Luhmuehlen, Germany 
Jun 19, 2011

Since I last wrote we moved from the riding school where we were stabled to the show ground which, conveniently enough, is about 2 kilometers down the road.  The organizers of the event were kind enough to arrange a lorry to drive all of our gear, while Jennie, Will, Nat, and I hacked the 4 horses over.  The whole facility has undergone major upgrades thanks to the upcoming European Championships in September, the most major of which is fancy new footing in all the arenas.  While it’s far smaller than say the Kentucky Horse Park with it’s never ending supply of buildings and arenas, Luhmuehlen still has a grand feeling to it that is fitting with an event of this caliber.  Most of all, the people involved with the event have been incredible!  I can’t think of any other event where several times a day the stabling manager walks down each barn isle to check if everyone is happy and has everything they need.  This attitude seems to be fairly wide spread throughout the staff and it’s been a really pleasant treat. We even finally found internet thanks to the show office sharing their wireless connection. Unfortunately we tested their generosity when, flocking to the only internet for miles around like seagulls to a lone forgotten lunch sack, we managed to crash the entire system!

Finn and the others have all settled in well and are happy.  We’ve been “quarantined” in the farthest back corner of all the barns, barricaded by 3 bags of shavings laid haphazardly across the barn isle.  I’m not sure if we’re being protected or if we’re considered to be contaminated but I’m sure glad to know that all are safe thanks to that “wall”.  And while it probably is not doing much in the way of quarantining us,  it has provided us with good napping accommodations, given great fodder for joking with our Aussie neighbors, and has doubled as a useful lunch table each afternoon.

Yesterday I had a dressage school with Mark in the morning that went really well and then I got to bathing, braiding, and polishing everything up for the Jog.  Come the 3:00 rider’s meeting, we found out that the CIC3* horses were not doing a first jog at all.  I would have felt really stupid if not for “International Nat the Super Groomhaving braided her 3* horse as well!  While it was an annoying exercise it wasting time, I took advantage of my new found gap in my schedule to have a look at the cross country.  While I’ve far from made my plan yet, on first look it seems really good.  The footing is absolutely fantastic and the track seems challenging but fair.  There are several big ditches and lots of wide tables particularly later in the course, but the lines all seem pretty doable.

This morning Will had a fantastic test on Andromaque.  I think it was a career best for the pair and he should be thrilled with the progress he’s managed to make in the relatively short time he’s had Missie.  Immediately after his ride, I had a light school with Mark just getting Finn loose and relaxed. Both Mark and I knew that Finn was in a really good place and I think we both were very excited for my test this afternoon.  When I did get on for my test, Finn was really impressive.  I had a very rideable, relaxed horse with plenty of sparkle left and if the warm up were to be judged, I think we might have won.  Unfortunately, somehow between the warm up and the show arena, I think we left our winning test behind, as the work we did in the ring was fine, but far from what has become our standard.  We had two bobbles, one when we cantered instead of trotted out of the rein-back and the other when we swapped leads in the counter canter, and in general it was just lacking that something extra that separates the good from the great.

In a lot of ways I can shrug it off and say I’d rather save my winning test for a bigger, more important event, but that in no way means that I’m not hugely disappointed.  Jennie made it seem a whole lot better when she told me that if scoring a 51 is a bad day then we’re doing ok and I really couldn’t argue with her. Though today it didn’t show in the score, the work Finn has been giving me over the last few weeks has been on even a whole new level from what I’ve had in the past.  It seems just when I think to myself how lucky I am to have such an incredible horse, he steps it up and gets even better.  When we manage to bring what we had in the warm up to the main ring, I’m pretty sure he’ll blow us all away!

Luhmuehlen, Germany
Jun 12, 2011

While our horses are still getting a few easy days after the long journey here, we’ve been taking advantage of the spare time to explore the area and rest up ourselves.  We returned to the amazing tack store today and though I again resisted buying everything in the store, we did get to chatting with the cashier.  By “chatting” I mean the hand signaling equivalent as she does not speak any English.  In any case we did manage to convey a reasonable amount of what can only be considered conversation.  When she realized we were competitors she pulled out an aged leather book and started flipping through to show us signatures of all the people that had been to Luhmuehlen over the last 30 or so years.  She had Torrance Watkins, Peter Green, Bruce Davidson, Jack LeGoff, and on and on.  It was such an amazing piece of history and to think that she’d been collecting this all these years was really special.  She asked us to sign our names and our horses and I think I speak for Jennie and Will that it was a real honor.

