As we wound our way up the curvy mountain roads into Fritzens, Austria, it was hard to resist the urge to jump out of the car and go running through the meadows singing "the hills are alive with the sound of music!"
The Swarovski family's Schindlhof show grounds are nestled in a breathtakingly gorgeous alpine setting, with soaring mountains encircling the valley. The indoor ring even has a Swarovski crystal chandelier. It was the most friendly show I have ever been to. The Swarovski family greeted every rider upon arrival and proceeded to shower us with gifts and incredible banquet dinners.
It was my first time ever showing in Europe as part of a big U.S. contingent, and it was really cool to have everyone together. Unfortunately, Wizard and I had an uncharacteristic and costly mistake coming into the first piaffe in our Grand Prix test. We were able to recover and the rest of the test was really quite nice, but we were not able to dig our way out of the hole, score-wise.
One thing you learn really fast in this sport is that you can do everything in your power to train and prepare to the best of your ability, and sometimes things can just happen in the blink of an eye that knock you off the path you had planned.
Horses can be horses and anything can happen on any given day. We finished fifth in the Grand Prix, but with a score that was lower than what I had hoped to be able to achieve. I told myself not to dwell on it, and I looked forward to the next day's freestyle competition.
When the going gets tough, it's time to dig deep and believe in yourself and your horse even more, not less. And it all worked out for my freestyle ride on Sunday. Wizard was fantastic and tried really hard for me. We had a totally clean and exciting freestyle ride, to post my all time high score of 77.4%, right behind Steffen Peters and Legolas. It was my first time ever showing a freestyle in Europe and I was thrilled that it went so well! I got a gorgeous Swarovski crystal horse trophy as a memento.
I thought everyone on the U.S. squad rode well and upped their game as the weekend went on. It was very exciting to look up at the final scoreboards and see so many U.S.
flags, placing above many great European riders. There is no doubt that the USA is making its presence known over here in Europe. Go Team!
Here are a few other photos from our time in Fritzens: