The route to Rotterdam went a little like this: first a three hour ferry across the Irish Sea. Then a seven hour drive from the West of England to the East. Then an eight hour ferry to the Hook of Holland.Then a half hour train trip from the airport to Rotterdam Central. Finally, a fourteen minute tram ride to Avenue Concordia and a twenty minute walk to the showgrounds. The only way I can explain it I to say that, for me, it's less of a journey and more of a pilgrimage.
And suddenly I was here.
As I entered the gates I could almost taste the atmosphere! Music blared and crowds milled around and streamed in and out of the stands. It had been promising to rain , but that threat soon evaporated- pun intended! As usual, I took a look at some of the competitors warming up and, as usual, it didn't disappoint. Some of the horses were really catapulting over the verticals and spreads.
After this it was over to the main arena to watch the Nations' Cup. Here, some performances really stood out for me. The first of these was the Swiss pathfinder, Niklaus Rutschi and Windsor XV (Karandasj). Unfortunately, Windsor had the first fence down as he hung in the air a little too long. But then the combination really grew into the course and jumped better and better as they progressed around the course. This is a combination to look out for.
Another competitor who drew gasps from supporters and spectators alike was Gudrun Patteet. She took a full on hands and heels approach to the third fence and managed to clear it at full stretch. Then she showed enormous composure to get her mount back on its hocks and collected for the water jump. It takes some courage and conviction to ride like this at a Nations' Cup. And when a young rider does this it marks them out.
My final personal highlight was the absolute privilege of watching Armitage's Boy (Armitage) and Aymeric de Ponnat float around the course. The flamboyance and finesse with which they jumped around this five star track was remarkable. They are a real asset to an already formidable French team.
During the break I took a look around the rest of the venue. The dressage arena was picturesquely situated a little into the forest and then I explored the historic and ornate manege complete with the vibrant presence of horses and riders. Then it was back to the main arena for round two.
Whenever you are at a show it is always interesting to try and pick out who is connected to the competitor in the ring by the person's......feet! Not all people react in this way. For seasoned veterans it's just their hearts that are jumping! But some wear their hearts on their sleeves. The reactions vary from an almost indiscernible raising of the heel or the toe, to wrapping one leg around the other all the way up to a Bruce Lee front kick.
It is fabulous to see this sort of emotion and passion for the sport. We all feel it, but some of us express it more than others.
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