And while we may not yet have much excitement on the eventing front, our days in Luhmuehlen are anything but boring.  Yesterday our ghost town of a riding center that we’d enjoyed all to ourselves started humming with new arrivals.  At first we noticed several new horses in the barn of the shorter, wider stature with an easy going, kind eye.  I cracked a joke about them being the German equivalent of a Quarter Horse.  Then I went outside and saw the parking lot was packed with countless two horse trailers pulled behind all styles of small cars that really shouldn’t be pulling horse trailers.  Everything from falling apart sedans to shiny new sports cars, a few rickety RV’s and lots of horses tied up to the sides of the trailers.  The scene was most akin to a Pony Club rally, except for the bold decals everywhere of reining horses doing slide stops and slogans like “slide tough”.  Ah-ha!… America’s only equestrian export… Quarter Horses.  There are hundreds of them, some very classy, some…  well let’s just say it’s hard to make a Halflinger look AQHA approved, no matter how much you trim it’s feathered feet and band that mane! 

Most intriguing of all is how they’re not just buying the horses, but they’ve got the whole culture that comes with it!  These German’s have taken to the world of western riding and they aren’t messing around.  They’ve got the glittery outfits, the 30lb Silver encrusted halters (ever wonder how they get those horses to hold their heads so low?), and the uber-shiny black hooves. And more than anything, what would a western show be without a utility belt wielding mother or father armed with no less than 6 different aerosol products, each with a different purpose, and their distinctive smells wafting around the stables.  There’s a collection of venders from whom you can buy anything you want.  From neon colored chaps with fringe to cowboy hats to parelli halters, if it’s western, they’ve got it.  You have country music being piped over the loud speakers, and the announcer asking the riders to “please jog your horses, please jog”.  If the irony of this has been missed on you, just remember that only about 20% of the people we’ve met around town speak a single word of English!  I feel like if I went to warm up, I’d find the rail lined with cowboys wearing comtek’s, coaching their riders in German, but with a heavy Texas twang.  It’s like the whole American Dressage Queen stereotype has been turned completely inside out.  I’m pretty sure these ladies don’t really know what their horse’s name, “Cassidy’s Midnight Dazzler”, actually means, but it sounds authentic and they imported him, so he must be good.  

This whole western extravaganza goes on for two more days so we’ll have plenty of entertainment.  And if you’re worried that we’ll feel lost when this touch of home leaves us on Monday, fear not, because over the next few days all the eventers and our remaining support crew of Mark Phillips and company will start arriving. Then we’ve got jog-up’s on Wednesday and CIC3* dressage Thursday. 

Luhmuehlen, Germany 
Jun 9, 2011

We arrived Wednesday morning into Amsterdam after a very easy flight from New York.  Kelly, Nat, and I then spent the next 4 hours or so drinking coffee and telling stories to keep ourselves awake while we waited for the horses to be cleared through customs.  After a little mishap when a lorry tire met a curb, we joked that us girls would be happy to change it so that they didn’t have to call a repair man. They called the repair man, and then it took 3 men a lot of standing around scratching their heads.  Eventually they had a new tire on the lorry.  It was nearly noon when we set out for a “6 hour” drive across Holland and Germany.  I can’t say much about the drive as I was looking at the insides of my eyelids most of the time, but I can say that this country’s restrictions that require truck drivers to stop and rest every few hours was getting to be more than a bit tedious.  If we had that in America, it would take me a week to drive across the country!

