I don’t even know where to start! These past few days have been a bit of a whirlwind. Last Sunday, we decided on a whim to go to the Elmlohe Reitertage, a huge competition for both dressage and show jumping.
The venue is located about 1h15m north of us, so the transport situation ended up being a bit of a joke. Since we don’t have a car, we took the train to Bremerhaven (about an hour’s commute) and completed the journey with a taxi trip, which ended up costing a whopping €30 on top of the train fare. The show was incredibly fun, though, with lots of great food vendors, top riding, and beautiful grounds in the heart of the countryside. I’m told the afterparty at Elmlohe is legendary, but because we had to worry about how to get back home, we didn’t stay long enough to witness any of it. Finding a way to call a cab to pick us up was an ordeal in and of itself, but thanks to the lovely show management, we successfully got to the train station after some trepidation. Obviously, since we don’t speak any German, Gonzalo and I kept running into a plethora of issues during our adventure, ranging from overzealous ticketmaids harassing us to boarding the wrong connection, and it ended up taking us about five hours to find our way back to Verden (don’t laugh!)
The rest of the week went by smoothly, with preparations being made to set up everything for the upcoming Internationales Dressur und Springfestival Verden 2016, a massive show that somehow seamlessly combines top level competition (young horse championships to Grand Prix, pony classes and a CSI**, to boot), fair-like entertainment to cater to all tastes (winged horses, fireworks, unlimited bratwurst, fashion boutiques and so on), delicious eateries galore, and an overall celebration of the horse as a top athlete. It’s quite the event.
Over 100 foals and about 10 broodmares were to be presented and sold off on Friday and Saturday nights. Suffice to say, I lost my cool a time or two when hordes of baby horses flooded the barns. There was even a baby Shetland! (for charity, of course.) Since the Verband is so great, they actually let us spend a fair bit of time watching the classes and auctions, which was fascinating! The auction-topper was a De Niro – San Amour I colt who hit €90,000! I even got to groom for Juliane, one of the dressage riders, who showed a superstar 4-year-old mare called Susii, and ended up qualifying for the championship and holding her own in a tough crowd (umm.. literally!?)
I also need to iterate how this was one of the most fun shows I’ve ever been to (perhaps Dressage At Devon aside!) The party on Saturday night was indescribable, with acts including tandem Friesian carriages, Iberian performances, a dog show, barrel racing, an Icelandic pony parade, and a quadrille with some of the Verden Summer Auction 4-year-olds, to name a few.
The electric atmosphere, the sheer volume of spectators, and the coliseum-style stadium all added to the surreal appeal of the night. If you ever have plans on coming to Verden in the summer, I strongly recommend coordinating the dates so that you can enjoy this spectacle!