There is no doubt competing in Europe tests the confidence of a horse and rider. Several idiosyncrasies a North American must contend with at European shows include unfamiliar smells, unfamiliar sights, and unfamiliar sounds. The rider must learn to surrender any control while calling upon the fierce will to persevere, thrive and accomplish the goal at hand. Jan Ebeling shared, “The most challenging surroundings in Europe that I ever had was in Leipzig in the World Cup with the last warm up before going into the World Cup. The cappuccino makers were very loud and each time they were frothing the milk, Rafalca scooted a bit. It seemed like everyone wanted a cappuccino that day. Also, the clinking of the glasses were challenging, but we had an awesome ride, so I have to say, perhaps Rafalca is a coffee girl.”
Kathleen Raine commented, “Many of the warm-ups in Europe are tough. The vendors, spectators, and the venue itself include flags, noise and more. They can be very electric for the horses to deal with. When we show over there, it helps our horses get used to all that electricity.”
Guenter Seidel shared, “The difficult shows are usually the ones with a lot of spectators, VIP tents, noise.”
The importance of traveling to Europe builds the level in the high performance foundation from shows like Aachen that have as many at 40,000 flag waving spectators in the stands to cheer the horses and riders. Many of the competitions have seperate areas for the horses and riders to warm-up, but the riders often share the warm-ups with the jumpers, vaulters, or other disciplines. The European competitions give the riders a real chance to strengthen their competitive discipline with an electric atmosphere. Jan Ebeling shared, “It is so important to show in Europe for many reasons. First, the highest level of competitors is present at these shows. Secondly, the shows are beautiful and one of the goals is to make the competitors, spectators, and owners happy and comfortable. The level of knowledge of the spectators is much higher in Europe than the USA. We are able to rank ourselves and challenge ourselves among the world's best riders and spectators. The degree of pressure is higher and I feel a personal challenge to do my best, especially when representing my country.”
Kathleen Raine said, “It is very important that we continue to compete in Europe because that is where the top sport happens. It raises our standard and our goal is to win medals at championship competitions. It’s so beneficial for us to have the support financially from the federation and dressage enthusiasts around the country. We want all of America to be a part of it!”
Guenter Seidel said, “We have very few shows with those kind of conditions in our country and it is important that the horses get used to those shows. Also there is an importance of showing in Europe to be at the same shows and compete against the top ranked riders to measure up to them in a head to head competition.”
It’s a dynamic feat for the riders to prepare for next year’s World Equestrian Games. The rider’s individually prepare to ride as a team in possibly the toughest competitive sport, Dressage. A special thanks to the United States Equestrian Team (USET) and the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) for their devoted ambition towards the high performance athletes as well as the whole sport from introduction to triumph.