Thursday, April 29, 2010

Six-Time Olympic Dressage Gold Medalist Isabell Werth (GER)

Isabell Werth is writing a diary for as she prepares for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games from 25 September – 10 October. Here is Isabell’s first entry...

Could you describe a typical training day?

Since my son Frederik’s birth last year the day now starts with him! I then start with the horses at around 9.00am and I can ride about seven horses per day. The rest of the day is now usually based around the stable business and Frederik.

How many horses do you have at the moment?

At the moment we have around about 40 horses under the saddle, so my whole team is very busy!

Do you have any up and coming horses that you see real promise in?

I have two horses with a lot of potential and great futures. The first is El Santo who is a horse with a lot of hope – he competed in the FEI World Cup™ in Gothenburg in February and I think he’s really talented; he did a great job there and also last week in Dortmund. The next horse is Don Johnson who is quite naughty at the moment, but he is an outstanding talent and I hope I can bring him to the Grand Prix at the end of the year.

Can you briefly explain El Santo’s and Don Johnson’s personalities?

With Ernie (El Santo) training is easy as he’s so uncomplicated and polite, and I would say he is the easiest horse at my stables. Don Johnson is a very strong character and needs a few more shows to increase his experience and calm down, so it is difficult for him to come to big showgrounds at the moment.

What are your plans now that the indoor dressage season is over?

We have to prepare for the outdoor season at the beginning of May and we will try to concentrate on the big shows, then come back in good shape and be prepared as best as possible for the World Equestrian Games (WEG) in September 2010.

Which shows have you got lined up between now and the World Equestrian Games?

The big shows will be in Munich, Wiesbaden and, of course, Aachen, and then we have our National championships in Munster. We have a lot of shows up until August, and then after the German Championships we have the team nominations, and we will see what’s going on then.

Are you looking forward to London 2012?

Yes, it’s a big goal with one of the young ones, and Hannes (Warum Nicht) will be 16 then so he’s a possibility; I think we will have a few options and I hope we will be able to fight for the top places.

Isabell Werth, multiple Olympic Games gold medal winning dressage rider, is a Rolex equestrian sports Testimonee

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

2006 WEG Vaulting Silver Medalist Rosalind (Rosey) Ross (USA)

Rosalind Ross has been traveling to Europe as a team vaulter since she was 9 years old, though she started vaulting at a much younger age. Rosalind, "Rosey," is a very expressive vaulter and puts her great choreography, skill, grace, and elegance into an emotional performance. Rosey is a gold vaulter (the highest vaulting category). She has been on many teams throughout the years, and has been on many vaulting clubs, starting at Coastline and Mt. Eden Vaulting Clubs.

Rosey is currently in college at Emerson, Boston. She is majoring in literature, writing, and publishing.
This month Rosey blogs about her team training and her new team vaulting horse, Palatine.

Today marks two months before the first selection trial competition, and I can only assume that all of the vaulters vying for a position on Team USA this year are feeling the same pressure that my team is. We just concluded a 10-day intensive training period where our aim was to have our whole freestyle routine working on the horse in sequence. We generally practice our material in sections, which makes it easier for both the vaulters and the horse. Since our horse, Palatine, is brand new to team vaulting, we have been easing him into it by not asking him to carry the entire four-minute routine in one go just yet. Over these past 10 days, we felt that he was finally ready to carry the whole routine, and I think I speak for the whole team when I say that we are very proud of how he did. Just two years ago when Palatine was our team’s compulsory horse, we never would have imagined him carrying our freestyle!

Palatine’s improvement in strength and endurance is due in large part to the dressage training he receives. Carolyn Bland of Cadence Sport Horses has been the F.A.C.E. team’s longtime “horse expert.” She has been responsible for our horses’ training under saddle and on the lunge line for even longer than I have been a part of the team. Carolyn currently lives in Tennessee and flies out to California for the team’s weekend practices, and in cases such as last week, for a longer duration to get some intensive training done. The lungeur’s duty requires far more than general knowledge of how to lunge a horse, and is probably one of the most under-valued pieces of the puzzle. The lungeur must know the team’s routine as well as the vaulters in order to gauge when it is acceptable to ask the horse to move forward or slow down. The difference that it makes to have an experienced lungeur is huge.

