOLD girth covers either. Nina is really sensitive being the chestnut that she is, and your girth covers are the only thing I found that really works! So thank you so much for your continued support of the future Canadian Junior and Young Riders, and for supporting me in this really exciting, unique opportunity! It is really great knowing there is someone so generous back home in Canada that is keen on helping the youth of the sport. Also, thank you to everyone who followed my blog and adventure through Germany!!!! I loved your support and it was a nice way to keep a part of home with me over here. There were a lot of Germans cheering and not so many Canadians in the stands so I think it's great you all followed Nina's and my adventure on here. It was amazing to get to see a part of the indoor circuit here in Europe, and to watch top horse and rider combinations all day long every day. I wish you all could have been here to see it. Although, you would definitely return nice and buttered up for the holiday season because the food here was amazing the entire trip. The Europeans sure know how to dress and dine nicely. It was great to experience it first hand!

Tonight Tom, my parents, and I all went out for an authentic German dinner. It was a good thing I was wearing leggings because holy cow can the German's cook! I think everyone is coming back 10 pounds heavier and as little butterballs. The Bakeries here are incredible as well! I will miss those a lot. I don't think Nina will though, I think she is going to put me to work once we are in Florida in the beginning of January, because she will be protesting all the extra work she will have to do to carry me around up there.

This trip has made me realize how much I would love to come back and train and compete in Europe in the future once I graduate from University. If you want to be successful at this sport (and any sport in general), I think you really have to train and compete with the best, because you get better by watching and learning from those who are better than you. The caliber of shows they have here is also incredible. The Europeans really set the bar for everyone else. When I spoke with a writer from Horse International, she couldn't believe I had never done an indoor show before because they have an entire indoor circuit in Europe that is huge. For this reason and many more, I would love to come back and train and compete in Europe in the future. Looking to the near future, Fleurina and I are going back to Florida to train and compete with my coach Tom Dvorak again this spring. We are declaring for the Pan Am Games this year so it will be exciting to see how our season turns out. I couldn't have imagined having the success Nina and I have had over the years, especially this past year. I am so proud of her and I couldn't have asked for a better partner. I am really excited to see what the future holds for us!

On another note, Tom and I hopefully fly out tomorrow (weather depending). It is snowing really hard here and we are supposed to get another 15cm of snow over night!!! Frankfurt airport is basically shut down right now and the weather forecast is calling for snow through to wednesday. All I want is for Nina to get home safely now, get lots of turnout and some well deserved rest for a week, and not have the same difficulties as she had flying in to Frankfurt. I felt so bad for her and Bentley flying in to Germany getting stuck on the plane for over 24 hours :s I hope she wants to travel with me again LOL. She is going to throw on the parking break before she gets on another plane that's for sure. Anyways, keep your fingers crossed everything works out and she is able to fly out Tuesday night from Frankfurt to Toronto safe and sound.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A-Final Freestyles

Today was yet another great day in Frankfurt! I got up and went to the barn early. Nina and I had our morning snuggle while I mucked her and did her buckets etc. She likes her ears scratched while she rests her head on you. Later this morning, I had a really great school on Nina, and it was exciting to be schooling next to the horses and riders competing in the Prix St. George! I had a lot of fun and I think Nina also did. I love playing around on her because she really loves to work so much. Tomorrow, we are fourth in for the b-final freestyles. The class starts at 9:45am. It will be a really cool way to finish off young riders together riding in the Festhalle in Germany. We've come a long way since I got her as a four year old and didn't even know how to sit the trot on a warmblood - videos of that are pretty funny. Regardless of how it goes tomorrow, this experience has been a once in a lifetime opportunity and it is so awesome to have been a part of. The things Nina and I have got to see together since being in Germany, and the places she's taken me competing over the years have been incredible and I wouldn't want to experience this with anyone but her, my teammate. She really is awesome and tries her heart out for me so I think it is just so cool we get to do this competition and trip together. Our time here as flown by and I can't believe tomorrow is our last day here. I wish we could stay longer! Germany is so beautiful and the shear number of quality horses and riders you see here on a daily basis is such a great educational opportunity. Isabell Werth's ride today was inspiring! She doesn't give away a point. I could watch her, and a lot of others ride all day.

