Newsletter Babbling

Thu, 06/13/2013 - 21:25

Those of you who have not signed up yet for our free weekly newsletter are missing out on quite some babbling by Eurodressage's editor-in-chief Astrid Appels. Each week she opens her linkletter with a personal, fun update of the latest happenings at the Eurodressage headquarters.

Years ago the same type of "confessions" were the monthly editorials, but now Appels publishes smaller weekly insights into the trials and tribulations of an equestrian journalist running a one-man company from her home base in Belgium.

Catch up on the last Newsletter ramblings here:

Week 23

Boy, do I notice that the show season is in full swing. I had such a busy week with two business meetings in Germany, work days that took until 1 AM in the morning, photo pick-up-and-post deliveries and trying to enjoy at least a little bit of the brilliant weather we've earned so much.

Even though three national championships are taking place this weekend (Sweden, Germany, Denmark) I decided not to go to a show myself and attend my cousin's birthday party instead. Next week I have the CDIO-PYR Hagen planned, then CDIO Rotterdam, followed by CDIO Aachen. There's plenty on my plate this month!

I was at the CDI Compiegne for two days last weekend and with once again beautiful weather there, this show has been bumped up to my number one spot of favourite shows. This "top of the pops" position has always been covered by the World Young horse Championships in Verden, where I thoroughly enjoy the atmosphere and show format, but the French lifestyle of good food and wine -- while at work -- combined with the best, green background ever cannot be beaten!

Week 22

I feel like I'm a boomerang, going back to the same shows over and over again, but I do it for a well-calculated reason. This year I have twice attended a CDI in Vidauban, France, and last weekend I went to Roosendaal for the second time this spring. Roosendaal normally hosts a CDI for pony, junior and young riders, but this year there was an extra event for small  and big tour riders.

With lots of green round arena, Roosendaal is a beautiful venue to take pictures at. I choose my shows based on the photographic quality of the event and not so much based on their fame or the fluff and puha surrounding a show. The weather was also not too bad for the sad spring we're having in Western Europe this year. However, by the end of the day a chilly wind started to blow and my fingers froze fixed around the camera. Nevertheless I was very happy that I went to the show and took great pictures, I think.

With only a few days to get all the work done and pictures posted, I had to organize myself really well this week and I've been pulling late nights every day to get it all done. On Friday morning I have to wake up at 4.30 to drive to Compiegne for another two-day on the scene show coverage. I hope it stays dry :)

Week 21

I had an eventful weekend last week attending the CDIO Vidauban where the inaugural competition of the pilot season of the FEI Nations' Cup took place. The weather at the show was fine on Friday and Sunday but it rained cats and dogs on Saturday. I decided to have fun at the show as well as work. The reason why I keep returning to Vidauban is for the amazing light and background. I always seem to take the best photos at that show.  I also wrote about my adventures in Vidauban in a fun blog.

On Sunday evening I went to pick up two friends at Nice airport and had a short two-day holiday near St. Tropez, just lying in the sun (it was 27° C and sunny at the coast) and going out for dinner and drinks in the evening.

I didn't have internet access for two days and when I came home and started working again on Wednesday morning, a mountain of work awaited me. It was so big that it freaked me out. I felt punished for taking just two days off, for the first time in half a year.

Week 19

I had a lovely day last week photographing at the 2013 CDI-PJYR Roosendaal in The Netherlands, but still haven't been able to feature my pictures online. I'm waiting for a few interviews to come in so my great help Sarah Warne, an ex-pat Australian living and training in Portugal, can wrap up writing the articles accompanying the photo reports.

I have been spending a bit more time away from the computer last week, training my one-month old foal. Her Jazz heritage is very obvious. She's lovely but super noise sensitive, so I go into the field making the weirdest noises, screaming, caughing, laughing, as if I have a bad case of Tourette's Syndrome. She spooks as soon as I sneeze and I definitely do not want to have such a flighty foal! She's now hearing a fanfare come by and gets less spooky each day.

While the foal was remarkably not so scared of an umbrella, my 2-year old in the field started to panick. I took her into the round pen and did some training with her. It became a tough desensitization session, Pat Parelli style (note: no humans nor horses were harmed in the process). It was actually quite fun to see my 2 year old move on the lunge for the very first time, showing off a better trot than I had expected. I was happy but have to admit that I was glad my partner, who is a trained animal behaviour therapist, came to assist me at the end of the session and sort of fixed the umbrella problem in five minutes.