In addition to Carolyn, our team this year is supported and assisted by a wonderful group of people. One of the most integral parts of our team is the highly successful vaulting veteran herself, Anna de la Motte. Anna was brought on board this year as assistant coach and team manager. Not only does she take care of all the paperwork, scheduling, and organizing of the team administratively, she works with Devon to design our training regiments and coach at practices. Our costume designer Melanie Vissuzi has proven herself year after year to be a reliable supporter of the F.A.C.E. teams. Though we often give her complex instructions and ridiculously short deadlines to complete a set of eight costumes by, she always manages to provide us with the product that we had envisioned. Last week we were measured for our new costumes, so once a design is submitted, they should be underway!

Lastly, much credit is due to Richard and Sydney Frankel, owners of the beautiful facility in Woodside, California where we are fortunate enough to train. Without the generosity and support of the Frankels, our team may cease to exist at all this year.

Though our ten days of training ended up being quite productive, it was definitely an uphill battle. The weather was certainly not on our side, and being that we do not have a covered arena to train in, our time training on the horse was fairly limited. For the last two days of training we had beautifully sunny weather, which yielded some quality horse practice that we all felt good about. I never really cease to be amazed at how much our team accomplishes with such a limited amount of actual training time together, being that we all live so far apart. I can only hope that our accomplishments within the next two months are sufficient in getting us through the selection trials and ultimately on our way to Kentucky!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Show Jumper Lauren Hough (USA)

Currently on the U.S. Show Jumping Long List for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, Laruen's publicist, Jen Markee, gives us an update on Lauren and her horses from the World Cup Finals and the Kentucky Cup Jumping test event for the 2010 Games. (Photo Credit: J.L. Parker)

All three horses traveling to the World Cup landed safely in Amsterdam. After a few days layover and schooling they headed to Geneva. Lauren is fortunate to have three horses entered in the World Cup's horse show:
Quick Study
Prezioso S
Available Versace

Lauren celebrated her 33rd birthday on Sunday, April 11.

Lauren arrived in Geneva Monday, April 12 and began preparations for the World Cup competition (April 14-18).

After the World Cup Lauren will head back to the US to compete in the WEG Test Event April 23-25.

Lauren produced consistent performances at the World Cup.

Quick Study owned by Laura Mateo
Final Rank 16th
Round I Clear
Round II 8 faults
Round III (two rounds) clear and 4 faults

Prezioso S owned by Joan Simms and Highlife Farms 1st Pres de Communes Genevoises 7th Prix L'Hebdo

Available Versace owned by Chloe Reed and Available 3rd Prix de l'Arve 5th Prix "En Chatillon" (Natural Obstacles)

Quick Study was a little under the weather during the week but was feeling better by Sunday morning.

The week was filled with extraneous distractions. The FEI's ruling eliminating Sapphire and the volcanic ash disrupting travel all created concerns other than the competition.

Lauren was fortunate to get on a flight to the USA on Tuesday as many riders and spectators maybe waiting as much as a week to get out of Geneva. Many considered other forms of transportation.

After the WEG Jumping Test Event this weekend, Lauren and the horses will travel to EU through New York.

Lauren will spend the balance of the year in Europe competing on the Global Champions Tour and representing the USA on Tour #2. This tour will create the short list for the WEG in the fall.

Lauren's EU Show schedule:

Norten Hardenberg
Monte Carlo

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Seven-Time USEF National Four-in-Hand Driving Champion, Chester C. Weber (USA)

It is a great feeling to have Live Oak under my belt. Live Oak was extremely successful for my team this year and we had great turnout despite the weather. I am very pleased with our eighth USEF National Four-In-Hand win. My team had wonderful dressage and cones performances, but the marathon phase proved to be a challenge. My team won four of the first five hazards and finished second in number four by tenths of a second. Unfortunately at the “Gulch” we split the two lead horses on a post which caused us to loose some time, but the horses stayed calm and we were on our way without even a navigator to free them. It was the longest 45 seconds of this past year for me.
(Chester Weber winning the Kentucky Cup Driving Test Event and his seventh National Championship. Photo Credit: Jennifer Singleton).