Also, big shout out to Meagan who did really well in this competition! She came seventh tonight in the A-final freestyles and rode really well! The ambiance in the ring tonight from the stands being packed was insane so unreal job Meagan!

After the young rider freestyles, there was a young horse class that was a ton of fun to watch. We don't have classes like this in Canada so it was great to see. The top 3 horses came back for tonight and rode around to music of their choice and showed off the horse. There were lots of extensions and tempis etc. The crowd was in to it clapping and everyone was hooting and hollering. The 3 horses were just stunning too. This was definitely more my dads type of class because he is loud by nature and is used to cheering my brother on in hockey. He doesn't like that you can't cheer loudly during a dressage test if something was really nice lol.

Anyways, what a great night. I love that I got to see some of the young riders go tonight because I haven't really been able to watch, just given that I was competing at the same time. Good job to everyone who rode tonight. The arena was pretty scary given that it was packed all the way up to the top levels, and everyone rode really well. When you come to an event like this, you realize how important having a routine is. Never having been to a venue like this, or having travelled by plane, it is really difficult for your horse to understand what is going on and settle into the swing of things. They don't know what the routine is and what to expect, and then you ask them to be brilliant and perform their best in a packed, scary arena, with music blasting. Not to mention the fact that there are horse topiaries with mouths open leaping out at you! Everyone tonight did a great job riding with the electric ambiance of the Festhalle.

The Romer and Official YR World Cup Reception and Dinner

Yesterday afternoon and and night were amazing!!! We had some "minor" taxi issues though lol. We were late getting back from shopping yesterday afternoon and so we still had to go to the barn and feed Nina her dinner. She likes prompt room service ;). When we got to the barn she snickered at me and got really excited when I went to "her salad bar" (aka the stack of hay bales we have). We call it her salad bar because it used to be outside her stall and she would just pick away at the hay from every bale while I braided her. She likes to have choice. So anyways, we fed the princess her dinner and changed her blankets because she was really warm (they kept the doors closed all day so the barn area really heated up).

When we got back to the hotel, the shuttle bus had already left to go to the Romer (the historical city hall of Frankfurt). Tom, my parents, and I all did a speedy 5 second change and planned on just hopping in a cab and getting over there for shortly after 5pm. The Mayor's welcome speeches to us were supposed to start around 5pm as well. Well let me tell you, we weren't just "hopping" into any cab in a real hurry. The hotel called for a cab while the doorman was outside trying to wave down a cab for us just in case it was faster. 20 minutes later we are all sitting inside the hotel still waiting for a cab to just drive by the hotel. I guess Germany isn't used to the amount of snow they have received in the last little while, so everyone was concerned about the safety of the roads and all opted to take cab!!! When one cab finally showed up, we all hopped in and told the driver we wanted to go to city hall. He suddenly decided "he was done work for the night", gave us the boot, and drove off with his cab light on looking for new fare. About half an hour later, another cab showed up. We didn't even get the chance to get in this one before the driver, who was leaning over the driver seat to yell at us through the open passenger door, said he didn't want to go to city hall. He then took off while the doorman was holding onto the back door handle trying to get him to stop. When he stopped, a gentleman who was next in line for a cab said he needed to get to the airport. Apparently this was an alright destination and he got to hop in the cab ahead of us. Eventually we did find a cab driver to take us though, and we unfortunately only got there in time to see how beautiful the Christmas Market in Frankfurt was looking out the window at City Hall before we had to climb on the shuttle bus to go back to the hotel. I would have loved to have heard the speeches and been there for the draw for freestyle times. The City Hall in Frankfurt is stunning! There was one room that had paintings of all of the past Kings framed and it went around this entire room. There were wooden chairs that looked like thrones beneath them. The history in the City Hall was neat to see.