Week 18

Finally the outdoor show season has officially kicked off with the 2013 CDI Hagen at Hof Kasselmann, one of the best organized competitions of the year. Always boasting a top field of competitors, Hagen is not to be missed and that was proven by the fact that the number one U.S. dressage rider, Steffen Peters, flew in especially to compete Legolas at this venue.

While we were posting big articles and tons of photos from Hagen last week, we were also covering the 2013 World Cup Finals in Gothenburg at the same time. Helen Langehanenberg achieved a career highlight and personal best score winning the Finals with a formidable kur to music.

Even though we are still wrapping up our Hagen coverage with one more story on the national Under 25 competition, I'm already looking forward to the next few shows. On Friday I'll be photographing at the CDI-PJYR Roosendaal in The Netherlands and in two weeks it's the CDIO Vidauban in the South of France. Bring it on!

Week 16

Last week has flown by !! My foal finally arrived on early Monday morning 8 April 2013. The day before was the first sunny spring day in Belgium and my mare was sun-bathing all day. I guess it must have turned the heat up in the oven because the bun was ready at 2 AM :) A beautiful, healthy, chestnut filly was born; the mare's third filly in a row! I named her Javelin and she's by Jazz x Grafenfels x Ludendorff.

With all the pampering of my foal, the daily work and the first few nice warm days of the year I spent a lot of time outdoors last week and even forgot to send out the weekly newsletter. This week, it's pretty much the same scenario and then of course I have the CDI Hagen coming up. It's a fantastic show, the first outdoor competition in the north of Europe and with a top field of competitors.

My long-time friend and colleague Thomas Bach Jensen will be joining me in Hagen for a few days of photographing from Thursday to Saturday. Bring on the show!

Week 14

I have been on tenterhooks all week. About seven days ago my highly pregnant mare starting developing a massive udder and I knew the moment of foal birth was rapidly approaching. I strapped a birth alarm on her halter, isolated her in a private pasture with good grass and have been doing visual checks every 30 minutes as well as turning her into her stall in the evening because it was still freezing at night.

My horses are outside 24/7 and my previous foals have all been born in the field (in a private one). No complications, no infections and 24 hour turnout for the young playful foal.. the way nature has meant it to be. Now with the atypical "Winter's-Coming"-spring here in Europe and freezing temperatures day and night, my entire foal birth plan has been moved indoors by my vet.

Eight days later, the udder is about to explode (with only fluid coming out, no milk) but no foal. I'm done with the waiting. Pop it out already!

Week 13

The winter months - December, January and February -- are usually the slowest months of the year with few competitions going on. It always surprizes me how off guard I am when the action heats up all of a sudden. I don't know why, but this week the work kept pouring in: news items, show reports, horse sale ads, press releases, etc etc. It was a busy time for me, but I like that!

I was invited to attend the CDI Doha in Qatar but had to decline this exclusive offer as I keep my priorities straight. This week the top priority is foal watch. Her udder now totally swollen but not yet waxing, my mare is expecting a foal in the next few days and I wouldn't want to miss that joyous event.

This weekend no less than six CDI shows are taking place all over the world, so that means a lot of scores needing to be typed out each day. Stadl Paura, Nice, Zhashkov, Doha, San Juan Capistrano, and Addington are taking place during this Easter weekend. Most events are still indoors and I can't wait for the outdoor season to start in two weeks time at Hagen!!

Week 12

While pretty much everybody in Europe is grinding their teeth because the winter season is taking unusual long to disappear (temperatures have achieved a historic low for the month of March), I am crossing my fingers that my broodmare will keep her bun a little longer in her oven.

I'm expecting a foal by Jazz out of my main broodmare Grace (by Grafenfels x Ludendorff). The mare is due on 4 April, but has given birth to her two previous foals earlier than planned. With hardly any fresh grass on the fields and with the pastures being covered with an inch of snow each morning, the setting is not ideal nor fun for bringing a foal into the world.

I eagerly read the daily forecasts by a local weatherman, who has a strong following on his Facebook page. This auto-didact is remarkably efficient in predicting the weather and he proclaims that as of next weekend spring is coming. I'm hopeful!

Week 11

it's been a challenging two weeks since I last sent out my newsletter. Two weeks ago I had to deal with the loss of my beautiful, beloved dog Bwana, which I had to euthanize at age 8,5 due to Cauda Equina Syndrome. Then as a welcome change I flew to Nice, France, to attend the CDI Vidauban. I was so looking forward to that show because last year I had a blast there with brilliant weather to top it off.

