It was a busy start of the morning today, still having to pack my luggage and photo gear before driving to Riesenbeck. The farmer also dropped by to mow the grass for the second cutting of the hay, but I put all that labour into his hands as I would be away for the week to cover the European Championships.
My colleague Petra Kerschbaum was already well settled in at the show, having arrived on the weekend, I first drove to Eindhoven airport to pick up Lily Forado, who flew directly from the Spanish Youth Championships in Madrid to Barcelona, and then onwards to Eindhoven. From there we made our way by car to Hörstel, Germany, to check into our flat overlooking the canal and dropped off our bags. Then it was just a 3 km drive to Ludger Beerbaum's impressive private equestrian center.
Nestled in the green lush Munsterland country side, Riesenbeck equestrian center is a huge estate with lots of land, a grass show jumping arena, state of the art permanent boxes, multiple indoor arenas, a hotel, and tall trees that cast plenty of shade across the fields. We parked the car at a random parking as I didn't properly look on the map where the press parking was located. We stood right in front of the accreditation center, which came in handy, and then made our way past the para dressage arenas where we met Silke Rottermann who was photographing the training after having covered the para horse inspection earlier in the morning.
From there we wandered around to the dressage warm-up ring, where riders from different teams were working their horses. Some were just walking, others doing light work, and then there were a few who were fully cooking their horses (to perfection?!) in preparation of the show.
Lily and I then headed to the main stadium to see where all the action will take place. It was quite interesting. The arena does not look as grand as you expect at a big Championship, but gave more of a boutique CDI feeling. Of course it is hard to top the fabulous 2022 World Championships, where the judges boxes were painted in FEI purple and an ocean of purple hydrangeas surrounded the arena, and Riesenbeck is the first big championship after Herning.
The main stadium has big grandstands with seated coverage for the spectators as well as a rather low but pretty, white VIP tent in which tables have been sold for 19,000 euro a week, we've been told. The biggest eye sore was certainly the huge, grey container behind the judges' boxes at the short side at C. Such an ugly presence. I wished they had covered that either with an FEI purple banner or at least some plants. The angle from the short side was quickly ruled out as a photo option. I'm sure all will work out fine on Wednesday, but it will be a case of trial and error to find the most picturesque angle depending on the floorplan of the tests.
We meandered to the press center through the still empty trade fair and found a big, spacious conference room in the on-site hotel from where the journalists will do their work. A friendly young lady helped us out with the press cards, lockers, and other details. On her table was a plate with haribo candy and I saw Lily take one, then another and another and I felt cheeky enough to also grab some sweets from the plate as we got settled in. We said hello to Leanjo de Koster and Monique, Stefan Lafrentz and Tomas Holcbecher, and Jon Stroud.
Petra, Lily and I then went back to the warm-up to do a bit more shooting, before we made dinner plans to eat at a local pizza place in town: one of the very few restaurants open on a Monday. We cheered to a fantastic week and I ate the weirdest pizza ever in my life: a calzone which turned out to be a plain salad with a pizza crust around it. Oh well.
We returned to the apartment, worked a bit on the computer, looked at the photos of the day and made a mental plan for tomorrow as the horse inspection will start at 7h50 in the morning. I better get ready for that.
Text and Photos © Astrid Appels
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Eurodressage Coverage of the 2023 European Dressage Championships