In 1997 when the internet was in its infancy we had just launched our first website phelpsphotos.com, and heard from a 16 year old girl in Belgium. Astrid Appels had sent us an e-mail complimenting our website. She had one too, Belgium Junior Young Riders OnLine, and from that e-mail we became friends, soul mates, mutual mentors and partners in the world of delivering Dressage news to the World Wide Web. After 7 months of converting her content to a new program, Astrid has launched the beautiful new eurodressage.com, and we are very proud and congratulate her on this effort!
As our on line friendship developed, we invited her to America to join us in Colorado for the 1998 North American Young Riders’ Championships. But first we had to meet the family, because after all, their daughter met this American couple on line who were photographers, and well, you never know. Before blogging, before google, before facebook, before simplified programs which made the web easier for more to manage, we worked together navigating the early frustrations and learning curve writing our websites in code, which would sometimes take hours to figure out how to post a photo or link. Having to manually reformat results would take hours in those days,
Astrid joined us that year for Young Riders and began her “journals” her on line impressions of life with Mary and JJ. We travelled though Europe covering Arnhem, Aachen, Bad Honnef, where Astrid had her first interview with Isabelle Werth. I still remember how nervous she was, she could hardly talk at first, and Isabelle never batted an eye. In fact she sat with us for over an hour seeming to enjoy the conversation. Astrid was on the first plane out of Europe after September 11, 2001, for Dressage at Devon, experiencing the impact that event had on all of us on that trip.
We soothed her each year through her educational angst as she faced final exams, because nothing less than all A’s was ever good enough for her. She attended the University of Brussels on a full scholarship and earned her doctorate in English Poetry last year. That’s right! Most of you don’t know that Astrid is a Doctor. Yet, it was the website she began at 16 years old which became her full time work and income after college.
Even at 16 year old Astrid would challenge the system, and we would have (and still do) e-mail and now instant message debates over her sometimes strong approach. But in spite of many heated “conversations” we have always agreed to disagree, and never did it affect the deep friendship and connection we share.
We nurtured her though her first (and only thank God) broken heart, when she was so upset she almost did not come to Jerez for the 2002 World Equestrian Games. We accomplished what her parents and “Oma” could not, by making her “snap out of it” and not miss one of the best opportunities of a lifetime. Now Astrid and Rafaël Derksen her fabulous boyfriend live on a beautiful farm in Belgium. As their guests it eases the culture shock of leaving our peaceful place in Kentucky when coming to Europe for big events.
Now there is instant messenger, our on line office and we are together daily as we check facts, share photos, and Astrid continues to contribute to DressageDaily her weekly Euro News Notes column. Now we have Facebook, Twitter, Google, and in spite of the many websites which have come and gone we both have survived and thrived collectively archiving more content on Dressage than any other web effort which has followed. In a way we were the first “bloggers” (I never liked that word) and pioneered the world of Dressage on the World Wide Web. We are very proud to have Astrid and a friend, colleague, and so much more. Congratulations Asti on a beautiful updated site, and all you have done. Can’t wait to visit in July when we come for Aachen!