Team Weber has many things going on this month. My horse Rolex W found his creative side and painted artwork for ReRun’s “Moneigh” collection. The artwork will be posted on later this month and the money from the sale supports the ReRun charity. Rolex’s artistic talents and philanthropic side will be recognized this week at Rolex in Kentucky.

Jamaica is going to be at star at WEG this year whether he competes or not. Breyer is working on the finishing touches of a Jamaica model horse that will be debuted at the World Equestrian Games. Jamaica and I will be on hand to sign the model likenesses and meet Jamaica’s fans!

I just participated in a SUCCEED equine digestive health seminar at The Sanctuary Equine Therapy and Rehabilitation Center in Ocala. I explained to the audience how SUCCEED can help competition horses that experience high amounts of stress and physical demands.

On the first of May will know whether or not we will show in Europe this summer, meanwhile we are enjoying the view from top as we have held are number one ranking for WEG following Live Oak.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Para Dressage Athlete Mary Jordan (USA) Blogs About Her Journey to the 2010 Games

My name is Mary Jordan and I am a Grade 4 Para- Equestrian Dressage rider with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) from Wells, Maine. I am sitting in a plane somewhere over the United States on my way to speak at a special program for MS patients, savoring this quiet time to start my blog, to chronicle my journey toward the 2010 Alltech World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Para-Equestrian Dressage. What an exciting year it has been! My goal is to earn a slot on Team USA at the WEG. Currently 13 US Para-Equestrians scores (including myself) have scores that will allow us to compete in the US Selection Trials June 24-27, 2010 at Lamplight Equestrian Center in Wayne, Illinois, outside of Chicago. A total of 10 riders will be selected for the WEG; four will make the team and six will ride as individuals. I thought along the way I would share my training experiences with my horse “Paxton Abbey,” a Hanoverian cross mare who was born in my lap and who has been my loyal competition partner, as well as share my physical training I am doing as an MS patient to be ready for this level of competition. (Pictured: Alan, Mary and Tristan Jordan with her two horses, P. Sparrow Socks (left) and Paxton Abbey (right)).

First, A Little Background…
As a lifelong equestrian growing up in Clinton, New York I had an inexplicable love of horses from the time I could walk and talk and wander around the dairy farms of upstate New York. Over the years I have seriously and successfully competed at the regional and national levels in dressage and eventing on horses I have bred, raised and trained myself. Along the way I spent my earliest years around hunter/jumpers, was involved in the US Pony Clubs, served as a staff member in foxhunting, and later bred my own horses and showed them in-hand at major breed shows such as Dressage at Devon.

Riding is clearly one thing I love to do; the other is writing. On the professional side of things I have worked as a journalist, editor, freelance writer, therapeutic riding instructor and public relations (PR) professional. I currently am an MS motivational speaker working with the MS community around the country and also work with Pennfield Equine Feed Technologies as a Territory Manager in New England and New York. I always keep my hand in a variety of written projects which I enjoy. I work full-time and I am a mother and wife as well! I love doing all the things I do in my life!

My world, however, changed eight years ago when I became the third person in my family diagnosed with MS, a chronic neurologic disorder that affects approximately 440,000 people in the United States. A botched spinal tap early on left me unable to stand and walk for a short period of time and I feared I would never ride and compete again. I had four horses at the time and I put them up for sale. Despite that initial shock, I never gave up my dream to pursue my goals and I directed all of my energies to moving forward in a positive manner.

My fate was quite different, however, than the severe disability suffered by my father James, an Episcopal Minister and College Philosophy Professor who was quadriplegic I never saw stand or walk. The difference in our experience with the disease was largely because new medications that were available when I was first diagnosed were not invented at the time he showed symptoms as a young boy; sadly he lived and died when they were not available. I, however, immediately started daily injections of my MS medication three days after my diagnosis and it has made a world of difference.