We finally arrived in Luhmuehlen Wednesday night and got the horses settled into a nice stable where we’re staying until the event next week.  By the time we went to check in to the hotel and try to find dinner it was 10:00.  The hotel staff informed us they were closed and only agreed to give us a room after we begged a little.  Then we walked into town where the only food we could find was a Chinese restaurant.  In a scene that was a little like an I love Lucy episode, we attempted to crack a double language barrier to order some food.  As the proprietors barely spoke German and not a bit of English, they eventually brought a menu that had a few clip-art pictures of animals so we could figure what the words for beef, chicken, pork, and fish were.  We were still stumped with one, but through some demonstrations of animal sounds, we eventually figured it was duck.    It’s a good thing the place was empty because the quacking and flapping of arms at the table would have definitely turned some heads.  We ended up with an excellent dinner and headed to bed.

Today we took it really easy on the horses, hand grazing them and organizing our tack for most of the day.  We went to a tack store on site that was floor to ceiling, packed denser than anything I’ve ever been to.  It was really impressive, but I managed to leave without buying anything.  Kelly and I walked into town and found some real necessities; carrots and apples for the horses, and cookies and chocolate for ourselves.  Now we’re ready to take Germany by storm!  Jennie arrived in the afternoon and then we had a really nice dinner with a lot less gesturing and noise making.

Tomorrow we’ll give the horses an easy hacking day to stretch out their legs and then start to ramp things up later in the weekend.

JFK, New York
Jun 7, 2011

A new chapter in our adventure called “life”.

As I write we’re sitting in the JFK airport watching the horses getting loaded on the plane and waiting to board so we can go join them. Kelly, who’s grooming for Jennie Brannigan’s Cambalda, and Nat who’s grooming for Will Faudree’s Pawlow and Andromaque are providing great comic relief and helping the many tedious hours of bureaucratic you know what pass a little quicker.  Kelly and I left from True Prospect Farm at 3:00 this morning with Ping and Finian, on our first leg of the trip to Luhmuehlen, Germany.  We arrived at JFK at 9:00 where we joined up with Nat, Will, and their two horses.  After weighing and tagging all the gear and sending it off on a truck, we sat around until 2:00 exhausting every form of time passing that we could.  After loading the horses up on another truck we said good bye to Will and headed off to the main terminal to check in ourselves.  After a 6 hour flight we’ll land in Amsterdam, go through the same bureaucratic you know what to get through customs there, and then be on our way, by truck, for a 6 hour drive to the event.  Once we arrive we’ll have a week to rest up before competition starts next Wednesday.

Here’s to a simple and non-eventful trip.  More news to follow from Germany.

Allentown, NJ 
May 12, 2011

A long overdue hello to everyone.

I apologize for being missing in action for so long.  Since I left California at the beginning of March, I’ve been in an emotional, physical, and even literal whirlwind and it is very evident that my solution to unease is to introvert into my shell.  I’m sorry to everyone for my lack of communication.

I spent March and April basing out of Will Faudree’s Gavilan Farm near Southern Pines, NC.  The hospitality and easy going feel of the barn were lovely.  Through rain, heat, and dodging several major tornadoes, we found our way to Rolex feeling quite a bit disheveled and like none of the pieces were quite where they should be.  Many of you know the outcome of our weekend, but to say the least, it was the highest of highs and then falling pretty low.  We led the dressage ahead of Mary King, Mark Todd, Oliver Townend, and many more best of the best’s.  Finian was very good to score a 40.6, but I can’t help feel that it was nowhere near what he is capable of.  Cross country had some really good parts and some other parts that just weren’t quite good enough.  Unfortunately at the 4* level, not quite good enough is not something you get away with and eventually we had a fall at the farmyard table at the very end of the course.  I take complete blame for all of our mistakes that day, and especially the fall.  I think Finian really stepped up to the plate and gave me his all, and ultimately my inexperience let us down.  I feel like we’re both better for the experience but it is of course hugely disappointing to feel like I let him and so many people down.  I came away from the weekend with more belief than ever in just how special my horse really is, and feeling an even deeper responsibility to make the right choices for his future.  He has so much more to show the world, I can’t help but look forward with enthusiasm to the future.

Monday morning we loaded up and moved to Molly Rosin’s barn in Kirkwood, PA where I spent the night, and then left Finn to enjoy the turnout while McCool and I are at Jersey Fresh.  Yesterday we had jog outs and today we’re just puttering around as we don’t show until tomorrow.  The course looks good, and the weather is the nicest I’ve ever experienced here.  Hopefully we can have good news to report for the rest of the weekend.