When I landed in Nice it was pouring with rain but that didn't dampen my spirits. I was ready to have some fun and get great photography done. The next three days the weather altered between rain, drizzle and sunshine and I still had a blast in the great company of some wonderful pony, junior/young rider and Grand Prix parents who sat on the sideline in total dedication of their son or daughter.

Last Friday I cruised to 's Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands, to photograph the World Cup Grand Prix there and had a good time. Check out my report linked below.

Week 9

I don't have much to say this week.

As you might have read in last week's newsletter, my dog has been very ill the entire week. Last Monday, after doing extensive pain control with medication, we were able to get an appointment with a specialist who confirmed our fear that besides hip dysplesia she was also suffering from Cauda Equina Syndrome, and probably had spondylosis as well as her back was completely fixed. This is not the diagnosis you want to hear and especially not when the vet adds that an operation on a 9-year old dog is considered very risky with a very low percentage for success.

In a final effort to help our dog we tried acupuncture, a super heavy dose of morphine in patches glued to her hindlegs, muscle relaxants and blood flow stimulants. On Tuesday 26 February, after a horrible night of watching a drugged dog still being in pain, we decided to put her down.
We took our dog for one long final walk (which she was able to do well, it's the lying down that hurt her). As if a miracle two deer jumped in front of her so she was able to do one last final chase; something she loved to do.  Even though it is a peaceful procedure to euthanize a dog I thought it was absolutely horrible.

I'm devastated and have a big hole in my heart. There isn't much to say but cry and miss my dog.

Week 8

I've had a really bad week so far and it looks like it's not going to get much better. Last Sunday afternoon my most beloved dog started showing weird behaviour. She was whining the entire time, pacing from one room to the other and refused to lie down. I thought it had something to do with all the static electricity she was generating from rubbing her coat on the carpet. She would regularly fly up with a trail of sparks behind her and wimper in fear.

Unfortunately it didn't take long for me to realize that she was having tremendous pain from her hip dysplasia. While she could be stiff on occasion, she never had so much pain that she was uncomfortable to lie down. My dog is on a monthly treatment with the NSAID trocoxil and it has always worked well, until this week.

We gave her quite a large dose of painkiller (Tramadol) on Monday so we could administer her a new trocoxil pil on Tuesday but her condition, even on the painkiller, did not improve. On Tuesday we were almost triple dosing her on tramadol and though it wiped her out for a couple of hours at a time (thank god she could lie down and sleep then), she was still very restless as soon as a bit of the drug waned off. And the nights are horror. It felt like we had a cry baby who would wake you up ever hour in agony.

It's now Thursday, the dog has had her trocoxil two days ago and it should have relieved her from the pain. Unfortunately we're still in the same nightmare scenario of her being totally uncomfortable to lie down and us having to heavily drug her in order for her to sleep and relax. It's making me totally antsy to see her in pain and pacing like a caged ice bear as soon as we try to reduce the tramadol. It feels like there's a wrench in my stomach and I'm dreading tomorrow.

Week 7

I've noticed a general tendency of complaint within the online horse community and it's mainly about the lousy winter weather in Europe which doesn't seem to come to an end with snow blizzards dampening the spirits and a hope for spring on a regular basis.

When I see breeders posting photos of their new born foals I am happy that I don't have to take care of such a fragile horse baby with this freezing weather outside. I feel for those foals which are now locked up in stalls and will have to wait two more months before they can properly stretch their legs and enjoy the lush green grass 24/7.

I can't wait until spring!

Week 6

1996 Olympic Dressage Champion and 2006 World Champion Isabell Werth posted a home made video this week of her riding the 19-year old retired Satchmo bareback with a halter. The bay Hanoverian looked fit and fresh and was performing the piaffe, passage, one tempi's and pirouettes with the greatest ease while a Isabell sat grinning on top.

I embedded the video in a short article on Eurodressage and kabooom, the internet exploded. This story became one of the most read features of the year, which is funny because Isabell is always good for high statistics, even more so than Totilas' related news! When Isabell announced her sponsorship with a helmet company, it became the most read article on the website in weeks. Same for the Satchmo joy ride.

