Monday, April 30, 2012

Back from Belgium!

Orlando and Ben left the U.S. the 18th of March and James followed on an overnight flight landing in Amsterdam on Monday morning.  James rented a car and drove directly to Stal De Swart about one and half hours from the Amsterdam airport.  Ben arrived that afternoon and looked wonderful after the excellent flight and drive from the airport.  His good form was a direct result of the wonderful care and planning of our flight agents James Luck in the UK and Paul Weygand at Mersant in N.Y.
We can’t say an enough about the kindness and care our hosts in Holland gave us.  Jos and Thea De Swart fed us each day and supplied us with their van and trailer for our long trip to Normandy.  Eight and one half hours we drove to Deauville. Deauville is only about 12km from Caen where the next WEG will be held.  The centre of Deauville has many beautiful multi-colored half timbered houses and very nice restaurants.

The show-grounds were close enough to our hotel that our wonderful groom, Emily Walkup, could walk to the stable.  The show offered us the chance to start a good relationship with the Coach and  Chef d’ Equipe of the Irish Team.  Donie and Dara were wonderful, including us at all times, in their midst.  All together, there were nine Irish riders.  
With the stress of the very long trip and being surrounded by many good grade IV riders from 14 nations, James struggled during those 3 competition days.  The Individual test was his best score at 68.26% and we left Deauville determined to practice hard and prepare better for the next show in Moorsele, Belgium.
On our return to Holland we realized Jos was very busy preparing for a horse and pony jumper show over the Easter weekend.  What a busy place with many of the nearby riders coming in to practice before the show began.  One of the riders invited us to trailer Ben to his beautiful facility, Swanenberg, with four 20x60 well cared for dressage arenas.  We were thrilled because we were able to trailer over there every the day and seriously prepare for our next show.  Moorsele was only three and one half hours from Stal De Swart.
We had a fun reunion with the Irish riders! Somehow the Irish have a wonderful way to laugh and enjoy each other and lighten-up the surroundings!  
James, from the very start of the competition, was concentrating better and began with a good score of 67.68% in the Team Test.  The Individual Test was even better with a 68.25%.  He placed sixth and made the Championship section of the Freestyle.  There were 20 riders in the Grade IV division and James rode a really good Freestyle and finished 3rd with a 72%.
The best part of this whole trip was the good feeling we got that the judges rewarded James when he rode so well and his score help the Irish Team to place 2nd in Moorsele.  This show had 78 riders from 19 nations and so we left Moorsele feeling satisfied.
We are now at home; Ben looks really well out in pasture happily grazing.
We miss our wonderful friends, Jos and Thea and our many cozy lunches and dinners with them.  Thank you to everyone who made this trip such a wonderful & successful experience!

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