Every day I feel blessed to be doing all that I am doing. To help move things forward I am involved in several MS research studies in Boston and am doing everything I can to contribute to finding a cure for MS, as well as helping people afflicted by the disease by sharing my story to offer them hope, inspiration and information.

Although I have been a dressage and event rider all of my life, my Para-Equestrian adventure started a year ago when I first got my classification as a Grade 4 Para-Equestrian in Seattle, which is basically the most able-bodied a Para athlete can be. The dressage is the equivalent of 3rd level, with the freestyle allowing more advanced movements.

From the start of this, my quest and goal was to ride internationally, to someday represent my country as an equestrian. Just 3 months after my classification I found myself in Holland and Germany training for the European Para-Equestrian Dressage 4* CPEDI Championships in Kristiansand, Norway with Dutch Coach Paulien Alberts of Emmen, Holland and riding a German Grand Prix stallion “Bohmer’s As” who was owned by her student Martina Bohmer of Lingen, Germany. We dubbed ourselves “Team International” since I was the sole American at the competition.

It was an intense immersion into the sport at this level, but it was an invaluable learning experience, showing me I could go above and beyond what I thought I was capable of achieving. In the training arena we had hybrids of 3 languages flowing, intense daily training and work, and three short weeks to transform ourselves into an international class FEI rider. Riding before five Olympic judges I wanted to give it my all and perform my best. No pressure!

From the start we were on a mission in Norway to achieve my qualifying scores which would allow me to ride in the US Selection Trials for the World Equestrian Games (WEG), riding against the highest quality and most inspirational horse and rider combinations in the world, some of whom went to the Olympics. I was the sole American, the wildcard, and I was tested on every level: my borrowed stallion had to be re-inspected at the jog after a long trailer and ferry ride from Germany to Norway and ultimately he passed with the amazing help from the British Equestrian Federation who stepped in to help since I was there alone (I am forever grateful!). In the end, however, we were successful earning three scores over 60 % from five Olympic judges and breaking into the Top 10 in the Musical Freestyle portion of the competition–the highest showing of any American Grade 4 rider at a 4-star level. One judge placed me as high as 5th with a score in the 70s…and I was thrilled!

Coming into this winter I dedicated myself into working with my mares “Paxton Abbey” and “P. Sparrow Socks” aka “Clever,” her little sister. Both horses are award-winning Hanoverian crosses I bred, raised and trained myself. They are phenomenal mares, thriving on working and showing, and they are very much a part of our family. Paxton will be my mount for the US Selection Trails and hopefully the WEG, and I am looking at several additional prospects now to borrow and bring as a second mount to the trials.

I thought in my blog I would share our journey, riding and training my horses, as well as insights into what I am doing to train myself physically as an MS patient. There is no mistake… any success from horses is a team effort, and as an MS patient sometimes you need to develop an even a larger support team than usual! I am indebted to the many people in my life and sponsors I have along the way, helping me on a number of different levels (I apologize if I left anyone out!!): my family and dear friends… all of you!!!; my MS sponsor for their inspiration and support; my neurologist Dr. Guy Buckle of MS Partners Center in Boston; my coach Paulien Alberts of Holland, her family and stable at De Oude Meerdijk in Emmen…as well as the legion of quality coaches I have had all along the way in jumping, eventing, dressage…so many of you have taught and inspired me; my dear friend Anna Kjellstrom and the entire staff at both and Kentucky Equine Research and Pennfield Equine Feed Technologies for their support and who also helped formulate my horses diets and offered unprecedented guidance and products to bring my horses into peak fitness; my vets past and present… the amazing Dr. Heidi Jorden, Dr. Jay Merriam and the TNT staff by Dr. Deme Erikson; my farrier Larry Giles, who himself has family members with MS; the staff at Quest Fitness in Kennebunk, Maine for their expertise and support into transforming me into a fit athlete; Back On Track, Horse Quencher and Charles Owen for your innovation and support!