Lexington, KY
Apr 28, 2011

Hello to everyone from a very soggy Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event.  After months of holding my tongue and referring to the end of April as the “R” word, I will now come out with it… I’m going to Rolex!  Of course that’s easy to say when we’ve been here for 3 days and have already passed the horse inspection.  Finian is fit and fresh, relatively under control, and stealing the show everywhere he goes.  Hopefully the atmosphere in the big stadium will not affect us too badly and we can produce a dressage test that will live up to his abilities.  As for the cross country, one can only pray that it stops raining, and the ground miraculously starts to dry out.  Derek’s new course looks really great, but at present, there is standing water and flowing streams through most of the 3 miles of course.  Parts of the footing seem good, and most of it seems alright, until you look where a car has driven, or even where people have been walking, and you see how quickly the soft turf turns into bottomless mud.  As the 32nd horse to leave the box, I’m pretty sure there won’t be any turf left for us.  I’m taking things one day at a time, and right now, that means going to bed and dreaming about circles and centerlines.  Lots more news to come.

Feb 15, 2011

It never fails that the seemingly long winter whirls past me and the show season is up and running before I can say Happy New Year.  Amidst the many grand plans to get ahead on some projects and training, I find myself right back where I left off, and no idea where the months of November and December apparently went.  I managed to attend the United States Equestrian Team Foundation reception in Wellington, Florida … barely.  While we have been enjoying 75 degree weather here in California, the rest of the country has been hit hard with the real grit of winter, and that played a big part in causing airport closures that nearly prevented my travels.  I managed to get there at the eleventh hour, arriving in Palm Beach one hour before I needed to be at the reception, which was in Wellington.  With a quick shower and some hastily applied makeup I arrived late to a very upscale affair.  The organizers introduced themselves and mentioned that they wanted me to speak after the presentation of the award.  I was not prepared for that, but I think I gave a half-way passable thank you speech for all the donors in the room.  It all worked out okay and we were out of there in 30 minutes.  A friend of mine, Honey Beeman, came along for moral support, and I was thankful for her outgoing personality in such an intimidating room.  Thanks to her friendly nature and willingness to introduce the both of us to strangers, we met some really neat people and real legends in equestrian high performance.   Afterwards we went to dinner, and then got a few hours sleep before a 4:00 am wake up to catch an early flight back to California.

From one whirlwind to the next, I arrived home and got very busy preparing the horses for the upcoming event at Galway.  The day I returned home, I spent several hours in a pelting hail and thunder storm trotting Finn up the big hill.  As unhappy as I was about that, he was ten times as miserable.  On our second time up, he lost his patience and bolted with me nearly to the very top.  I was equally worried about him hurting himself and impressed with his athleticism, and I couldn’t help but hear the Rocky theme song playing in my head.  Even at the height of fitness, we usually just do a slow canter to the top, so when the next day he seemed to have no ill effects, I stopped worrying and went back to humming the song.  The following day was spent schooling McCool at Twin Rivers where he was really excellent.  Then it was off to Galway for the Fri – Sun event where I ran both horses slowly and tried to just get their feet wet for the season.  Both protested being held back on cross country, and though very strong, ran well and seemed glad to be out.  After Galway, we were off to Thousand Oaks for a training session with Mark Phillips through Saturday.  I had some frustrating lessons, and some wonderful lessons, and at the end of it, came home feeling like we’d accomplished a lot.  If you want to read more about the training session, you can read the reports I wrote for Eventing Nation. 

I hope to have an exciting year ahead of us.

Oct 19, 2010

Well I didn’t have time to write Saturday night, and by Sunday night we were ready for a little celebration, so once again, e-mails got pushed aside.  Then I was busily packing for a 2:30 AM departure on Monday, so now I finally sit down to write in the fog of an emotional hangover.  The support from everyone has been incredible and I can’t thank everyone enough for all the nice messages, emails, and face book posts, not to mention everything it took to get us to Holland and back. 