The dinner reception yesterday evening was a lot of fun. Schenker is the title sponsor of the Young Rider World Cup and so Josef Lederer was present for the dinner and reception along with all the judges, Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff, Klaus Rath, and all the riders and their support crew. To be able to get together with fellow riders your age from all over the world, especially in Europe which is beautiful, is such an incredible opportunity. You get to see what riders your age are doing, different training techniques, and most importantly of all you get to hang out with new friends and have some fun doing what you love. All of us (young riders) gave little thank you speeches to everyone who made it possible for this event to take place and who made it possible for us to come to Europe to be a part of it. This event really is an incredible experience. To get to see the quality of horses here and riders and experience it at this venue is amazing. Everyone who is part of making this show happen, is so welcoming. The dinner was also awesome last night and it was just generally a ton of fun to sit and chat with all the other riders. Victoria from Brazil speaks 5 languages!!! She was translating most of the evening! Mr. Lederer made the most hilarious speech. I think I speak on behalf of all the riders when I say that we are so grateful to him for dedicating his time and getting Schenker on board for sponsoring this event. Apparently we also have to thank his wife, who was responsible for getting him interested in dressage and helping the youth of the sport develop.

After dinner, I headed back to the barn with Meagan to do night check and get in some quality snuggle time with Nina. I may have snuck her a bunch of treats but whose counting. She likes to have minty fresh breath for her kisses! ;)

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Individual Test

SO today didn't go quite as planned lol. She is still a little scared which is frustrating but understandable. I got in there and rode every stride out of her today and it turned out better. She is running on nervous energy and isn't relaxing yet. I wish I spoke horse to help her get her confidence up! I rode her this morning in the main ring and it went well. I was really positive going into the warm up today, but the second the braids went in later this morning and we started warming up, she knew what was coming lol. She wouldn't come round today really and didn't want to go to the contact. I really put my leg on on the short sides to keep her going forward because she wanted to suck back behind me a bit. The overall picture was better today though so it is getting better. We got 4% higher which is good and she was better through today and the test was better, but Nina was still really nervous. I think right now she is exhausted and is running on nerves which is totally understandable. Hopefully she catches up on sleep the rest of the day with her new boyfriend, Bentley :). I gave her lots of bananas and mints (her favourite).

Tom, my parents, and I are going into the shopping area in Frankfurt to do some Christmas shopping. Then tonight we have the Mayor of Frankfurt's reception for us at the City Hall. After this, we return to the hotel for the welcome reception hosted by the world cup sponsor. Should be fun! :)

Thursday, December 16, 2010


SO today didn't end up going like I thought it would after the warmup lol. I had the most unbelievable warm up before going in. It was so good Tom was nervous. Nina and I were on fire. She had the mega fancy trot going and super canter. All the movements were executed relaxed, with really good jump. I have never had her so good before. It was such an incredible feeling. Anyways, we walk down the tunnel to the ring and we had to stop and wait for the red curtain to get pulled back for us. That was about where we got nervous. My mom says it was like a red flag being waved at a bull. Omg!!! She has never been so tense in the ring. I just couldn't get her. She was so scared of the little kids stomping around, waving their jackets, the horse topiaries leaping out at her, and the whole ambiance of the place. The trot work was stunning though. The walk tour today was okay until the walk pirouettes and she tuned me out for those in a big way because there was a really big puffy pink jacket being waved in front of her by a little girl. The extended walk was pretty good and then the whole canter tour she would not go in one corner, it was pretty funny. She almost had me convinced that the horse topiaries were going to come after us! Overall, it was a good reminder that you have to keep riding no matter what and things can change in a heartbeat so you better be on your toes. The warmup was so much fun though! I have never had her click in to that level of expression with relaxation in a ride. I got passage out of her, this unbelievable trot, and the canter and walk work was really really super. The half pirouettes in the warm up were all 4 or 5 strides to get around around sitting really well. The contact I had in the warm up was amazing. The test actually caught me off-guard lol! The caliber of horse I had and the partnership we had in the warmup was in itself awesome. Unfortunely today we had one of the worst tests we have ridden in a while. Sometimes you have to ride what you are given though. I honestly cannot describe the kind of ride I was getting out of her before the ring. I was so excited!!! Then, as I was walking down the tunnel to the ring, I started to feel her get nervous on me. When she gets tense and nervous, she gets behind my leg and REALLY REALLY hot - like a rocket going to the moon!

