Home from Aachen! Farewell To Friends and Europe

Next year, I want to stay longer: so many opportunities, such little time. While everyone apologized for the weather, we didn’t mind; wearing jackets, scarves and hats is more comfortable than trying to escape the 96 degree weather we came home to. Being guest in Belgium with Raf Derksen and Astrid Appels on their beautiful farm was the euro version of our life in Kentucky – quiet dark nights and hypnotizing beauty surrounding us by day. The photo I missed was Astrid and myself sitting side by side on her big sofa (her office) hammering away on the keyboards each night and early morning keeping up as best we could with news and photos.

With a short commute through three countries, Belgium, the Netherlands and into Germany to Aachen each day it was the perfect place to be stationed! We said farewell Monday and headed for Amsterdam and the long trip home. Suzanne Dansby was on our flight to Atlanta, still glowing after her trip to Aachen. "I can’t believe I have never been to this show!"

Their farm, which is home the base operations for EuroDressage.com is an idyllic 17 acres of property where horses spend the days and night being horses, in the large lush fields. Astrid’s retired mare Grace had a lovely filly by Furstenball, and on our last day home from the show she received word her mare (by Grafenfels) was pregnant again. Her longtime boyfriend Raf Derksen owns and operates a dog behavioral and management company happytails.be, which is also JJ’s area of interest, and we got many tips for how to train our gorgeous new border collie puppy, QTip. JJ and Raf went on several classes including tracking training for scenting dogs. Astrid was not impressed with my princess corgi Tasha when she shared our RV last year in Kentucky during the World Equestrian Games. Tasha always stays with guests on the pull out sofa, and does, I admit growl when being awakened in the morning. I think it’s cute, Astrid was not amused.

There was not much time for recreation, but we managed to squeeze it in: a lovely evening in the Belgian city of Hasselt on Friday, and a farewell lunch before we headed out on Monday. On Sunday after the highlight of competition with the Dressage Grand Prix Freestyle, The Aachen Showjumping Grand Prix, and then closing ceremonies we got pizzas on the way home and polished off a bottle of wine. Now it’s back on “the wagon” with a break from wine, too many German carbs, and Belgian Chocolates.

For me it’s also back “IN” the wagon as I head to Georgetown, Kentucky, the Gayla Driving Center, where my ponies have been in boot camp training with Sterling Graburn. Astrid was off on Tuesday for Denmark headed to the European Junior and Young Rider Championships already in full swing, and I will be stopping into the nearby Kentucky Horse Park next week for the NAJYRC, the North American version.

Our friendship began in 1997 when we met through the internet and invited her to join us in Colorado for the 1998 NAYRC. We have seen her grow, suffer through exams, become a Doctor of English literature on a scholarship. I can even claim credit for coming up with the name eurodressage for her when she evolved from the Young Rider website she created as a high school teenager. We challenge each other, and I am always inspired by her passion and drive. We do not always agree, and we both have different styles, but I am proud to know her and have such a history together. We miss them already.

Now it’s off to the kennel to get the dogs!