November 29, 2021 6 min read
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!
Leaving Isabell’s farm in Rheinberg was certainly bittersweet. After learning so much there and creating wonderful connections with both top riders/ trainers & top grooms, it was an experience for the books. The entire team at Isabell’s was welcoming and caring for both horses and their humans. I left with a lot of new knowledge - and so did my horses! I hope to be back at some point as it was truly an experience I will never forget.
As many of you know, moving horses is always a bit stressful. Even just getting in and out of trailers for some reason has always made me nervous, but we had the absolute best team helping us move and transition each my horses to Hagen. Plus, my super groom Kariel is always 100 percent on top of everything and having her around always puts my nerves at ease.
With a seamless drive, our horses arrived safely in Hagen. A few weeks before initially arriving to Germany, I had come to see one day of the European Championships. While I was there, I got to see the new stable and the whole property at Kasselman, which as you can imagine was incredible. My sense of direction didn’t really help me though once we got here! With new scenery, we got settled and unpacked (of course the first and most important thing was my freezer with all my 12 pairs of our Essential Cold Therapy Tendon Boots) and from there, we began training!
What I have loved so much about where we have been in Germany thus far is that it seems like the horses love every location we’ve traveled to. Something about the air, or the serenity of each place seems to make my horses at peace. Kasselman is a really perfect example of that. Anyone who has been here knows that it is both really busy and really calm at the same time. I believe there are four or five indoors & five or six outdoors with nearly 200 horses – and yet, somehow it also feels tranquil. It absolutely helps that it’s an immense facility. Honestly, I have never seen a place like it; it is beautiful, like a horsey paradise. Being here has been especially perfect for my younger horses, Tripple & Destar. If you want to give your horse a similar experience like how it would be in the warm up arena at a show, there’s an opportunity to ride in a busier arena environment. That said, if you don’t want that type of experience that day for your horse, then you simply go to the next arena. If you really want to just have fun for that day, there is a huge gallop track - I have been using it a lot, it’s a blast and my horses love it just as much as I do.
One of the best parts is hacking around the property & picking apples off the apple tree; it’s like an apple bar! I even had to invest in a grabber tool to get them for my ponies when I wasn’t sitting on top of them, and for that, I think they are very appreciative.
You can also ride in the stadium where Europeans once trained and that is an unbelievable feeling. Riding in there has been a both inspiring & humbling reminder to keep pushing myself towards all the dreams & goals that I have in this equestrian sport.
It has been so incredible to be back riding with Christoph. Both Christoph and my horses click so well. At this point in my training program & externship, I have been taking four lessons per day, four days a week. I like my horses to have two days fully off with a hand walk and lots of time in the paddock & one day on the track. Most lessons, even with the Grand Prix horses, we work a lot on the basics & spend a lot of time just getting the horses swinging, through and enjoying their work under saddle. A few times a week, we add “the tricks” onto that as well, but in those moments I feel as though I have such a through and relaxed horse that whatever we throw at them feels natural. It has also been fantastic to see how another top rider runs his very own stable. From riding, teaching, vet care, farrier – everything is top care and for that, I have so much appreciation. Here in Germany, they truly have access to the best of the best in each field and its impressive to see it all come together & work as a team.
We are staying in the apartments at another property that is owned by Kasselman. It is their stallion station and breeding facility, which I find very interesting. Out my window every morning are at least 50 brood mares and foals.
Some of my family has also come to visit, which was so great to be reunited with them! I got to share this wonderful experience with my mom, Jane and my boyfriend, Robert. They are always so amazing at finding the best restaurants and exploring the town we are in - so I left it to them to find some fun adventures. They even found a restaurant next to where I’ve been staying that I missed. As much as I have loved every second of being here, I also miss home and all my people back in the US. I also REALLY miss my dogs and I can’t wait to see them in another month. While I’m afar, I receive frequent updates on what I’ve been missing:
One of the most exciting things so far about being here was that I got to ride my first ever Senior Grand Prix! I have spent the last three years in the U25 Grand Prix, and feel lucky enough to have had success there, but now I am 25 (I count as 26 come January 2022) and my U25 career has come to a close. Now I am being thrown in the deep end & I couldn’t be more excited! I was fortunate to have both of my U25 horses, Hot Chocolate W and Diamond for a long time & the three of us have come up the levels together. I wanted to take Chocolate out first because he felt a bit more confident in the test and he is a bit less sensitive than Diamond. Meaning, I can make more mistakes as a rider and he is a little more forgiving, which is why he is such a fantastic teacher. However, I planned to show Diamond in his first Grand Prix shortly after - I am also incredibly proud of him & our work together. The road to the Grand Prix has had many of ups & downs, but it felt absolutely incredible to go down the centerline on a horse who has been my partner for so many years - who grew together all the way through the dressage pipeline.
We warmed up in our EquiFit Essential Polos & Essential BellBoots - I personally think we were one of the best dressed in the warm up J … at least Chocolate was and that’s saying a lot since we are in Europe! Our warm up was super & Chocolate felt fantastic, but our test had quite a lot of silly, small mistakes, like the transition from canter to trot… or walk to passage… things we just need to practice more. That said, we also had some really fantastic moments in our test; some of our highest marks ever for the passage and left pirouettes (not always Chocolate’s strong suit). We finished with a really respectable score for the first test and a feeling of excitement for the next time we get to compete. It’s for sure a big step up from the U25, but both Chocolate & Diamond always rise to the occasion - and I am SO excited to take our learnings from this externship home for our upcoming season in Wellington.
I hope you are enjoying my blog series! Be sure to sign up for EquiFit’s newsletter to get a notification when my last blog is posted.