Saturday morning started off a bit dreary and discouraging as the rain continued to be an annoyance and the course proved to be riding very difficultly.  I stood with Mike Huber at the first water complex to watch the first 5 horses come through and I saw every version of ugly unfold.  Most of the horses jumped the skinny A element well but then riders were kicking and smacking and yelling to get over B, the big ditch.  Then they were doing every version of lying on and crawling over C, the roll top, big drop into the water.  From there half the horses were pecking on landing or pulling off their shoes, or falling down, before the up bank turning to the other skinny chevron, D and E.  This was not exactly what I had wanted to see to boost my confidence!  Doug was the first to ride for us and as the 4th horse out, I was standing there to watch him have an unfortunate 2 run outs at the A element.  After that, however, he really got things going and his young horse matured years around the next 7 minutes of the course.  Will was next to go, and it was magic to watch.  His mare is also young and quite green, but she ate it all up, jumping clear and inside the time with the help of Will’s experience, moving all the way from 51st to 13th place.  I know he was absolutely delighted by Missie’s performance, and I felt lucky to get to witness it.  From there I watched a few more horses go, and had a talk with Mark.  We decided to take the long route at the water that was causing so many problems, which funny enough, was my first instinct for my horse.  Otherwise, it was just a “go get it” sort of talk. 

When we left the box I was immediately encouraged that the sea of 40,000 spectators might be less of a hindrance and more of a help.  We went all the way to Holland so our horses could experience the spectators, tents, and atmosphere of an international event.  For Finn however, I felt like we had tunnel vision down the galloping lanes, with nothing but the jump ahead of us.  He was absolutely fantastic in his gallop, and actually on the first, second, and third minute markers.  He really was taking it all as it came to us, each jump revealing itself as we twisted through the forest, and breaking out into the clearing at the water.  I am thrilled that the long route there suited him really well, and he was able to carry on, with his confidence in place, all of his shoes, and having not taken a dunking.  I found myself having to press harder for the time as we continued on, but he was still jumping boldly and straight as an arrow through the accuracy questions.  I had a dicey moment at the second water when he kicked up hard and stuck on landing, throwing me up his neck and face to face with the forces of physics that suggested I take a bath.  Fortunately I stayed on, and short of a few seconds wasted removing myself from his ears and climbing back into the tack, we were able to continue on unscathed.  We finished up adding just 7.6 time faults to our score and moving into 7th place.  Finn cooled out well and looked good back in the barn. 

4th to ride for our team was Sinead and she had a fabulous go, adding just 1.6 time penalties to move up into 14th place.  The team moved into 2nd place, knocking on the door for first with just a rail and a half separating us from the Germans.  All the horses looked pretty good Saturday night and we had the expert help of PJ, our vet extraordinaire, should anything arise.

Sunday we all got through the jog and then busied ourselves with getting ready for show jumping.  Doug jumped right after we walked the course and had a lovely round with just one rail.  While he may not have had exactly the weekend he had been hoping for, he and Skinny will be a better team for their experiences on this trip and have lots to be proud of.  After that, everything turned into a blur as Will and Sinead jumped back to back (14th and 13th places) and I was in warm up thinking about myself at that point.  Sinead had 3 rails unfortunately, but said she thought Tate was just tired.  They finished in 21st place.  Will was unlucky to have the last rail at the end of a supposedly great round.  They finished up in 12th.  My goal with Finn in warm up was to get him settled and polite to the jumps so that I didn’t have to do too much fighting with him in the ring.  Fortunately he was feeling light and springy, and right on the button.  I jumped just a few fences and Mark and I agreed we were ready to go.  When we went in the ring, he grew another few inches in height and took in his surroundings, but in proud sort of way.  I think he took a look around and said “darn right you should be applauding me, I belong here!”  He jumped a flawless round from start to finished, and out of 78 horses, was 1 of only 14 clear rounds.  We finished up 6th and our team finished 2nd, just 2.2 points behind Germany. 

