My alarm goes at 4.20 AM and instead of waking up as a zombie, I get up and feel quite alright. What a surprise. It' time to do the 3 hour and 30 minute drive to Kronberg in Taunus, Germany, for the 2023 European Children and Junior Riders Championships. I made the last minute decision to actually go to the event myself the day before instead of watching another 270 rides on ClipMyHors, frying my brain, like I did the week with the Young Riders and U25 Euros in Budapest.
It's an easy drive over the rollings hills in Germany, taking the A3 south. Right about 10km before I reach my destination, I take the wrong exit and an additional 20 km is added to my journey, which takes me past Frankfurt airport. I immediately fear that I'll be stuck in rush hour traffic but surprisingly it's busy, but the roads are fine. I just can't believe how this would have been totally impossible if I were to be near Brussels or Antwerp. That would have meant at least one hour standing still in a traffic jam.
I arrive at Schafhof at 7h50, perfectly only time before the arena familiarisation for the junior riders starts. The sky is blue and it's promising to be a very hot day. I get a personal tour from one of the Schafhof staff members who shows me around the press center, where the fridge is for drinks, the coffee machine, etc and get the feeling I'm showed a German 5* wellness hotel. She's super friendly but notices I'm getting eager to start working.
It's been 13 years since I was last at Schafhof. I photographed the 2010 European Junior and Young Riders Championships, when Charlott Maria Schurmann and Fabienne Lutkemeier won. It was also the Euros for Cathrine Dufour, Anna Kasprzak, Johanna Due Boje, Franziska Fries and Sanneke Rothenberger. Many of the riders then stuck around and are still involved in top horse sport nowadays. I also remember clearly it was the year the Belgian music artist Stromae had the hit song "Alors on danse" as that was played at the party on the court yard. It was the year my camera broke down and my biscuit was saved by Portuguese Rui Pedro Godinho who offered me his spare.
The horse inspection took place at the warm up ring in the sun. Temperatures were boiling by the time the juniors were presenting their horses. 32 ° C and I felt myself huffing and puffing. Two horses were sent to the holding box in in the children group, one from Portugal and one from Lithuania; horses that journeyed far to be here. One horse from team Great Britain will be up for re-inspection on Wednesday morning, where the actual begins at 9 AM with the children preliminary test.
Let it begin.
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Eurodressage Coverage of the 2023 European Children / Junior Riders Championships