Yesterday, I rode in my first show in Germany with two horses. Brioni is a green, 7-year-old Hanoverian mare owned by a nice young lady named Pauline. Neither horse nor girl have shown before, so my job was to get Brioni out and give her some show experience. The other horse I rode is actually a pony named Der DJ (just DJ for short). He is the cutest, sweetest, most photogenic pony you will ever meet. He is for sale, so taking him to the show was one way to get him seen. He is owned by Karen Klemt, the owner of Hof Börnsen. Her son Max used to ride him before he grew too tall and began to ride horses.
There was also a German handicap-system reason I showed these horses. When we got my German Guest Rider’s License from the FN (National Federation), we got the most basic one, which is equivalent to what the lowest level German riders have (License #5). These riders can ride in schooling and certain low-level rated shows and do low-level classes. As an American, I can show the FN which levels I have shown and change my license. However, all German riders -- amateur and professional, adult and child alike -- have to do a clinic and take a test to get the #4 License. The test consists of riding (jumping and dressage, with a special exception for dressage-specialized riders) as well as a test on horsemanship and horse care. Riders with the #4 License then use scores from shows to achieve each higher license (#3, #2, #1). As you move up, you gain the right to do higher classes at higher rated shows, but you lose the ability to show in the lower-level classes and at smaller shows. There are some exceptions and the rules are not completely rigid. For example, if you were competing at Prix St. Georges at big shows, but then sold that horse and got a younger horse who you wanted to show at M level (equivalent to about Third Level), you just have to get the right paperwork completed. Bottom line, however, was that it was super easy for me with my license to get these two horses out to this show!
The show was small and cute. There had been a jumping competition last weekend, the dressage was this weekend and there will be Polo next weekend. The rings on Saturday were both 20x40m for the lower-level classes. The classes are scheduled during certain times, but you don’t get a “ride time,” like in the States. They usually schedule the class alphabetically by the horse’s name. I knew the class started at 9:00 and they were beginning with B, so I would be early on. The ponies were scheduled at the end, so Brioni was in the second spot and DJ in the last. You can find your approximate ride time if you add up how long the tests take and how many are before you.
I did the A6/2. It consists of working walk, trot (sitting) and canter, 20-meter circles, uberstreichen, leg-yield at the walk and lengthened trot and canter. And there are two people in the test at a time, one following the other. I was in front both times, which apparently is the coveted spot. A reader announces what to do to keep the horses and riders on track, although I knew the test and didn’t understand every single German word they were saying. I just listened for the word “mach,” which means “go,” so I would turn or do the transition when they wanted. The judge writes comments on both riders’ movements as they go, but gives just one score out of 10 at the end.
I got on Brioni as the wind and rain was whipping through the field where we had parked. As she jumped and bucked, I was glad it was me on her for the first time and not poor Pauline, who looked on, horrified. I went to the warm-up and the mare luckily settled right in, though she remained a little tense in her back. We rode our test with a couple mistakes where she tightened up and broke in the canter, but she got a respectable 6.4. We were all happy for her because of her stellar behavior for the first show (with the exception of the initial mounting).
We returned to the trailer to get DJ ready. Karen said to tack him up and then longe him in the field. I was curious as to why, since he has quite a reliable character, but I knew that she knew him best so we walked out there and I stuck him on the longe. He proceeded to bury his head between his knees and buck for a few circles. Then he trotted around a bit with his tail over his back snorting. Then, he was completely fine and when I got on him, he had never felt so good. I did a quick warm up and we did the test with 110-percent pony power. He was trying so hard and I was so proud of him. We got a 7.1, and 8th place out of 38 riders. Since we were the last ride, we just put on his white boots and went back in the ring for the awards and victory lap. They give ribbons to the top third of the class, no matter how many there are. They are unique colors through 5th place, and the rest are hunter green. We got our ribbon and did our little canter around. I was beside myself!
Now you know many of the differences between German and American shows, but the part that amazed me the most was the similarities. Getting ready for the show, practicing the test, packing everything, braiding, navigating your way through the warmup, meeting up with people you know at the food court, etc; they are all the same. The riding is high quality here overall, but it is the same thing we do at home. There were different kinds of horses and ponies and all different types of people, but they are all what you would find at a show in the U.S., all aiming for the same goals, enjoying the good times and working through the bad. It was amazing to think I could be here, doing this, in the land of dressage and I am not completely lost, not even close. I belonged there at the horse show!