I’m happy to report that I survived (and stayed in the tack for) not one, but two victory gallops as we had both team and individual awards.  The only real casualty of the day was when all the officials came through to shake each of our hands.  Mind you we were holding trophies, silver plates, wooden boxes, and oh yeah, the reins!  As Ciska van Meggelen came to shake my hand, Finian thought her fur coat looked like a really nice tissue, and reached around behind her, taking the liberty of wiping his mouth on her back.  That green slime was making his nose itch!  My eyes popped out, her eyes popped out, and Dr. Ernst Topp, another member of the ground jury, hurriedly attempted to wipe her clean.  Hopefully in time she will look back on it and see the humor.  I for one, am still mortified!  Leave it to the Americans, or this American to be more exact!

That night we enjoyed a bit of well earned celebration and packed up all our things.  Finn and I got picked up at 2:30 AM by a lorry driver that looked like he’d overslept his alarm, and arrived at Amsterdam airport by 4:30.  We spend the next few hours doing paperwork.  Finn had the pleasure (or not) of flying home with a 2 year old race horse filly who thought she was going kick her way out of the pallet and back to her field in Ireland.  By the time we got in the plane and ready for take-off, she had sufficiently worn herself out, and remained pretty quiet for the rest of the flight.  It turns out Finn was quite the celebrity on-board as several of the flight attendants had been at Boekelo and watched us go.  They had to come back into cargo and visit with him.

So that’s it, a whirlwind trip that couldn’t have gone better.  I’m so thankful for the USEF grant that allowed us our first trip to Europe, and for everything and everyone that helped us along the way.  It’s just 10 more hours of quarantine and then Finn and I will drive home for a real vacation.  Finn gets to kick up his feet and relax now for the rest of the fall and part of the winter.  I have one more, big event with McCool doing the CCI2* at Galway Downs in two weeks and then the season’s over.

Enschede, Netherlands 
Oct 15, 2010

Competition is well underway and I have lots to be happy about.  Yesterday dressage got off to a dismal start with the judges giving stingy scores throughout most of the day.  Michael Jung (recently crowned world champion) got a blistering score of 37.8, but otherwise marks were being withheld even for those riders that usually have a bit of “star power” added to their score.  I guess in the Netherlands, you’d better be the world champion if you want to have any clout.  Mark Todd, William Fox Pitt… who are they?  Doug and Will rode yesterday and both had good, correct tests, without too much brilliance, but also no mistakes.  Doug was given a very harshly judged 62.6 which put him in 76th, and Will got a 57 for 51st place.  I didn’t get to watch Will’s test so I can’t say for sure, but the trend of the day was all test’s being about 10 points too high in the scores.

Finian has been getting closer and closer to show ring ready with each ride and we’ve been trying to put all the pieces into place without actually tipping the first domino.  Yesterday I had a good dressage lesson with Mark and I felt pretty good that I hadn’t used up all the good stuff in practice but that he was ready to pull it out when we went in the ring.  Today I had a pre-sunrise ride with Mark just getting all the slow, long and stretching part of my warm up out of the way so that when I brought him out for my test at 11:00 we could go straight to work.  In a strange way that can only be because Finn understands the meaning of “It’s Showtime”, he came out for our second warm up with a completely different posture all together.  He felt super through everything and I was finally confident that I had the horse I wanted for going into the ring.  When we did enter the grandstand for our test, he was relatively good about all the surroundings, but still he got a little tense.  When I picked up the canter to enter the ring however, he got to work and produced a typically lovely test.  I once again lost him in the halt, rein-back movement which is an irritating few scores to throw away, but most of the test was very good and the judges agreed.  We got a 46.2 which put us into 6th place out of 107 horses.

After my ride I walked the course again with Mark which was especially nice because he just walked along and watched which lines I was planning to ride and how I was planning to make my turns.  Often he walked behind me, pulling me slightly right or left to the perfect line.  It was really great to have such specific guidance about every aspect of the course, not just how to jump the jumps.  Sinead rode this afternoon and again I was not able to watch her test but she got a 55.4 for 39th place.  I believe she was pretty disappointed about her test, although she said she learned a lot about her horse and how to prepare him for a big competition next time.  With mine and her scores added in, our team moved up into 3rd place out of 11 teams.  Germany is in 1st and we’re only 1 point behind the Netherlands in 2nd

This evening I took Finn out for a little gallop and to jump a few jumps and he was perfectly fresh and yet still attentive.  I couldn’t have asked for more… other than it maybe not have been pouring rain.  Tomorrow I have a later ride time, going at 2:00, so I will have most of the day to watch how the course is riding and see where the footing is deep, slick, or otherwise troublesome.  Hopefully none of that will be too much of a problem.

