A European Experience - S'Hertogenbosch
Friday, April 10, 2009
Young Dressage rider, trainer, and competitor Meaghan Byrne has moved to Vechta, Germany to work for international rider and competitor Catherine Haddad. Byrne has been travelling with Haddad to several international competitions this coming season as a groom, and has shared with DressageDaily her experience in S'Hertogenbosch. "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."
Byrne grew up riding in the New England Area and trained with Cynthia Collins of Kensington, NH. During her time in New England she participated in the USDF Young Rider Program and Clinics. She spent the last 4 years in Southern Virginia, attending Averett University obtaining a degree in Finance. During her time in Virginia she was able to work for Cindy Sydnor of Snow Camp, NC. In October of 2007 she became the youngest USDF Certified Instructor through Second Level.
The atmosphere was concentrated yet electric as each rider and horse combination prepared for the Western European League Finals held in s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands. This was the last of the Indoor Winter Show(s) Series and served as the final qualifying competition for the World Cup that is to be held in Las Vegas on April 15-19, 2009.
This was a spectators’ event like no other. There was an enormous trade fair that weaved through the warm up (areas) and competition areas. A fenced in path lead the horses and riders throughout the entire trade fair as they made their way to and from the competition area. Large flat screen TV’s were stationed throughout the trade fair to ensure everyone knew the latest details.
The trade fair offered the widest variety of high end items. Shops ranged from classy tack shops to hand crafted wood furniture and everything in between. Some of the other items you could browse through included: designer hand bags, Swarovski glass nail filers, top of the line horse trailers, full kitchens, exquisite paintings, handmade top hats and Rolex Watches. Scattered throughout the trade fair were several restaurants including a Sushi Bar, fresh fruit market, and two black-tie only restaurants.
I accompanied international rider and competitor Catherine Haddad as her groom to this prestigious competition. We arrived mid-day Wednesday to find several of the world’s top riders settling their horses in and preparing for the afternoon schooling sessions. There was an overwhelming sense of concentration and competitiveness as the weekend progressed. However high the stakes, all the riders and grooms were friendly and extremely helpful to me and to each other. There were smiles all around with an unspoken respect for all.
As a groom I was able to go everywhere on the show grounds. Throughout the weekend I watched the warm-up area as several of the sport’s top riders schooled their horses and prepared for the competition arena. I was amazed to see the variety in training methods and transformation the horses went through from warm-up to show arena.
The competition arena was perfectly manicured with elaborate flower boxes and sponsorship signs. It was a stadium seating styled arena. Saturday night’s freestyle was sold out. The crowd hung onto every music note as the riders entered the arena.
Standing ringside to this incredible field of competitors left with me with goose bumps. This was the best our sport has to offer and it far surpassed all expectations I had. Being able to experience this kind of intense competition from behind the scenes was the most amazing feeling. It was a feeling of both intensity and inspiration. I look forward to the day I will be in the saddle and on the other side of the Dressage arena for such a prestigious event.