Saturday, June 6, 2015

Geeking Out at a Horse Show

I'll just warn you straight off - this is a post that will only interest my daughter and perhaps one other friend of mine. I won't feel bad if you don't read on, especially since it has nothing to do with expat life, Swabia, Germany, or food.

It's all about horses.

Not long ago I read in the local paper that there was to be a horse show (featuring show jumping) at a stable near us. I've been tempted to pop in at other local horse shows, but either the drive or bad weather made me change my mind. Today it is a gorgeous sunny day, and this particular horse show was less than ten minutes away by car.

I have no idea who these riders are. But this is what I do at horse shows - take pictures. And I could do it all damn day. I am out of practice, though, so the horses are not as sharp as they should be. I'll work on that.

The real pull, though, was that a rider I really admire was on the list of competitors - Michael Jung. His riding and training facility is also nearby, so he's a local boy. He is featured in the sports section of our local paper rather often, but here's the universally interesting thing: he's a flippin' Olympic Gold Medalist! In 2012 he won the individual and team golds for eventing. He has won European Championships, German Championships, and a few weeks ago he won first and third place at the Rolex Three Day Event in Kentucky. For the non-horsey people who might still be reading, he rode two different horses, which is how he could place twice.

These are not Michael Jung yet. He was the finale, in that I left after he competed. 

One interesting thing about this small show is that the warm-up ring is the show ring also.
While one pair is competing, the next one or two are warming up in the same ring.

I was trying not to raise suspicion or look like a stalker (or worse, paparazzi), but I might have failed. At one point I went into a building near the show ring to get out of the sun, and a guy came over to someone sitting near me to ask a question. I glanced over, and it was Michael. Ho. Lee. Crap. After I popped my eyeballs back into my skull, I realized he's just a regular guy, in the way that Thomas Müller is a regular guy, or Aaron Rogers. As M said later, he puts his riding pants on one leg at a time, too. Yeah, still. I could have walked over and said something to him, but he looked like he was enjoying his lunch and I didn't want to interrupt. I probably would have stuttered anyway or said something embarrassing.

I had the best angle at this jump, which is why most of the postable photos are of this one. I don't know who these riders are either, but they've got good-looking horses!

I was standing right at the rail near the entrance/exit from the ring, and I was conscious of not wanting to scare the horses with the clickclickclick of my camera. Such a thing shouldn't scare them, but you'd be amazed what freaks these guys out. A flag, a hat, a puddle, a box that didn't bother them in one direction, but from the other direction it totally looks like something that might eat them... Poor Michael had a rail down because his young horse got distracted by the horse and rider that were standing quietly at the gate waiting for their chance to step into the ring. Thank God he said that after they finished, because I did not want the problem to have been my camera!

This is still not Michael Jung, but it's the fence where he and his horse had a rail down -
coming straight at the camera!
I was only there for about 2 1/2 hours, and I saw horse after horse ride the same jumps in the same order, lamenting only that I couldn't stand in the ring to take my photos like the official photographer. If I had stayed another four or five hours I would have been able to see Michael ride again, and on a horse I've heard of - der Dürer. But it was hot and I was alone. If it had been partially cloudy or if my daughter had been with me, I/we would still be there.

The horse I saw Michael ride is Daniels Jack. And here they are:

As I headed back to the car staring dreamily at all these beautiful horses, I spotted them again. Thank goodness he was looking in the other direction, or he might have finally started getting nervous about this creeper with the camera. (There were no other people around with big cameras once the official photographer left.) But at least Jack looked at me!

Seriously, I could watch and photograph horses all day long. 

Update: As if to punctuate that sentence, M offered to return to the show today (Sunday) and give me some photography pointers. Between the two of us we took a few hundred pictures, and here are some highlights for those of you who didn't already have enough.

Photo credit: M

Photo credit: M

Photo credit: M


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, Dan! They look especially good in the small version - then you can't see the "motion blur". :-)

  2. So awesome! The Rolex thing is intense. Also, about horses being afraid of stupid things: my little 4H mare was really unflappable and didn't care about the barn owner's grandkids lighting fireworks around the outside of the barn (which is a totally dumb thing to do) but always freaked out about a beam of light that came through the arena and always spooked by it. My friend leased her after I said and said "that *&^% lightbeam!" I knew what she was talking about immediately. I'm soooo sad that I can't ride any more because I just love it and Germany is fantastic for Dressage. Sigh.

    1. So you're into horses, too?! We ought to meet one of these days - maybe at a horse show halfway between our towns. :-) There's just no telling what will freak horses out, is there? One of the horses my daughter rode didn't like tripods, though I guess they could like a bit like a giant insect. I'm pretty sure I'll be contacting a Reitstall nearby to start riding again. Only bad thing is that I can't ride and take pictures at the same time!

  3. Eek, not sure if it ate my comment or not. Anyway, I love horses too but can't ride any more so that's a sad thing. I did 4H as a teen and then was a working student for an FEI Dressage instructor in between degrees. I bought my horse there and had him for about 10 years. I even had a small farm when I was in Michigan. Then I gave my horse to my best friend to pack her husband around, sold my house, and found out that I can't ride any more.

    We should hang out, for sure. Did you know that the Maimarkt has a great horse show too? I'm a huge fan of the Maimarkt in Mannheim in general anyway, but the horse show makes it especially awesome. I know that there's show jumping and I think Dressage too. I also think that there are competitions for those with disabilities. It's a cool market, for sure.

    1. I didn't see another comment this morning except for this one. Sorry if it ate a previous comment. It seems the comments feature is unreliable lately!

      You were much more serious about horses than I was. I did 4H and took lessons but never showed. I spent a lot of time working with and around horses and learning as much as I could. My daughter competed at the hobby level, and we leased a horse for her for a few years. Great experience for both of us! I had not heard of the Maimarkt, but I just googled it. Looks cool (I can put up with crowds of people when there are horses to be seen and photographed :-)) That could be a good place to meet!

  4. I'm not a competitive person so I've never been much into showing. As a 4Her, I loved being able to be in "charge" of my leased mare for a week during fair and do everything for her, including cleaning the stalls; the showing was secondary to that :) (Am I weirdo for actually enjoying horse chores?) So, no worries, I'm by no means a fancy horse person. I've always liked lessons and trail riding way more than I've liked showing. I'm more about the journey, so to speak, and not the destination.

    Anyway, sometimes I am in the Stuttgart region and will be more so now that my friends are moving there. We should meet up, for sure. The Maimarkt won't be for another year so maybe after the summer I'll be in the area and will drop a line if so.

    1. You are absolutely NOT a weirdo for liking horse chores. It's something non-horsey people don't get, but any work that involves being around horses is enjoyable (too bad it's not the same with people, eh?). Cleaning stalls, cleaning tack, grooming... The smell and warmth of a horse is therapeutic; it's no wonder they are used for all kinds of therapy.

      Meeting in Stuttgart sounds great (or in beautiful Esslingen - even better!). Send me an email when you're planning and we'll work something out.

  5. When I had my own farm, I rode way less often than I had when I boarded, but I loved being around the big lugs and taking ccare of them. It was so funny because I'd go out to brush one horse and the others would get jealous and try to insert themselves between the brush and the intended horse. It reminds me of when dogs do that!

    Sure, I'll make contact in the future.