January in Maine. A time of resolutions. A time of looking ahead to the spring US Selection Trials. Time to get fit. Ride. Plan ahead.

And then there is a Maine winter. Snow and more snow. Ice and 60 mph winds toppling 80-foot White Pines in my yard. Where did everyone go? I look around my wintry world and any dressage rider and trainer worth their salt have pointed their trailers south, to Florida and the Carolinas to escape the elements and train.

With my family here and my 13-year-old son in Junior High School the Wellington option was not in the cards. So we put the ‘ole Yankee ingenuity into play. Paulien, my coach from Holland, offered to come monthly to Maine for winter clinics to train me. I contacted my fellow snowbound Para-athletes and able-body dressage riders to come for weekend clinics which included help with musical freestyles –Paulien’s specialty.

I think people here thought I was nuts. I think people in Holland must have thought Paulien was nuts, flying into Boston on a Thursday in the winter, teaching two and a half days solid and then leaving for Amsterdam Sunday afternoon. But all I know is that Paulien and I, and our friends who are all diehards, are having a heck of a lot of fun and learning a lots about riding dressage.

It hasn’t been exactly easy. I fantasize about training around palm trees. Since I don’t have an indoor I have to truck over for every ride to nearby Spring Creek Farm, owned by Sarah and Nick Armentrout, who graciously hosted the clinics which were full each and every month. One Sunday morning it was -9 degrees below zero. Another evening I trucked to the indoor in a blizzard. On the trailer ride from my barn to the ring Paxton’s whiskers once completely froze. I live in layers of polar fleece and heat packs for my hands and feet, and I drink endless cups of hot coffee or tea to keep the blood flowing. But as Paulien and I both say in our weekly Skype chats: we are on a mission!

Stay tuned for Mary's next blog about how she stays fit as an athlete, and how she keeps her horses in top condition.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Endurance Rider, Kathy Brunjes (USA) Blogs for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games

Hi! my name is Kathy Brunjes, and I live in Maine. I have been involved in the endurance discipline on the international level since 2000, and have competed in endurance since I was a teenager. I was part of the USA- East endurance squad at the 2001 PanAms (as a rider) and a competitor (and team member) for the endurance team at the 2002 World Equestrian Games (in Jerez, Spain), a rider for the USA-East endurance squad at the 2005 North American Edurance Challenge and rode for the USA at the 2007 World Endurance Championship Pre-ride (The Sultan's Cup) in Malaysia, the 2008 President's Cup in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and then was selected for the 2008 World Endurance Championships (Malaysia), riding as one of the four-member team. Theatric, the horse that I rode in Malaysia in 2007, Abu Dhabi in 2008, and Malaysia in 2008 will be my nominated horse for the 2010 WEG.

Theatric is a 16h. chestnut Arabian gelding, with much international experience. Theatric will be 12 years old at the time of the 2010 WEG. I am in currently in the process of qualifying Theatric's full brother, Tektonic (9 year old 16.1h bay Arabian gelding) as my alternate horse for the WEG. "Nick" will be competing at the prestigious CEI *** (160km) Biltmore Challenge (Asheville, NC) the first weekend of May, as part of this qualification process. Theatric ("Tee"), Nick and I just returned from Florida, competing at the Fun-in-the-Sun endurance events - all part of our meeting qualifications prior to attending our endurance selection trials in June. Tee and I tied for first in the CEI *** (160km) (with fellow competitor and team-mate, Meg Sleeper) at FITS, in course time of 7hr.44min., and Nick and our young rider, Lindsay Bean, competed in the CEI ** (120km) at FITS and competed the course in 5th place, in 9hr.

Training the horses in Maine in the winter can be a challenge, and we make many trips south (FL) during the harsh winter months to train and compete. Interstate 95 is well-known to us! I'm looking forward to competing and qualifying for the WEG this year, and will keep you all updated on our selection process in the coming months.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Australian Show Jumper Edwina Alexander Blogs About Her Preperation For The Rolex FEI World Cup Jumping Final

Edwina Alexander will be blogging for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games as she prepares for the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final in Geneva from 14 – 18 April 2010. Here is Edwina's first entry brought to you by Rolex...

