Dear readers we would like to present to you the first blog entry from our intrepid showjumping fan and blogger, M.D. He grew up with horses and was a keen showjumper from a young age. M.D. now gets enjoyment from travelling around to international shows and watching the best showjumping that Europe has to offer!
To get from Brussels to Lanaken on public transport you have to be resolute or insane, or perhaps a little bit of both! For those of you who might still consider taking on the challenge here is the route: you take the train from Brussels Central to Hasselt Station. You then get a train from Hasselt to Bilzen. From Bilzen you get the 20a bus to Lanaken. When you get there you then have to figure out how to get the last 3-4 kilometres to the actual showgrounds!
On the plus side, the trip does take you through the heart of the Belgian countryside and affords you spectacular scenery in the form of the fecund landscape, model villages and impeccably kept farms.
When I eventually arrived in the centre of Lanaken I wandered aimlessly around for about ten minutes hoping I would be able to figure out which way to go. It is a very picturesque, bustling little town and you can imagine it is a very pleasant place to spend an afternoon in. But not if you have a show to get to!
Eventually, I decided to pop into a local café in the hope that someone would be able to point me in the right direction. Inside I met the proprietor and after making my enquiries she shuffled the papers she had in front of her and then in one breath said “Yes, I do know where it is, and I will take you there.” So without further ado, with her car keys in one hand and her papers in the other, I was whisked by Ann all the way to the showgrounds. After extending my gratitude to her as warmly as possible I took my first steps onto this hallowed ground.
Anyone who has even the vaguest knowledge of showjumping will be aware of the Zangersheide Stud and its progeny. It has made an indelible mark on the world of showjumping. The horse that stands out for me the most, though, is Ratina Z (Yes, I know I’m showing my age here!). I’ll never forget the first time I saw her jump. It was like nothing else mattered to her except getting over the fences cleaner and faster than anyone else.
My first port of call was, as usual, the warm up area. You can always get interesting insights into how the top jockeys prepare just by closely observing their movements. Slow and steady seems to be the approach that most take when it comes to the flat work. Once they begin jumping, some of the horses will explode into the air every time and won’t ever give a hint of hitting a fence, and then go into the arena and carelessly have a couple down. Others will hit a few in the warm up arena and slither over the rest and then go into the ring and go clear. That’s the enigma of the horse I guess!
After watching some of the novice jumping I made my way over to the main arena where the Grand Prix had started. Some of the combinations which really impressed me went on to gain the top placings in the class. (But it’s really easy for me to say that now isn’t it!)
One pair that really stood out for me was Robert Whitaker and USA Today (Heartbreaker x Capitol). I have watched this stallion jumping on television many times. To see him in the flesh, though, is a very different experience. The ease with which he clears large fences is quite exceptional and to see it up close is the best way to appreciate the scope and power this horse has.
Apart from the appropriately bred winner, Air Chin Z (Air Jordan z x Chin Chin) who was flawless and fast, the other combination who really impressed me was Reed Kessler and KS Stakki (Stakkato Gold x Silvio I).Reed and Stakki really seem to have formed a genuine rapport and the ease and care with which they moved around the course (as Reed’s coach Marcus Ehning looked on intently!) suggests that there is a lot more to come from this exciting young rider and progressive black mare.
After this class concluded and the presentations had been made it was time to head in the direction of home, which was easier said than done….
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