What a fantastic trip this was! We arrived on the 24th of October 2013 fling into Brussels. We hopped into our little hire car and headed for Hilvarenbeek to our hotel St petrus.
On the 25th we set of for Jop Van Uyters Stallion Barn. We saw some of the most amazing dressage stallions in Holland at the moment.
Gribaldi tribute from Edward Gal to Joop Van Uyter once he had retired.
Slightly dazed an don a complete high we headed on to one of Hollands many tack shops. It was amazing and we shopped till they closed at 9pm.
On the morning of the 26th we set off for Stal Korenbloem in Weert for the Equine Elite Auction.
We arrived at 11am in time to see the presentation of the horses for the auction. At 12:30 the stables opened for viewing. The horses ranged from 2 years old to Grand Prix circuit campaigners.
This was followed by a wonderful dinner of sushi, champagne on tap and the hugest buffet you have ever seen. The auction opened at 6:30pm.it was fantastic to see and they really do put on a great show of dancers, singers and fireworks. The attire is extremely smart. Luckily we had a tip off and managed to find some glad rags.
The horses were great and prices ranged from 20 000 Euros to 350 000 Euros. We left at about 12pm tired and happy.
On the morning of the 27th we got up early again and set off to a local show. We watched about 35 PSG horses compete. It was great to see non professional riders of different abilities on horses of all different sizes, shapes and quality. It made us realize that we are not that far behind and that our level isn't much lower. The biggest difference being that the number of competitors in Holland is much greater and the depth of riders is much bigger. Obviously we are limited at Grand Prix level but as we only started competing GP as a country recently it holds great promise of things to come for South Africa. As long as we continue to grow with initiatives like GGP and horses of high quality keep being imported into South Africa we will continue to improve as a nation.
After the show we set off for Academy Bartels for a guided tour by none other than Tineke Bartels herself. What an amazing person. So humble, open and knowledgeable! We ended our tour with coffee and a short video. What a treat!
The 28th saw the start of the Global Dressage Forum.
We arrived at the Bartels at least 3 hours early. This allowed us time to shop and make sure we got the seats we wanted. The stalls at the forum are great and filed with lovely equestrian attire, equipment and very interesting information ie cloning, aqua treadmills. We all loved the dressage simulator but sadly we weren't brave enough to ride the horse in front of the likes of Isabell Werth and Edward Gal. We will have to try next year.
RIchard Davidson is such a fantastic presenter and really interviews well. He opened the forum after HRH Pirncess Benedict had cut the ribbon thereby opening the new state sponsored indoor at Academy Bartels. First up we had Troyd Asmyr who is head of the FEI. He spoke about numerous topics including rule changes, arena stewards, the Olympic Games and development of the sport. This made us think long and hard about Dressage in South Africa. Who plans the development of the sport, who decided what happens when and how? I think that we HAVE to start working together as a country and not continue running each province as a separate unit. We have to think in a unified way in order to develop dressage within the country and stop arguing over who hosts what show and whats fair and what's not. At the Global Dressage Forum there were numerous ideas that were initiated by riders, trainers and judges alike that the FEI have instantly taken on board. All with the main idea of developing and improving the sport of dressage world wide and its only though working together like this that we can improve and grow the sport.
The next speaker was Jan Dierens who spoke to us about the mental aspect of dressage. He is a sports psychologist who is working with the Dutch team and fascinated us with some visualization techniques and much more.
Then came the winning machine-Isabell Werth. She showed us what her riders do on her horses daily. She has 6 yr old and an 8 yr old to show us. Then Jose her Spanish in hand trainer showed us what he does to train the piaffe and passage.
Then Stephen Clarke introduced Katrina Werth.and a German rider who is also a judge and computer programmer and is only 25 yrs old. They showed us an app that they have designed for writing your Kurs. Once you have designed it on the computer you email it to the show office and then the judge has a copy of your individual Kur. This makes judging much easier, quicker and more fair. The scores are calculated b the program and marks are out instantly. The FEI is very excited and are going to buy the app.
After dinner we had a brief talk by the organizers of the World Equestrian Games in France.
Then it was again the turn of Isabell Werth. This time she sat on a couch with Richard Davidson and they chatted over some wine. She spoke openly about her drug charges and her life as a top competitor, trainer and mother. She then introduced onto the stage her wonderful owner Madeleine Winter-Schulze. They spoke together about their partnership, trials and tribulations in the world of dressage at the top.
Isabell then got onto Don Johnson and let us watch her ride while she and her trainer Monika Theodurescu talked about their daily work routine for this spectacular and life filled horse. Whom she said she hopes will one day show the judges what he can really do. And boy did he show is that night!
Watching Isabell Werth was fantastic! She is truly and incredible horse woman who has so much to offer in the skill and feel of training horses. We were watching a true master at work! We went home absolutely elated and exhausted!
Day 2 started with Marianne Sloet who is a Professor of veterinary science. She spoke about emerging diseases like west nile, infectious anaemia and African Horse sickness.
Wim Ernes followed with an AMAZING talk about how to choose a Grand Prix horse when its only a foal. ANd what to look for at each stage of purchase if intending to compete at GP. He was accompanied by Tim Coomans, Joop van Uyter and Nico Witte. As a surpise Richard Davidson selected Esben Muller of the Blue Hors stud in Denmark from the audience to verify if what they were saying was what he also believed. This made it very interesting to have four of the top breeders in Europe debating confirmations, breeding and movement. They all agreed that here are 6 steps to success: (in no particular order)
2. Confirmation, movement and soundness
3. Character, temprement
4. Education and training
5. Management and facilities
6. Preperation for competition management
They started by showing us 2 weanlings and each pointed out what they felt was so impressive and or not impressive about each one. The Nicco WItte showed us a 2 yr old colt of his. Joop van Uyter showed us a very different 2 yr old colt of him and both justified why they felt each would get to the top even though they were so different. Then Tineke and Imke had their day as riders and trainers.
We then saw a 3 yr old stallion being ridden call Ferdo. He was licensed this year in Holland.
Tim Coomans then showed us one of his 3 yr old mares. She got 85% at the inspections and was therefore an elite mare.
The four year olds looked amazing and we finished off with two 5 year old stallions. One a late developer and one at a very advanced level already. One was Easy Game and the other was Dream Boy. Again this sparked debates.
Richard Davidson then opened the floor for some very interesting questions.
After lunch we had a lovely demo form Jan Brink and Kyra Kurkland as to how they are developing the sport of dressage in Sweden. They then each taught their pupil and spoke about how they got heir program sponsored and to where it is today.
In closing it was announced that The Global Dressage Forum 2014 will be held in Denmark at Blue Hors Stud...Denmark here we come.
The following day we set off for RIen van Der Schafts hoem and yard for two nights. Watching Rien , his wife Ingrid and daughter train together as a family was really special. We learnt a lot and appreciate just how lucky we are to have a man of his caliber and ability coming to South Africa to train our riders!
Watch this space for details about next years trip to Denmark!