There is a great deal of shopping to be done. Everything from tractors to scarves, designer jeans to designer watches, entire shops devoted to galloping boots, human boots, horse shoes, people shoes. Puffy vests and jackets are in, though I can’t for the life of me understand why i would want to wear something that would make me look ten pounds more bulky. And just when we have all stocked up on long blouses, short little jackets are back in style. Bling, of course, is on everything. Riding jackets are more and more of hi tech fabrics, and there are fewer and fewer traditional canary points on tail coats: I’m seeing lots of collars and points in matching blues and grays and browns. Top hats are still the norm, but helmets are gaining ground: in then US, as of April 1, all dressage riders in national classes must wear helmets, but the FEI has yet to adopt the same rule for CDI competitions. There are lots of beautiful helmets to choose from, though, some plain, some blingy, in many shades of blacks, greys, browns, and various patterns of matte and luster.
Because the theme is “Russia Meets Horse and Dreams”, there’s an entire Russian vendor village within the vendor village….. It’s not every day that one finds a yurt at a horse show! I was lusting after a pashmina scarf that had a 400 euro tag on it….. I opted instead for a glass of wine in the vip tent. There were stands for bratwurst, stands for candy, and ice cream and pastry, and beer pulls being pulled as far as the eye could see. There was a playground for children, but not the usual swings and slides: we are talking bungee jumps and trapezes. And face painting. And a mascot handing out stuffed miniature versions of himself to the kids. And performances of folk music, and Cossack riding. And pony rides.
And all that “kid stuff” added up to a lot of kids dragging their parents out to the horse show.
Be honest, American dressage riders: when was the last time that you saw a child that didn’t belong to a competing rider spectating at a dressage show? And if they did, were they made to feel welcome? Or did you look upon them as a hazard to navigation that had the potential to spook your horse? If the latter, where do you think the next generation of dressage riders will come from?
There is a lot going on at this show. Indeed, there is a lot going on at most European shows that we’ve been to. Dressage horses here do not exist in bubbles. On a normal day, riders here are used to coexisting in an arena with half a dozen other horses, so they are far more comfortable in a crowded show warm up. Very few riders have “princess arenas” where they have the entirety of a 20×60 all to themselves on a daily basis. Which probably explains the lack of drama that I’ve observed in the warm up.
Let me emphasize this: I have been watching the warm up for three days, and I have yet to see any drama beyond the occasional fresh horse on a cold morning. People pass left to left, they find their diagonal lines without hoopla, they step off the track to remove bandages and quarter sheets. They behave professionally, and then the go to the arena. The. End.
The quantity and quality of horses has been a joy to watch. There are over 90 Grand Prix horses here: a Grand Prix for the Freestyle, a Grand Prix for the Special, as Grand Prix for younger horses, a Grand Prix for younger riders, a Grand Prix for professional riders. The young horse Grand Prix was just plain old eye candy…. All those talented youngsters with a world of potential! If we had half the pipeline in our country that is evident here, we would be in a whole different position in regards to our chances in the next two upcoming Games.