Where do I start? The whole experience from start to finish was incredible!
As part of my freelance work I am incredibly lucky to be a very small part of the Event Rider Masters gang and as such had the opportunity to go to the Internationales Pfingstturnier Wiesbaden for the 2nd Leg of the 2017 series and the first time ERM had run on mainland Europe – super exciting stuff…
After arriving home at 12.30am on Thursday morning after a few days away with my boys and besties in beautiful Cornwall, the gorgeous Nicole Brown (voice of ERM & The Eventing Podcast) was ready and raring to go outside my house at 4.30am the same day – ouch! Sharing my ERM induced excitement levels, Nicole is an awesome travelling companion and we had an absolute blast on our way out there. Pancakes and Prosecco at the Airport and a slightly unstable fellow passenger meant there was no time for catching up with any sleep on the journey!
The Biebrich Palace is one of the most impressive Palaces I have ever seen – not that I’ve seen that many, I’m not a Palace expert or anything but still, wow! Sitting on the banks of the River Rhine in the town of Wiesbaden, the palace boasts beautiful parkland, stunning views and the best little Ice Cream shop just footsteps away!
The whole event takes place behind the palace in the public Schloss Park which makes for interesting logistics when it comes to arenas and Cross Country Courses. The course represented an F1 track with plenty of twists and turns and not many opportunities to get the speed up and the amount of time faults showed the riders struggled to get going. The arenas, both practice and competition, were incredible. They were simply made up of a basic surface comprising wood chip and sand laid directly on top of rubber stable mats (with holes in for drainage) – I might even adopt the same method for my arena at home!
After having a tour of the park and getting our bearings it was straight to work making sure that everyone had everything they needed for the weekend and that the riders all knew what was expected of them. With this being the first time the majority of the field had competed in an ERM class we had to be sure they ‘got’ the concept and didn’t just think we were all completely mad!
With the PR for ERM covered by the lovely Harriet Rochester my role is very very flexible. If there is a hole that needs plugging I’m the one who plugs it which I love. It enables me to learn and experience new things every time I work with the gang and so far everything I have been tasked with has been fab! This time it was working within the Graphics Department & CGS. Our regular ‘equestrian eyes’ weren’t with us in Germany so I was deployed to be the ‘spotter’ to keep the real graphics pro’s on the right lines. I even got to play with putting the graphics up on your screens myself which I LOVED. Working closely with the Red Handed TV crew is awesome – they are a seriously talented bunch who are still only in their Equestrian programme infancy and what they are achieving already is phenomenal. I genuinely can’t wait to see what they can do at Blenheim!
One highlight of last weekend was the Friday night show that the Wiesbaden organising committee put on. I have never seen anything like it. With everything from horses wearing flaming bandages to high speed vaulting and the great Lorenzo & his herd of awe inspiring ponies the displays were amazing! There was a real party feel to the whole evening and the crowds were almost as involved with the displays as the performers clapping along at any chance they got. The bars and traders all stayed open until well after 11pm and the whole ERM team (including the bosses, Chris and Lisa Stone) enjoyed the party together which was really special – a real team dynamic has formed and I feel very very privileged to be a part of it!
After Friday night the Eventing seemed a little secondary, and in fact it was probably the smallest part of the whole thing. The Schloss park was swarming with Germany’s best Dressage, Show Jumping, Driving and Vaulting stars which created a very special atmosphere. I’m not surprised the German dressage horses are so spectacular – what they have to deal with at shows on the continent with event riders flying around like loonies, people throwing themselves on and off horses while their moving and the show jumpers clearing fences much much taller than me they must be well and truly de-sensitised by the time they head down the centreline!
The ERM jumping kicked off on Saturday with the Show Jumping in the main grass arena (which was HUGE and also happened to contain the final 7 Cross Country Fences too!) The incredible Ingrid Klimke (massive fangirl moment) and SAP Escada FRH were the overnight leaders and adding just one pole to their dressage score meant that they maintained their lead and would be heading out onto the Cross Country last. I still think I had the best seat in the house this time getting to watch ALL of the action from the Graphics van on multiple screens while listening to the lovely Nicole and Equi Ratings super brain Diarm in my ears.
A pretty serious lunchtime storm set the cross country start time back by an hour which wasn’t ideal as we all had planes to catch and many of the competitors were booked on ferries home too but the Wiesbaden team were incredible and let us get cracking as soon as it was safe to do so. Our very own Sarah Cutty Cohen had put herself in a very good position after the Show Jumping and was lying in 5th going into the Cross Country with the lovely Bill Levett having a bit to do in 13th after Alfie (Shannondale Titan) had a couple of unlucky poles.
With the last phase running in reverse order Bill headed out on course and gave Alfie an awesome round posting the 3rd fastest time of the day and earning his place at the top of the podium where he managed to stay for quite some time… That was until the awesome young German rider Julia Krajewski toppled him after Chipmunk FRH added just 6 time to their score. Julia’s reign at the top of the podium was a relatively short lived one when the incredible Cutty Cohen and her boy Treason toppled them with a finishing score of 46.8. Talk about proud! As the only Brit to come with us to Wiesbaden I’m fairly sure I speak for the rest of the ERM gang when I say we all secretly hoped she’d ruin the German party and boy did she do that. An uncharacteristic two run-outs on course for Ingrid and Escada left Sarah at the top and dreaming of building an arena at home with her winnings! She was even hoping that her long term supporters and Treason’s lovely owners Vin and Liz Jones of Preci Spark Horses would let her and hubby Miles take advantage of the Monart Sale Owner’s prize, a two night B&B stay at the Monart Spa in Ireland! I reckon she deserves it!! Julia took 2nd place and Sweden’s Sara Algotsson Ostholt scooped 3rd. Our first ERM all female 1, 2, 3!
After running through the crowds to the podium and being completely covered in Champagne it was a little bit of a rush to say our goodbyes and to get back to Frankfurt airport where Ben Clark (ERM photographer extraordinaire) and Diarm had to catch early flights. I’m not sure Ben’s journey home was quite as simple as ours as it involved 4 burley armed German police officers who apparently took a lot of convincing that he had genuinely been photographing horses in the Schloss Park at Wiesbaden, I can’t imagine why… Poor Ben!
I still really can’t put into words how amazing Wiesbaden is as an event and to be able to couple that with working with my little ERM family, last weekend was genuinely one of the best I’ve ever had – despite the alarming lack of sleep, any way who could turn down ice cream at midnight??