Fourth week in Germany (Team Tate Groom Marina Lemay)

In a classic “Princess and the Pea” fashion, I’m now biting my tongue and regretting what I said earlier about Germany being a place of perpetual cold. Although my first three weeks here lingered around a crisp 55-65F, this week saw some balmy 80s and 90s. This is nothing exciting compared to what I’m used to in South Carolina or Florida, but it’s still considered a massive heat wave here if you ask the locals. I’m ashamed to say that I can only agree with them, simply because Germans apparently don’t believe in air conditioning, so you never really get a break from the heat!

Even with the fluctuating weather, these past few days have been nothing short of wonderful. With the Summer Auction over with, the horses are gradually trickling out and off to their new homes, ranging from local owners, to Spain, Mexico and America.Hamburg_Church_1_web
Since there are less and less horses to work every day, it’s been making for some very quiet work hours. In true efficient German style, we work from 7am to noon, followed by a two-hour lunch break, and then come back to finish the day until 5pm.
On Wednesday, we had a grilling party for Romy’s birthday (one of the dressage riders) and a paintball excursion with the staff to celebrate, followed by another barbecue on Saturday for Daniel’s belated birthday. I found it interesting that you’re expected to plan and cater your own party when it’s your birthday, here, instead of friends and family organizing it like we traditionally would in America.
To finish the week today, I decided to spend the afternoon in Hamburg!

Hamburg_Canal_webWith the connections added on, I spent a total of 4 hours commuting via train, but it was oh so worth it. I can’t wait to come back; Hamburg is such a classy city full of delicious restaurants, fascinating history, incredible architecture, friendly locals and breathtaking scenery.
All in all, I can’t complain about my week of summer sunshine, perfectly grilled meats, excellent company, fun sightseeing and shorter work days!

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Third week in Germany (Team Tate Groom Marina Lemay)

This week culminated into what I can only describe as the pinnacle of my time in Germany, so far. The 2016 Summer Auction was an incredible, eye-opening, character-building, challenging, but extremely exciting adventure.Verden_arena_web

consuming presentations were scheduled to showcase the riding horses under saddle and/or free-jumping to the general public. Through a slight change in the staffing program early on, I also got swapped around different riders every day to cater to the demand, so I got the opportunity to “catch ride” grooming positions for two separate dressage riders and a jump rider (who conveniently didn’t speak any English, which was interesting!)Wraping_web

because it was so much more straightforward and simple in comparison to the dressage horses! On Saturday afternoon, almost 100 sporthorses and over 50 foals individually got auctioned off in a dramatic, electric arena crowded with hundreds of prospective bidders and horse enthusiasts.

Between the loose horses, frighteningly high rearing, runaway bolting, rogue foals, and frantic spooking, it was exceptionally thrilling to watch. Horses_webI’ve acquired a newfound deep respect for the ballsy auction riders who easily risk their well-being each time they barrel into that arena on these green youngsters, grinning from ear to ear while they do so. Hats off to you, ladies and gents!

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Second week in Germany (Team Tate Groom Marina Lemay)

First auction week: complete! 💪🏼 This week saw the arrival of the 2016 Summer Auction horses and, ensuing with it, a lot of organized chaos. On Monday, the five main barns went from mostly empty to brimming with almost a hundred promising young horses; mostly 4-year-olds, but ranging between 3 to 6 years old. Breeders and owners dropped them off in the afternoon, where they all individually got inspected by the vet, jogged for soundness, scanned to make sure their microchip matched their passport, and put away to their assigned stall. Needless to say, although it was pretty hectic, the staff at the Verband runs like a well-oiled machine and made quick work of the undertaking. By Tuesday, I also noticed we had apparently acquired an even larger team to cater to the new influx of horses, now hovering around 30+ people. Each of the 14 riders has their own designated groom to take care of 6-10 horses. As such, every person is crucial to the whole operation, and it would be impossible with less staff. During the week, the grooms, riders and auction organizers all got a feel for the new stock. Hanoverian_1On Saturday, the horses were shown in a public presentation and all needed to be dolled up, wrapped and braided, which was a bit of a struggle for me personally, since I haven’t braided in ages, let alone 7 horses! Thankfully, my super Aussie rider, Melanie, helped me tremendously in this department (read: she did most of them.)Although incredibly stressful, it was equally fun and exciting. I even got to meet some big-names, such as Juan Matute Jr and his crew, who were obviously incredibly friendly as I giggled like a fangirl. I’m told this is only the precursor to the REAL crazy that will unfold next Saturday! 😳

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First week in Germany (Team Tate Groom Marina Lemay)

Capping off my first week in Verden, I can’t help but feel like it’s been longer. I already feel at home in a foreign country, thanks to the insanely friendly staff at the Verband. The week started out a little lackluster on Sunday, with my first flight out being delayed due to “bad weather” in my first destination, Atlanta. Since I was going to miss my connection to Paris because of the delay, the accommodating Delta crew checked me into a local hotel for the night, in the ever so exotic Charlotte, NC.KLM_1

I spent that Monday almost entirely in various airports, until arriving in Amsterdam, where I nearly missed my final flight to Hannover due to frustrating tourists which flooded Schiphol (that being said, Schiphol is awesome.) I finally ended up in my new apartment’s tiny room Tuesday afternoon, but my jetlagged body was convinced it was still very much bedtime, so I obliged. The day after, Daniel had most of the staff come with us to Heide Park after the morning activities were wrapped up at the barn. Rollercoaster_1Heide Park is essentially a sort of Six Flags amusement park for Germans and, since it’s only about 30 minutes away from the stables, it’s pretty epic.

We rode every crazy ride, just because, and had a blast all afternoon. On Friday, I was generously invited to groom for Enrico, one of the Verband’s top riders at the Show Jumping competition located about 20 minutes away at Lohberg-Turnier. Two young mares and a stallion successfully showed in the 1m20, with the young stallion winning his class and qualifying for the Hanoverian Jumping Horse Championship.

The showgrounds are fantastic; so very European. Everyone pulls into this grassy field of a parking lot in their little horse vans towing an even smaller 2-horse bumper-pull and the arenas are just across a narrow dirt path through the dense and very buggy forest. A dressage show was going on at the same time as the jumper show, and its warm-up arena was comical, at best, because it was essentially a 30-meter mud circle around a couple of trees in the grass, and about 20 young horses chaotically careening around it, legs flailing everywhere. Needless to say, I can think of a few American dressage horses who wouldn’t have coped with those conditions. Regardless, it was an enjoyable day, although the weather could’ve been more compliant (50F and rainy is a far cry from the 100F and sunny of SC!) Saturday’s outing to the show for the 1m40 class wasn’t as fortunate, with a few bobbles such as driving rain, a pulled shoe, going off course, and a few rails. That being said, I still had tons of fun!Marina_horse_1
In my short time so far, I’ve also had the pleasure of learning a few note-worthy facts that are German-specific (or Europe-specific? You be the judge.)
1. Stallions outnumber geldings, for the most part.
2. Germans like their sweets. A lot.
3. It’s always cold (see relative Floridian terminology), even in July.
4. I think everyone and their mother should own a EuroWalker.
5. Everywhere is the autobahn. The parking lot is the autobahn.

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