Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Luhmuhlen Wrap-Up by Kelley Merette

Jet lag strikes again! I just boarded the train I’m taking from New York down to Wilmington, where Jennie will pick me up and take me back to True Prospect. Ping and I landed at JFK last night and he traveled very well and is safely to Newburg for the next couple days, as is standard US entry quarantine procedures. There were so many fun, interesting, and positive parts of our trip but it’s always nice to be back home, and I’m definitely ready to see my dog and sleep where no one is yelling in German! The weekend definitely didn’t finish as planned for Team Cambalda (as Nina dubbed our group) but I think that there are also a lot of positives to take away from this trip (not least that Ping seems to be getting a little better about air travel!).

First of all, props to Will and his two lovely horses for stellar performances this weekend, they did the US proud and both of those horses have yet to show us their full potential. What an exciting thing for him heading into 2012! I’m so proud of Jennie and Ping’s performance on Friday in the dressage, scoring so well in their first 4 star is really commendable, especially considering the electric atmosphere and the fact that part of the dressage arena blew over while she was circling the ring waiting for the bell – thank goodness it didn’t happen 30 seconds later when she was in the middle of her test! Friday night, we learned that European eventers put the Americans to shame when it comes to evening festivities – I never realized Clayton was such a good singer!

Jennie seemed to be in an excellent state of mind going into the cross country on Saturday – focused and confident that she and Ping were ready to tackle the course. Again, it was a cool, blustery day with periods of rain showers (the whole second part of our trip felt like English weather!) We were in good spirits from Will’s great ride with Missy (Andromaque) in the morning, so as Jennie’s start time approached I booted up Ping and checked his girth one more time and Jennie donned her helmet with Boyd’s helmet cover, a tribute to our family at home and the horses lost in the fire. Once Jennie was out of the start box, Lillian and I booked it over to the sunken road combination where we saw the second stop at the C element, then ran to the third water combination before heading back to the finish area where we heard of the third run-out. Let me make a point of this now, so there will not be an misunderstanding, conjecture, or speculation – Jennie rode like a champion, and gave Ping an extremely positive ride. He showed his youth and inexperience out on course, but the lessons to be taken from that ride have been well-learned. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the pair, they don’t make the same mistakes twice, and you can bet that the next time they come out, they will be twice as prepared and three times as tenacious. There should be no doubt that this pair is still destined for great success at the international level in the future.

From my perspective, obviously the most important thing is that the two of them return to the stable safe and sound, and that was thankfully true. Ping came home acting ready to go right back out there. It was also so eye-opening to be a part of the eventing scene outside of the USA. How strange to know hardly anyone at a competition, but so interesting to watch many of the top horse and rider combinations in the world. The level of rider skill and talent of the horses is incredible, and we definitely didn’t leave the event without making many new friends. Everyone we met, from riders, grooms, and event staff was so welcoming and gracious to us. I feel so fortunate to have been a part of this experience, and hope I will get to someday return to Luhmuhlen, as it is a fantastic venue and should definitely remain one of the best courses in the world.

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