I am so happy to be here at Hof Börnsen, training with Judy Allmeling and Sven Dapper. Maybe as one would expect in Germany, the quality of the training is very high, even among the hobby riders. The horses I have ridden have an ingrained understanding of throughness and half halts, although there is always something to be worked on. They are relaxed and happy; they are shiny and fit with super muscles. All of them know what your pocket is for (keeping a treat), and there is a bottomless bag of stale bread in the barn to feed as reward. The trainers are in-tune with horses and know what they are feeling. Judy and Sven intimately know which bit each horse is using, which brushes are theirs, which horse is turned out when and even if a particular horse has loose manure. I had heard rumors about “horse mills” in Germany where the training is mechanical and not individualized, but this barn is opposite from that! As far as caring for the horses, they are concerned about all the same aspects that we are, such as saddle fit, teeth floating, the chiropractor, etc.
In the barn, the brooms are the exact kind that witches ride on. The dogs come hang out in the stable. The wheelbarrows are ridiculously tiny. They use metal pitchforks. Instead of shovels, they use the scoops for everything. And the hay smells amazing.
Last weekend, I went to groom at a show for Sven and Joanna, Judy’s daughter. We braided and groomed and took off late morning to the show (“a little local one”) about 45 minutes away. Two rings were set up for dressage, plus a grass ring for jumping. There were only two or three classes in the 20 x 60 meter ring, which lasted all day, and a couple early classes in a 20 x 40 meter ring, each with three judges. The footing was red dirt/clay. There was a built-in tent that sold coffee, sandwiches (in the morning) and cake (in the afternoon). There was also a pizza place, a German food place, two bars, a tack store and a big fancy tent with a menu for seated dining. Almost any of horses could have shown up at an American show and won. There was a range of riders from quite good to pretty good, and the horses all knew their jobs and were well trained. Classes were about 30 to 40 people, and at the end of the class there was a prize ceremony for the top six. Joanna got second, Sven got third—both with over 68 percent. Between grooming the horses, we ate and drank and watched. As you could imagine, it was a blast!
The day after the show, we took some of the horses on a trail ride around the town. We left the barn down a dirt road through the woods and between fragrant fields of rapeseed. We headed into a neighborhood with dogs, bicycles, people with strollers and cars, then took the same road back. The dressage horses had no problem navigating the streets of the town.