Could you describe a typical training day?

I normally wake up at 7.00am and I am in the stables by 8.00am ready to ride the horses. Every day is a little bit different but on average I ride between 6 – 8 horses each day, and I will keep riding until 1.00pm. I’ll start riding again between 2.00pm – 4.00pm. I then spend some time in the office in the afternoon catching up with emails, organising travel arrangements for upcoming shows, sending videos to clients. I feel more relaxed if I know exactly what’s going on!

How have you been keeping busy since your Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping series win in Vigo?

I kept Socrates (Cevo Socrates) and Itot (Cevo Itot Du Château) busy in the lead up to Gothenburg, where they both jumped well. Since Gothenburg they have both had a break from showing which has included one easy day during the week, some hacking in the woods, dressage and a bit of a lunge in the afternoon. I have been to Australia since Gothenburg but they have both been kept active with some small jumps work.

What kind of character is Itot?

I’ve had him for two years and he’s a funny horse and actually extremely sensitive. He can be hard to catch in the stables and to get out of the box, and more times than not my groom will have some carrots or sugar when I’m trying to get on him!

Who do you see as your main threats at the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Final in Geneva and who do you admire?

I would have to say Jessica (Kürten) is probably my biggest threat because she and her horse are both very competitive. I admire her a lot because she is tough and determined, and she seems to have that edge. Pénélope (Leprevost) is another rider that I admire as she is so quick. You never know with Marcus (Ehning), but he’s one of the best riders in the world and it will depend on how well he has his horse organised.

How do you rate your chances at the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Final in Geneva?

After how well Itot jumped at ‘s-Hertogenbosch last weekend I feel pretty good and really confident and relaxed. Itot jumped very well in Gothenburg and he definitely feels better than ever at the moment. After the last World Cup™ Final in Las Vegas I wasn’t anywhere near as well prepared as I am now. This time around Itot doesn’t have to travel as far and he and I both know the arena in Geneva very well.

How will you be preparing for WEG?

This year is one of my biggest years ever. I have the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Final and WEG and also the Global Champions Tour which I need to qualify for. I’ll use the Global Champions Tour shows to prepare Itot for WEG, but I’m conscious that I don’t want him to do too many shows or too much travelling.

Edwina Alexander, Olympic and World Equestrian Games Jumper, is a friend of Rolex. Edwina will be competing at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.

Friday, April 9, 2010

2008 Eventing Olympic Silver Medalist Megan Jones (AUS)

Australian Eventing Superstar and 2008 Olympic Silver Medalist, Megan Jones, blogs about her trip to the Kiwi's at the Kihi Kihi World Cup CIC*** in New Zealand over the Easter weekend.


4 bags, 1 terrific groom, 1 truck driver/heavy gear lifter, 1 rider and 1 totally amazing white pony "Jester". Yes we have everything and we are ready to cross the Tasman and take on the Kiwi's at the Kihi Kihi World Cup CIC*** in New Zealand over the Easter weekend.

Jester has had his usual early hair cut because on the first of March each year he grows a full winter coat including curly leg hair!!! He is such a mountain pony in so many ways. He will grow this clip out in around 10 days and need to be clipped again.

We leave from Kirby Park 11:30 pm Saturday night to arrive in Melbourne Sunday morning in time for Jester to have his tick wash...... yuck! I tried telling him to pretend it is going to be a warm sponge bath with aromatic oils. But Jester knows the reality is that it will be a cold smelly wash given by a stern looking quarantine officer/vet. So I will stay with Jester and Kate to make sure he is rubbed dry and warm before I leave poor Kate there all day on her own with Jester. She will be picked up around 8pm to head to the airport.

Kate will take her first ever horse flight with Jester and the team from IRT on Sunday to arrive in Auckland around 4am Monday morning. Steve and I will fly out Sunday also but go via Sydney and arrive at midnight. We will them wait to collect Kate and Jester and go and get some sleep!!!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

2009/2008 AVA/USEF Gold Women’s Individual National Champion, Alicen "Ali" Divita

2009/2008 AVA/USEF Gold Women’s Individual National Champion, Alicen Divita, “Ali,” is majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies at UC Berkeley.

