Over summer, we introduced a New Dressage Line here at EquiFit. Being a Massachusetts-based company, we collaborated with Hope Cooper & Jane Karol of Bear Spot Farm in Concord, Massachusetts as we innovated the Essential® Dressage Square Pad, Essential Polo Wrap & Essential Dressage Schooling Girth.
Hope was not only excited to continue using the products after launch, but travel with them to Germany as she embarks on a three month externship. This blog series will follow Hope & her horses along on their journey as they navigate abroad!
I was so excited for my upcoming trip to Germany, but it was also very hard to know what to pack three months in advance. I was planning on it being fairly hot on arrival and very cold towards the end of the trip. In fact, I originally packed SO many jackets that I couldn’t close my suitcase and had to take a more practical approach. I reassured myself by remembering they have some of the BEST tack shops in Germany!
I also wasn’t sure how often we would be going out to dinner, or how fancy the restaurants would be, so I needed both cool and warm clothes for different outings. So far I have only worn one outfit out to dinner! In order to guarantee I wouldn’t have time to work out, I brought gym clothes. I knew I overpacked when one of my suitcases broke while fitting in my show clothes.
Kariel, my amazing super-groom, did most of the packing for my horses, Chocolate and Diamond. We decided together on which saddle pads, boots and polo wraps would come with us. Of course, everything EquiFit came and I have gotten so many compliments already, especially the bell boots, which are etched with my initials along with my saddle pads.
I also love icing my horses after training rides, so of course we had to bring all of our EquiFit Cold Therapy products. We have enough ice boots to fill an entire freezer; we bought a freezer that would meet us in Rheinberg. In case you're wondering... it’s my dream freezer, so you can guarantee it will be coming home with us.
Eventually we were able to fit everything in our Flexi Tack Locker and a few other trunks, and we were Germany-bound! Kariel flew with Chocolate and Diamond and I flew alone a few days earlier!
Flying was a bit daunting for me because I have concerns around COVID-19, but I was double masked and had a shield, gloves and wipes to give me the confidence to travel. I was happy to see other travelers on the planes were very good at social distancing and keeping their masks up. I’m also fully vaccinated, so that made me feel a lot safer.
I took a flight that left at 9pm EST, landed in Munich around 10am Germany time, then took another two hour flight to Dusseldorf where my long-time family friend Viola picked me up. It was so great to finally see a familiar face! Viola has not only helped me find all my horses, but was also a key player in helping me set up this trip.
Viola showed me her beautiful barn and around her home village, then we headed to Rheinberg. I was so excited to meet two new dance partners – Tripple and Destar; two horses who Viola Abrahams and Christoph Koschel, my coach, helped me become a match with.
A really big thank you to Christoph and Viola for helping me, and of course my mom and coach, Jane Karol. I also would like to extend my appreciation to the co-owner of Destar, Betsy Dangle, and the owner of Chocolate, Marry Mansfield, for always being so supportive of me and this trip.
Tripple (left) and Destar (right) are the cutest horses EVER. Tripple is a small chestnut, “a nugget” as Kariel would say. He has the kindest eyes and doesn’t come off as an in-your-pocket personality at first, but over the last few weeks he has completely opened up to me. He reminds me a bit of myself - a little shy at first and then very excited to see you!
Destar is just a total puppy dog personality. He absolutely speaks German and English. He knows exactly what he would like and is not afraid to ask anyone for it, but is also very, very happy to cuddle all day. Similar to Tripple, he’s in your pocket and just wants lots of love and attention.
Both horses are a dream to ride. They’re both only seven years old, so I am excited to really take my time to build them up over the next few years. They are also total powerhouses who seem like they really love their jobs. I can’t thank them enough for trusting me right off the bat. It was such a cool feeling to sit on them for the first time.
My horses arrived the same day with Kariel. It again was SO nice to see familiar faces. At this point, I have been to so many places with Diamond (left) and Chocolate (right), it’s such a warm feeling when they first open the trailer window and they both nickered to me. Somehow, they settled in right away; they walked off the trailer like champs and into their stalls like they had been here for months! We made sure to prepare their stalls with lots of carrots upon arrival and then after a few hours to rest we got them dressed for a short hand walk and some time in the paddock. They each rolled about 97 times on each side and loved the German grass.
I was a bit nervous they wouldn’t know how to drink from the automatic water drinkers because at home we have water buckets that you have to fill with a hose, but I swear every time I walk into their stalls they are drinking or playing with the automatic water button. They figured it out in about 3 seconds and haven’t stopped enjoying it since.
We are here in Rheinberg for four weeks of training. I normally get up in the morning around 6:30am and get to the barn at 7:30am.
Once we arrive, I normally walk the horses on the track for about 20 minutes and let them eat some grass for an additional 20 minutes. Afterwards, they go in the paddock for a few hours. By that time it’s around noon and I start riding. I have been really lucky to have four lessons a day. I usually ride Tripple then Destar, followed by Chocolate and Diamond - I have to save my heart-horse for last! After lessons, we take the horses out for some more grass in the afternoon. By then it's normally 6 or 7pm and we head home.
These days are a bit lighter than what Kariel and I are used to at home, but it's been an absolute privilege to watch training and spend time with both the horses that are new to me and my old best friends, Chocolate and Diamond. Sometimes at home when I am riding 8-10 horses a day, I can really only take 20 minutes to get Diamond or Chocolate ready, or Kariel gets them ready for me. Here, I have had so much time to groom them and spend quality time with them both in and out of the barn. It’s been so lovely.
We come back to our flat around 7:30pm, sometimes getting to go to Edeka for groceries first. Then we cook dinner, relax for a bit, catch up with people at home and then head to bed. We start the same thing over again the next day.
This trip has already gone by so fast and I am so eager to experience and learn more. I hope you enjoyed my first blog in this series! To follow along my journey, be sure to keep an eye out for my second blog in November!