It’s past my bed time and the others are all asleep already, so that’s all for tonight.

Enschede, Netherlands, 
Oct 11, 2010

Well it seems like it’s been weeks since we left LA but it’s only been a couple days.  I’ve been having a terrible time with all things technological and I’m convinced it’s because I tried to be so organized before I left.  The European phone has been on and off working… a lot more of the off.  To add to that, internet has been surprisingly hard to find. 

Our flight was mostly uneventful and I enjoyed the privilege of leaving my seat and going through the secret locked door to the back to hang out with Finn.  He, sadly, was the only horse on the flight so his only company was a crate of fine paintings and a classic car and I think it was a little dark and lonely back there for him.  I was greeted with a very sweet little nicker each time I visited, but otherwise he was very stoic about the whole thing.  Our KLM attendant informed me that while I was sleeping one time we had some pretty bad turbulence and that I must be a bad trailer driver because when she checked on him, he was not bothered by it at all!  Anyways, he traveled like a pro.  We landed in Amsterdam Saturday morning and Finn’s pallet was immediately offloaded and taken over to the horse version of customs.  We then had several hours of waiting for all the paperwork to be processed before we could leave the airport.  Much to the amusement of the KLM employee’s and customs agents, I kept falling asleep on the office table in the customs building!  My best manners were no match to jet-lag and a less than stimulating situation.  Eventually they woke me and we loaded Finn and all the gear into a Lorry that was waiting to take us to the Amstel Horse Hotel, 20 minutes from the airport.  We were there by mid afternoon and after fussing over my horse and reorganizing my things for the 3rd time, I went out running to explore the area a little.  After an hour or so of that, I went back to fussing over Finn.  This is the part where the non-working phone, no internet to be found, and no transportation, or socialization became a little bothersome.  Did I mention the Amsel Horse Hotel was like a ghost town on Saturday?  I really am not a social networker, but Saturday I wanted some contact with the outside world.  I had a little 6×8 room with nothing more than a bed, a light, and a door, all of which I was grateful for.  At some point early that evening, I went to bed, not really sure what time it was since the clock wouldn’t change in my phone since it didn’t have signal.

The next day I picked up a little bit of the same routine, although there were more people out to the barn playing with their horses.  Sarah, Sinead, Doug, and Will arrived in their rental car around 10:00 and it was great to have company.  They were thoroughly bored waiting for their horses to arrive, get through customs, and come to pick us up, but for me, the entertainment was rich.  The Lorry with the other three horses and Sinead and Will’s grooms arrived and we got on our way to Boekelo.  When we arrived at the event 2 hours later, we were met by the Organizer and a whole crew of helpers to unload our things and get set up.  They brought us coffee and cookies and made us feel thoroughly welcome.  After that, they took us to the on-site bar and bought us drinks.  Talk about hospitality!

Today we “hacked out” the horses in the morning (Finn and I mostly passaged) and then spent mid-day in town.  I took Finn out this afternoon again and tried to ride a little of the freshness out of him and I hope it had some effect.  He’s been in fine form causing havoc in the barn and I have been trying to convince everyone that he’s really not such a heathen child at his core.  They’re not buying it, and to be honest, they must think I’m a terrible trainer! Oh well, that’s one first impression we’ll be working hard to change, but what are you going to do?  Mark Phillips arrived this evening and we all went out for a riotous dinner and now we’re off to bed.  The event will start hopping tomorrow with everyone else arriving and then we jog Wednesday and competition really starts.

I’m working on getting a phone that has signal in the deep of the forest, and I’ve found the one place in the lobby of our hotel with internet.  I hope to have more contact now that we’re settled, but we’ll see.