A European Experience - Hagen, Germany

Saturday, May 2, 2009
Posted by Christy


The only way to describe the show last weekend in Hagen, Germany is ‘standing room only.’ With over 2000 thousand horses and 50,000 spectators there was barely room to browse the enormous trade fair. This was an international event for both Dressage riders and Show Jumpers. The show was held at Ullrich & Bianca Kasselman’s property. The Kasselmans are the owners of Performance Sales International (PSI) Stables.

Their property spans over several 100 acres, 2 Dressage arenas and two showing jumping arenas. Every inch of the property was decorated with beautiful flowers and surrounded by stadium seating. The path to the Dressage arenas weaved its way through the private stables of the Kassellmens.  There were several stables and various indoor riding halls that mimicked old European style cottages with white siding lined with natural wood trim.

Each year there is a different country chosen as the theme for the show. Last year it was an American theme where the Beach Boys were the main entertainment, and this year it was an Italian theme. There was a huge tent set atop one of the hills that provided the space for this year’s entertainment.  Each night, starting Wednesday and spanning through to Saturday there was a different Italian- inspired event. There were opera singers, pianists, an Italian pop trio, and a DJ that provided all types of music for an enormous dance party. Riders, grooms, and spectators danced the night away.

As usual, I found myself drawn to the warm-up arena rather than the competition arena. After the initial shock of seeing several top riders all in one place, I really started to watch several riders over the 5 day period as they both schooled and prepared their horses for the competition arena. As I saw in Den Bosch every rider has their own style of riding while competing at the top level. However, in Hagen I realized how focused some of riders were. Some riders came into the arena and put their game face on. They have such a look of concentration that they must feel every movement their horses make. Some riders rode around the arena as if no one else was there. Such concentration was both intimidating and magnificent. Others riders were not as focused;  some were preoccupied with their surroundings including  riders, spectators, photographers, dogs, and anything else you could possibly imagine.

As the weekend came to a close with the Grand Prix Kur and the Show Jumping Finals, several thousand people packed the stands for the final competition. Trying to maneuver the through the, hordes of people with a horse in hand was quite the adventure. As I continue my European experience, I am continually reminded how popular the equestrian sports are here in Europe. A family outing  on a Sunday afternoon would entail a trip to the horse show to enjoy the competition along with great food and shopping. Families in Europe enjoy the weekend horse shows as American families enjoy basketball or baseball games. Hopefully, one day equestrian sports will be as popular in America as it is here in Europe.

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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