When Nina gets that nervous I have two options usually. The first option is to stay relaxed, try and calmly chip away at her, reassure her, pat her, talk to her, still get in there and ride but less aggressively. Sometimes when she is nervous, putting the leg on more to give her some courage and get her re-focused on me, works against me and makes her even more hot. Option two sometimes works because it causes her to be startled into paying attention to me and it helps her re-focus. It also gives her confidence to know I am up there, and yes I would like her to listen to me at some point TODAY. Sometimes we have days where she thinks she is smarter than me (which might be true) and I should do what she wants - it's pretty funny. Both options involve trying to push her through the tension so she settles, but they go about it differently. I went for option 1 based on the school I had this morning where she was more settled. Today, I don't know if I had ridden her differently before I went down the centerline, or during the test if it would have made a difference. Personally, I think I just need to keep giving her pats and keep giving her confidence until hopefully she's golden. It was just one of those rides today unfortunately. Based on the warm up, we would have been right up there. It was phenominal. So that at least is a positive to take away, as well as the fact that we got to ride in the most insanely beautiful arena we have ever been in with the top young riders from around the world!!!!

Tomorrow, I will take her out and stretch her for 15 or so minutes in the main ring at 6am again. I will make sure she goes into her corners so she knows the horse topiaries don't want to eat her, and will try and give her confidence for my ride time at 10:40am. At this point, I don't know what she is going to give me tomorrow. I thought I had her based on how crazy good my warm up was today. Horses can really surprise you sometimes lol. You wish they could just talk so you could reassure them and get on with it!

Anyways, that is all from Frankfurt tonight. It is snowing like crazy and beautiful here. I am making notes beside every movement of the test again picturing how I will set her up for each movement and keep her steady in it. I also make little reminders for each movement in how I have to ride her as an individual so that the right picture is shown. Tomorrow counts for all the marbles, so I will get in there and ride her tomorrow and see what she gives me again. The good news though is that she felt great in warm up today and she is all happy in the barn area with her huge bed of shavings that she rolls in constantly. I think she just likes the fact that every time she rolls, I give her another grooming, clean off her blankets, and put them back on. During this time, she also gets lots of mints usually. She really is pretty smart..she has me trained well lol. But hey, as long as she's happy, I'm happy....even if Nina has a wicked sense of humour ;)

PSG - Competition Day 1

Hey everyone! Sorry I haven't been able to write in a while. We moved in to the show tuesday night and Nina settled in right away. I don't think she stopped rolling and sleeping in her nice, new, clean stall all night. We moved in to our new hotel, Hotel Hessischer Hof, and it is REALLY nice. I even have towel heaters for my bathroom towels. When I got to my hotel room, there was a letter from Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff welcoming me to the hotel and competition. It was a really nice touch!

Tuesday night, we got to bed around 1am and had to be up at 5am to walk to the show and be on Nina to school in the morning for 6am - :s!!! My first ride was a little difficult because Nina was a little nervous. There were some interesting horse topiaries all around the arena that she wasn't too fond of. We had a better ride this morning for sure. She was actually really good and has settled a lot more in the ring. We will see what she gives me later today in the ring for the real competition though. This morning was the first time I could really work her in the ring because she was more settled. Fingers crossed I "keep riding" and she stays settled for this afternoon. The trick is to always stay one step a head of her and to never stop riding so she gets confidence from you. She tries to be the boss, but likes it better when you say, "no, actually I'm the boss, and here is how it is going to be." She trusts you and gets confidence from you when you take charge - as I'm sure it is with any other horse. Today I rode a lot better too. I was more settled as well.

We had over 23 horses in the dressage ring schooling this morning between 6 and 7am again. SOOOO many almost collisions. Of course there were also jumper horses in there trying to gallop around as dressage horses were pirouetting and half passing - SUPER difficult to get a line to do some work on. I was an aggressive 'driver' because otherwise you would get nothing accomplished. Because there were so many people, if you were to try and stay out of everyone else's way instead of just riding and demanding respect for your own work space, you would be stuck walking, and get nothing accomplished. So I had "road rage" this morning haha! Eventually the ring stewart called the jumpers out because it was pretty dangerous, which helped, but it was still NUTS! Anyways, I was super happy Nina was more settled this morning.