20 year old Ali, knows that it takes discipline, dedication and a pure love for what you do to succeed. Ali has won the National Individual Championship at every level, Bronze in 2003, Silver in 2004 and Gold in 2008 as well as 2009. She has proved to be just as competitive in the international scene. She placed 4th at CVI Saumur in 2006, and in 2007 she brought home the gold from prestigious CVI Krumke in Germany. In 2006, just five years after she began vaulting, Ali attended the World Equestrian Games as the alternate for the US Individual Team. In 2008, along with many other successes, she earned her spot as a competitor in the World Vaulting Champions in the Czech Republic. Yoga, gymnastics, dance and her creative spirit coupled with her school studies, volunteer activities and a spot on the lightweight crew team keep her balanced both in and out of the vaulting arena. Ali looks forward to competing in the selection trials and hopes to earn her spot as one of the top three vaulters in the country along with the ability to represent the US at the World Equestrian Games.

In January of 2010, Divita was in Germany, working with German vaulting superstar Gero Meyer before vaulting by invitation at a Masters Class at CVI** Leipzig she retells her experience here.

Racing to get to the opposite side of UC Berkeley’s campus between classes today, I swooped into a small café to pick up some food on the go. When breakfast is at 5:30 before morning practice, by the time lunch rolls around, my stomach is loudly exercising its right of free speech, much in the Berkeley spirit. The checkout lady hands me my receipt and as I thank her she gives me a funny look. It takes me a minute before I realize that I had thanked her in German, laughing out loud I politely correct myself and wander off in thought. I just got back from a trip to Germany, and after missing the first week of school and jumping right into life back home in California, my worlds, and my words, are beginning to whirl together.

Leberkäse, which translates directly to “liver cheese,” has nothing to do with liver or cheese. When I arrived at the train station in Munich, I met up with German vaulting master, Gero Meyer and ordered me one with mustard. As I drank in the whole scene, I have to say it was quite good- kind of like high quality spam, but much tastier than it looks and sounds. Sometimes we read or hear about people’s perspectives and hear “leberkäse” but cannot experience the flavor of the situation. This year, the year of the World Equestrian Games being held in my own country, where, for the first time I can compete on my own horses in an international event, is about enjoying the taste from the start to the finish.

Gero was going to do a weekend of clinics down in Austria, so once we got in the car that is where we drove. After explaining vaulting to a passenger we picked up, he asked why we do it, as there must not be much money in the sport. The answer came naturally, “Well ja, we do it because we love it, isn’t that supposed to be the point?” I have a silent moment of “Aha!” and as I listen to Gero further explain his perspective, I want to give him a high five. (Such an American thing to do, I know). I realize that one of the things I love most about vaulting not being as big as some other sports, where the money and the fame start to determine much of its importance, is the people that it attracts. There are no ulterior motives; I know that the physical prizes do not outweigh what you must put in. You get so much more out of it than that. Because of this, I really believe that the drive comes from the heart, it is all about the passion and love for what you do.

When we get to Austria, I feel like all of the German I previously understood has left me. I definitely did not prepare for the accent. When talking to our host parents, I smile whenever Gero smiles and nod enthusiastically whenever his reply to one of their questions is yes. The result of this was that all weekend we were both served Gero’s favorite foods, and of course, he got the room with the bigger bed.

Once we were back in München where Gero regularly trains, I got to live with another lovely family. Like so many of the people that I have stayed with throughout my vaulting adventures, they were incredibly welcoming. They were a very musical bunch, just like my own family (my personal musical talents, however, being more focused on consumption). I love coming home to listen to my dad and brother play guitar, as my little sister and mom sometimes chime in singing. It is the “samsara” of the day, a place to let our bodies catch up with all that we have experienced the hectic hours of being awake.

