Bishop Burton Brief: Slow Down, Relax and Enjoy the Competition

Fri, 07/30/2010 - 11:09
2010 European Pony Championships

The town of Bishop Burton, where the 2010 European Pony Championships are hosted, can figuratively fit in a thimble. The village seems to consist of one main road which leads to the college and competition show grounds. This miniature village is as picturesque as Britain can get.

Small white cottages with dark brown timber framework are sparsely strewn on either side of the main road. The street curves around a small pond with an island where tons of ducks are nesting and on the opposite side there is an authentic local pub called Altisidora. It is so cute and the town almost gives you the feeling that you are warped into Shakespearean time or are visiting Epcot center at Disney Land. 

On Thursday 29 July 2010 the second part of the team competition took place in the main dressage arena, which is located in between an indoor school and the pig unit from which regular wafts of pig stench are carried through the air. I haven't explored the domain any further as the press center is very conveniently next to the dressage arena, so it's very easy and relaxed to work here. 

The staff at the press centre, headed by Rachel Addison, is extremely helpful and friendly. During the prize giving ceremony though the British organization here tends to be old-fashioned and rule driven as the few press photographers are herded in like sheep by "Border Collie" officials telling us exactly where to stand and to go (though unaware of the best place for great photos). Fortunately here at Bishop Burton they are open for negotiation and willing to learn. Totally different from Aachen where the "green jacketed officials" are close resemblances to Gestapo Police who will throw you out or execute you if you put one foot in the wrong direction. 

The team competition yesterday was truly high quality. There were many great rides on super ponies. Holland deservedly won the nations' cup and Germany just lacked that one high scoring combination to keep their hold on gold. It was quite surprising that chef d'equipe Connie Endres chose to list and take first reserve Grete Linnemann (a VERY accomplished pony rider) on the very fickle, unreliable pony stallion White Gold B. The palomino stallion has not been consistent in his international (and national) performance and has shown truly horrible behaviour in the warm up ring at the Preis der Besten, an important German ECP selection trial.

Second reserve Lena Rom, a Belgian born girl who actually should have been riding for Belgium and not Germany, was listed as second reserve. At the Rhineland regional championships she beat Lena Charlott Walterscheidt (the third highest placed German in the team test here in Bishop Burton). Maybe Rom and her pony Voyager would have been a better choice in hindsight?! Though I'm sure Rom would be welcomed in Belgium with open arms and make it on the team straight away without having to deal with German pony politics!

After the prize giving photographers and journalists assembled in the press center for a brief conference. By the time that was finished I think it was 2 PM and I had oceans of time to write my article about the team test, organize my photos, and prepare pictures for publication on Eurodressage. It's been weeks since I last had that much time to work calm and relaxed on a story without having to run back to the arena for a new class.

Additionally I photographed a few Belgian, Dutch and Swiss eventing dressage riders for Dirk Caremans, as he was covering show jumping. I was flabbergasted by the poor riding I saw there. Most ponies were not even on the bit and these are competing at the European Pony Championships!? I wonder if any of these riders ever go for dressage training with a professional. It was really sad to see that poor level of riding, despite the fact that their ponies looked fit and healthy and there was a major crowd of fans rooting for them in the stands. 

By 7 PM I finished a 2,200 word article on the team test with 21 photos illustration. It was an amazing feeling that for once, I had "nothing to do" in the evening and could just enjoy some dinner without feeling stressed about all the work that is waiting for me to be done. (But truth be told I still have to write two articles about Kronberg. I will make an attempt at that today). 

Dirk and I drove to Willerby Manor where we had some dinner and a fun conversation with Belgian youth rider trainer Carmen de Bondt and her daughter Charlotte van Ingelgem. The food in Britain has been a "challenge" so far. Two days ago I ordered a curry which was so incredibly hot that an inferno was going on in my mouth. I could no longer taste whether the meat was chicken, beef or fish. The meat as well as the rice was just red hot chili pepper in a transubstantiated form. I think I took about seven bites of the dish and then tried to soothe my palate by eating the mild naan bread that came along as a side order. Yesterday I had red mullet with no sauce whatsoever, some dry rice and some lettuce without dressing on it. Amazing cuisine here! I never expected rainy England to have such dry cooking. 

I took me exactly one second to fall asleep for my 7 AM wakeup call. With three weeks of non-stop competitions my biological clock has changed and every morning I automatically wake up at 6.30 am. Very weird and unusual for me.

Text and Photos © Astrid Appels - No Reproduction Allowed

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