We had the draw for positions last night. Ann Kathrin made an excellent speech welcoming everyone to the show. This year is the first year they have 13 countries at the World Cup which everyone is really excited about. If the rider was present, they actually got to draw their own time slot for the classes - gulp! It was really nerve racking!!! BUTTTTT....I had hot hands and drew REALLY REALLY well!!!! Today I go last in the class!!!!! :D Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Denmark are all spaced out in the beginning of the class which is awesome. Tomorrow, I drew the 9th position out of 14 riders. I go in the last group of the class which is great again. The back of the class on Friday is stacked, so I am glad I go ahead of them haha! Right after me is Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, and the 2 German riders to end the class off. It couldn't have worked out better for me!

I am off to nap before going back to the barn later to feed lunch and dinner and prepare to ride the PSG. I will probably ride around 7pm tonight. I can't wait, and I really hope that Nina is settled tonight. Today was the first really good ride we were able to put in here, so it is anyone's guess what I will get tonight with her. I hope I can keep her confidence up and do my thing, and the chips will fall where they will. Fingers crossed!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Tomorrow We Leave for the World Cup at the Festhalle in Frankfurt!!!

Nina was amazing today!!! I had a super super ride on Nina this afternoon. She is all happy now that she has her minions on her feeding program issue. Today, the flow for the work was really good. We only had to do one or two of everything and then we were done with the movement, because Nina and I executed so well. At the end we worked on cantering down the centerline. She likes to be smart and let me know when she thinks we should halt. As a result, when I half halt to prepare her for the halt, she sticks her butt up and tries to quit on me. We tricked her today and did some half pirouettes and transitions within the canter on the centerline so she didn't think the centerline was strictly for going down to halt. In the end, she decided I was right and she should probably listen to the boss-lady. It was great because Nina is on board now and is there for me again. I have my partner back and it feels great! We were able to play around a bit and I made some adjustments here and there within movements, but she was really solid and I could, for the most part, just leave her alone and let her do her thing. I can't wait to go to the show now that I have her!! Bring it on!

Later tonight I got to watch Klaus Rath ride. WHAT AN AMAZING RIDER. He reminds me of my coach, Tom Dvorak, and Norbert Van Laak (I ride in clinics with Norbert when he comes to Tom's barn throughout the year) in how he sits and rides and the way he rides "leg to hand" in a quietly intense, methodical way. His philosophy is similar to Tom and Norbert's and it was a privilege to watch him ride. Everything is forward thinking and even when the horse is cantering on the spot, it is forward, up and out looking with such expression. I am a very visual learner so I was watching his seat and hand positioning closely. If I see something, I am very good at imagining the feeling in that moment. I am then able to carry that image and "feeling" over to my next ride easily. For this reason, I love it when Tom gets on Nina back home and shows me what I am doing versus what he would do in regards to half halt technique and leg aid timing etc. Even when I am schooling, I ask Tom to do "the seat thing" where he will show me from the ground how he tucks his butt under and sits for the half halt and hand positioning, just because I am a very visual learner.

I was also able to watch Ann Kathrin ride. She is a really really nice rider as well. Very quiet yet gets right to the point as well. One minute she would be walking and then next she would have this amazing piaffe from her horse. It was interesting because the horse she was riding when I was watching is really hot like Nina. She was saying in the beginning that the horse was a little all over the place hot, but I can see how her quietly intense approach to things eventually led to this horse being perfectly relaxed and confident. It was easy to tell she instilled confidence in this horse over time without getting fussed by any antics - she just quietly, calmly worked through it.

I wish I was in Europe longer! I am enjoying this trip too much and can't believe I only have a week left. I met Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff and Klaus Rath on Friday for a short period of time, however they went away for the weekend. Today was the first real chance I got to talk to Ann Kathrin for a bit. I have to say that she is a very eloquent, gracious woman with a great sense of humor. I really like her and am so thankful for her generosity in hosting the Meagan, the girl from New Zealand, and me for the World Cup. Her place is stunning and we have felt nothing but welcome. Our time at her estate has been amazing.

Tomorrow I am schooling Nina in the morning at the Schafhof. We ship to the Festhalle in the afternoon. I will get on Nina to show her the main competition ring, and stretch her out a little around 8pm Frankfurt time. That is all for now! I will take lots of pictures tomorrow to post on here tomorrow hopefully!!! SO here is to a great show, great competition, and having fun doing what Nina and I love.