On Facebook the story was shared hundreds of times and to my surprise huge discussions were initiated on the fact whether Isabell Werth is a rollkur rider or not and why she wasn't wearing a helmet in the video clip. It keeps amazing me why small, light and airy stories generate such massive response whereas educational, in-depth articles seem to be a cookie too hard to bite by many readers.

Week 5

It's been a strange week with the weather going from snowy -10° temperatures to a quick two-day thaw, transforming the landscape back to 'greenness'. It has been storming the past two days even though it's now +10 ° C. It's like nature wants to hasten the process of spring, though I doubt that it is going to happen.

I'm not sure if I mentioned it already but for the past ten years I never had any New Year's resolutions. After I graduated from university in 2002 I couldn't find inspiration for a proper resolution that would drive me throughout the year. My resolution/hope/aspirations were always getting good grades in school. However after two weeks of backpain from slouching on the coach in December I decided that my "NYR2013" would be getting back in shape.

I don't know where it came from but I have been totally motivated. On 7 January I put my 15-year old running shoes on and went straight for a 4 kilometer jog. The next day I was not stiff but totally cripple !!! I couldn't walk for four days, even though I went again for a jog two days later. After five days I kicked the stiffness and I have been running three times a week for almost 5 kilometers ever since. I even bought dumbells and have been standing in front of the mirror lifting them while making the craziest faces. Oh vanity!

Let's see where this spur of fitness inspiration is going to take me.

Week 4

I have been very restless this week. It's has been freezing for a second week in a row, there's snow outside, our turned-out horses needed to be fed more. The sun hasn't come out in two weeks. I'm in an escapist mood.

While the dressage action has relocated to Florida and press releases and photos are being dropped in my mailbox on a regular basis,  I couldn't help it but wander off in my mind to tropical islands, sandy white beaches and hammocks.

The practicality of leaving a job and a life with horses behind to go on holiday, just out of the blue, curbed my self-induced enthusiasm to play hooky. The more I was thinking of combining business with pleasure, the more this  bubbly feeling grew in my stomach. All of a sudden the CDI Vidauban in March and May are turning out to be my coveted destinations of the year as the show is a stone's throw away from St. Tropez.

Those dates are check-marked on my calendar now !

Week 3

January is always the strangest month to cover news. It seems like the dressage world is in hibernation from Christmas to at least the end of January. I now remember that almost 10 years ago I wrote an editorial about this news' cul-de-sac. One day you are scraping for information to put interesting news items together, the next you are overwhelmed with small tidbits that are worth publishing and you can control yourself what to post first. I feel forced to spread my news out throughout the day, like you but a thick but even layer of Nutella on a toasted bread.

So with several slow days in my otherwise hectic schedule I get some moments to enjoy some leasure time in winter. I'm an avid reader of history books in my spare time. The more serious and condense the information is, the more I like it. I just finished reading Tom Holland's Millennium, for instance. However, this also means that it takes me quite a long time to finish a book, chewing through such dry material. To refreshen my brain I treated myself to something "easy" this week and decided to follow the hype by reading Fifty Shades of Grey. I'm almost fininished with the two instalments in two days time! While the prose style is repetitive and simplistic the reader really gets sucked into the storyline. I read they are going to make a movie of this series and I can't help but think of Christian Bale (as portrayed in American psycho) as the perfect Christian Grey.. Oh well...

While I'm writing this I snicker and think back to the old days when my editorials were more confessional journal entries than opinionated in-depth research articles. 

Tempus fugit.

Week 2

Happy New Year Everyone !!
This is my first newsletter of 2013 and already two weeks seem to have passed. While I kept my New Year's celebration to a respectable minimum (having a nice dinner and drinking champagne with friends at home) I was catapulted straight back into action on 4 January 2013.

The CDI Drachten takes place the first weekend of January and it's a fun indoor show to attend. It's jam packed with a lot of riders, mainly from The Netherlands, but also quite a lot of Belgians and Danes attend the event. Drachten gives you the first opportunity to see a lot of new pairs for the 2013 show season. Many pony riders have moved on to juniors and do their first international competition ride in Drachten, but also professionals showed their new Prix St Georges, etc. It was a long day, getting up at 4.30 am and arriving back home at 1 am, but worth it.

I have no more shows planned until the end of February, but might change my mind and drive to Amsterdam for the World Cup Qualifier. It all depends on who competes there...

-- Astrid Appels

Follow Eurodressage on Facebook and Twitter as well. Sign up for our Newsletter here.