Traveling to the Aachen horse show this year was a trip down memory lane. I last showed there 34 years ago in 1982 as a member of the US Team. Aachen is indeed one of the most special venues in the world with the huge main stadium seating 40,000. I am told that 350,000 spectators attend the show over its 10 day span. Aachen includes show jumping, dressage, driving, vaulting , three day and some combined events where teams of riders cross over to other disciplines. Each discipline has its own venue with tons of shops and eateries spread around the grounds.
I wanted to attend Aachen this year to observe and talk to many of the riders headed to Rio. Most of the competitive countries sent their Olympic teams or were choosing them from their performances there, both in show jumping and dressage . Since I will be in Stamford ,Ct instead of Rio as the Equestrian commentator for this Summer’s Games, I felt it was important to see the top horse/rider combinations in person in their final lead up to Rio. The best of the best competed and they did not disappoint. (FYI.. 60 % of all Olympic sports will be called by their respective commentators from NBC Olympic headquarters in Stamford. We will watch the live stream on a monitor like everyone else and call it from our booths. )
Our Show jumping team led by Chef d’equip Robert Ridland looked very strong indeed. Mclain Ward/Azur, Beezie Madden/Cortes, Lucy Davis/Barron and Kent Farrington/Voyeur plus reserve rider, Laura Kraut/Zeremonie had very solid performances all week. Mclain and Laura won classes on their second horses and all contributed to 5 clear rounds in the Nations Cup and several more in the Grand Prix. The grass footing in Aachen is beautiful as it is perfectly maintained and only used for this show once a year . The lack of rain, which is unusual for Aachen, and mild temperatures made for excellent conditions. Horses jumped great over some of the biggest courses in the world. I was in awe.
Over in the dressage stadium, US riders, Steffen Peters/Legolas and reserve rider Shelly Francis/Doktor also competed with success but the 3 remaining members of the Dressage Team headed to Rio were stabled an hour away for training purposes and drove in just to watch. Those three had finished up their Rio preparation at Rotterdam a few weeks earlier. Chef Robert Dover appeared to be very enthusiastic about this team and it was so refreshing to meet the three gals who will be experiencing their first Olympics . The ladies, Laura Graves/Verdades, Kasey Perry- Glass/Dublet and Ali Brock/Rosevelt were genuinely overjoyed with their selection. The camaraderie and team spirit appears very high and that was fun to see.
Here’s to the realization of Olympic dreams for all our Equestrian teams. They have worked incredibly hard to get this far and may their experiences in Rio be safe, sound and successful in every way!