As the groom my preparation for Munich started several days before the actual competition. Starting on Sunday I packed everything we could possibly need while on the road. There was tack to be cleaned, saddle pads and bandages to be laundered, and grain to be measured. I could not forget Catherine’s shadbelly, boots, top hat, and microphone equipment. I also brought a bike with us. This proved to be the most important item because although Munich is a gorgeous show facility, all the arenas and show offices are at least a 20 minute walk from the stabling…uphill! There was so much to pack that once I was ready to pull out of the driveway I thought I had packed everything but the kitchen sink.
On Tuesday morning I woke up at 4:15am and fed Maximus and Cadillac and prepared them for the long lorry drive. With fresh bandages, shipping boots and braided tails we were on the road at 5:15am. There was a quick stop at Catherine’s to pick up Gizmo. Gizmo is a 10 year old tri-colored corgi who was to serve as my trusty co-pilot. Catherine told me, “If your tom-tom-fails, ask the dog.” Our stable is located in northern Germany and Munich is in southern Germany. So I drove across the whole country--720 kilometers (450 miles) one way. It took me about 9 hours with two stops to offer the horses water, replenish their hay, and give them electrolytes.
After finding the stabling which would have been a serious challenge had Catherine (who had flown to Munich) not met me out on the street and directed me to the right place; I settled the horses in, unpacked and made both horses ready for Catherine to ride. It was good for the horses to do some light trotting after the long trip and have a chance to see the competition arena before the show began.
The vendors and food stands were not open yet so Catherine and I ate at the Jockey Club restaurant. There is a huge race track that borders the show facility. It was a real ‘dive’ but they made great bratwurst and served cold beer so I couldn’t complain.
All of the grooms usually stay in their trucks with living quarters or in the stables with the horses. The small blue truck that I took has an electricity hook-up and sleeping quarters. There were bathrooms and showers available throughout the show grounds. It was very convenient in Munchen because the trucks were parked right next to the stables making night check and early mornings much easier.
Wednesday was a schooling day for the horses and it gave them another chance to see the show grounds before the masses of people arrived. In the morning I fed the horses and cleaned their boxes. I polished Catherine’s boots and spurs, made sure the numbers were sewn onto the saddle pads, and that the tack was clean. I spent some time exploring the show grounds and locating the show office. In the afternoon I hand walked the horses and grazed them. They both got an extra good grooming and their legs wrapped for the evenings.
Thursday, Friday and Saturday were competition days. It started with the CDI*** tour in which Catherine rode Maximus followed by the CDI***** World Dressage Masters tour in which she rode Cadillac. Competition days are always the most exciting but the most hectic for me as a groom. The few minutes’ right before she goes into the arena is like a raceway pit stop. Bandages need to come off, the horses need to be sweat scrapped and toweled, microphone equipment needs to be put away, and top hat and shadbelly need to be put on! After all the hard work, it is a great feeling to watch as horse and rider enter the ring and perform at their best.
After a great weekend of competition, which Maximus finishing 4th in the CDI*** and Cadillac finishing 2nd in the CDI*****, the horses had Saturday afternoon to rest. Then it was back on the road early Sunday morning. Gizmo was a bit impatient with the trip home, but both Cadillac and Maximus are extremely well travelled so they were rock stars on the truck. The just nibbled on their hay and enjoyed the ride. I got home early afternoon on Sunday and unpacked. But I couldn’t unpack too much because this coming Thursday we are off to the CDI**** in Wiesbaden, Germany!
As a groom I get to experience all the behind the scenes action. I get to travel all around Europe and surround myself with the best riders in the world. It is an experience of a lifetime.
Young Dressage rider, trainer, and competitor Meaghan Byrne has moved to Vechta, Germany to work for international rider and competitor Catherine Haddad. Byrne will be travelling with Haddad to several international competitions this coming season as a groom, and is sharing her experience with DressageDaily. "I feel that time spent in Europe amongst the world’s best horses and trainers will be a major asset to my education and future."
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