It does not get cold in California. No matter what I thought before, we really are spoiled when it comes to temperature. However, I once heard someone say, there is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing. No matter what situation you find yourself in, it is always about the perspective that you bring. In the morning, I wake up and begin the process of getting dressed for vaulting. Just imagine a suitcase very full of vaulting clothes, to those not familiar, this includes leg warmers, thigh high socks, fuzzy spandex pants- pretty much anything and everything stretchy and warm. In the next scene, picture the suitcase now half empty, me standing there like a Michelin man, sweating. I waddle into Gero’s room and tell him that I am ready to go. The look on his face explains that humor is often a result of our varying interpretations of “appropriate.”

We get to the barn and Gero decides that it would be a great idea to go running through the hills that are covered in a foot and a half of snow. It is -2° Celsius and I look down at my new running shoes made of mesh. Right, running through the snow, just what I was thinking. But somehow he finds a way to make it fun; soon enough the Michelin man layers become unnecessary and I find myself sprinting up hills and jumping to knock the snow off tree branches. I always find it funny to hear people say after they have achieved something great, “it hasn’t hit me yet.” I had this realization that that’s because it has already hit you. This is it. All we have is today. And then, as if you didn’t see it coming, a huge ball of snow hits me in the face. Thanks Gero.

After spending a week training with Gero, I head off to Krumke, my home away from home, where the horse I will compete on and my “adopted” family live. As I get out of the car, I see Oma and Opa standing outside near the vegetable garden. The first time that I came to this home I was twelve, now standing here as a twenty year old I feel so much more comfortable; I am so thankful to be welcome in this town where they say horses outnumber humans.

As you can tell, my experiences here have taught me so much about language. Although I joke about my abilities, having studied German in school has literally opened up the worlds of being able to speak to people I meet. The gap is easy to overcome, and it is often my favorite- and by far the most entertaining- part of my travels. Trying to tell Marion that she and her siblings have a similar sense of humor, I mistakenly add “sch” to the beginning of “witzen” (to joke), and as Ines dies of laughter, Marion cannot figure out why I am telling her that she sweats just like her sister. Oops. Sometimes we would skip the words and get directly at the meaning. One of my favorite moments was at lunch, when I asked Oma where the schnitzel had come from. With the sweetest face, and the cutest grandma like way, she simply holds up an imaginary chicken and mimes slicing its throat herself. Message received. A whole new respect for Oma gained.

If you have a message that you are passionate about, you will find a way to communicate it. The language is just our connection with words, music, food… or maybe the connection we have when finding harmony of our own movement and that of a horse. For me it is about finding that passion and soaking in everything it takes to get to that point of expression. Now I am off to France, a country where I do not speak a lick of their beautiful tongue, to compete in an international competition in the historic town of Saumur. I shall write next time with the results, but after reading this blog, you can probably predict it’s actually going to be about the experience.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Three-Time Olympic Gold Medalist and Dressage Superstar Anky van Grunsven (NED)

March 21, 2009
Last Sunday I came back from the international show in Dortmund, Germany. I had both my Grand Prix horses, Salinero and I.P.S Painted Black with me and both did very well. With Painted Black I rode the national tour. We won both test and especially in the freestyle he did a very good job and scored 80%. I showed Salinero in the international tour and we won the Grand Prix with a very good score of 76,6%. I was very happy that Sali was so concentrated on me and reacted very good to my aids. In the second test we made two big mistakes as he cantered in both trot half passes. That cost a lot of points and we came third. But, for me it’s clear that both horses are fit and ready for Kentucky. But first I will go to Indoor Brabant next weekend. Unfortunately I did not qualify for the World cup final so I will ride the CDI Grand Prix instead.

At home things are pretty busy as well. The big rebuilding that took over a year already is almost coming to an end. The new stalls very ready a few months ago and now the offices, canteen, apartments are ready too. This week they work on the parking place. From Cavalor I got a new feeding trolley that is very easy to push and steer. We have all kinds of Cavalor food so that we can individualize every horse’s meal. In that way every horse gets exactly what he needs.

That seems to be about all for now. Until next time!