My Haflinger Horse Calysa and I were selected to participate in the European Championship for Haflingers (EUROPA CHAMPIONAT) in Austria (Stadl Paura) in 2018.  In an earlier Blogpost, I already posted the competition pictures, which you can find here.

But I thought it would also be a nice idea to share “the story behind the scenes”.

So, here we go!

August 15, 2018

I found a postcard (with me on it) at Calysa’s stable, together with a bar of Tony’s chocolate. I was SO happily surprised!

Also, my Bestie Frouke brought me a “survival package”, which was SO COOL! My friends are the best! They all knew about my doubts, my insecurities, but still supported me to pieces.

August 17, 2018

Travel in style! The team spirit was SO GOOD! Our bondscoach picked Calysa up at my stable, to go to the stable of my team member Mariska, for our first stop (and Dutch health check). As I had no transportation.

Bye bye, Calysa, adventure awaits!

August 18, 2018

Mariska’s stable is very close to the beach (near Zeeland). It is really great to ride with your horse on the beach, so I thought: let’s do it! It will be nice for Calysa as well, after all the weeks of tough dressage training, a little relaxation and fun before the trip. It was a LITTLE further than Mariska implied, and with Calysa and the other horse being a LITTLE nervous, I was REALLY happy to be back at the stable happy and healthy haha!

August 20, 2018

Arrived in Stadl Paura! After a little rest, I took Calysa for a walk to stretch her legs a little, and to go and look for our trainer, Els Schotman. She already installed her temporary home on the campsite. I really enjoyed watching Els and Calysa together (below). I had “some” issues with my trainer, or maybe more with myself. My trainer wanted me to train well, train harder, train more. But the more people push, the more I don’t want to do it. Combine it with the nerves I had and the doubts of going (I had my cancellation letter already finished), it was just tough. Also for my trainer, I know, I think I gave her BIIIGGGG headdaches!

In the afternoon, Els & I went for a walk on the site, to see the competition arena etc. OMG! I still feel my heart beating in my throat, thinking back at the moment I first saw the arena. SO BIG, SO MANY spectators possible. HELP, what if I fail?

As people may know, I’m NOT a camping person. To be honest, I only did this on (two) festivals before (under pressure haha). But, because I doubted SO long if I would go or not, all accommodations in the area were fully booked already (guys, this championship is BIG!). So, I had no other choice. I was lucky enough that I could sleep in the caravan of Karin’s parents. Karin was a team member as well. I had some problems adjusting to camping life haha, for example all the bugs! I hate wasps. While everybody was keeping calm when a wasp entered our territory, I run and locked myself indoors haha! But, I have to say, we really had a nice spot on the campsite, close to the stable and the facilities.

I was dating a guy at that time and I really, really liked him. We were dating for a short time only, but we had an amazing connection. When chilling at the campsite, he sent me following messages:

We were very philosophic. My heart leapt of joy.

I was bored as hell (god, why am I always bored haha), so in the evening I went for a walk in the forest. On my high heels haha. You see, I like to talk about horses, but not the entire day! I was a little bit horse-story-tired. It was nice, enjoying the speechless sound. Remember, I’m not used to having people around all day, and suddenly I had an entire family (a nice one though^^).

August 21, 2018

In the morning, I had my first training in the competition arena. In our sponsored outfit! I decided to reherse my freestyle, since I made some changes to it and had no chance to test if it was OK. Oh guys, this is SO ME haha! Everybody was having a professional freestyle, I made it myself, on the computer of my parents, some days before the competition^^. It was really busy in the arena, everybody wanted to train apparently at the same time (before the heath). Calysa was sweet, I was happy. But oh my, the competition was just SO GOOD! I didn’t expect that! But guess I could have, it is an European Championship…….. Haha!

The BEST thing about this Championship was maybe the fact that my mom, my sister and two of her kids were coming to support. They would arrive the next day, just before the opening ceremony. My niece is also my groom. Our ritual is to eat these crisps after competition. I took two bags with me, but at this time, they were already finished. On bag we ate as breakfast, in the car, even before we arrived in Stadl Paura, haha! So, I sent a message in our group chat, asking my niece to bring some of these as well^^.

My team mates knew that I didn’t want to talk horses or be with horses all day, so Mariska and Demi asked if I wanted to join them swimming in the canal. YASSSS! Happily, we had some bikes so there we went. It was HOT!

In the afternoon, Karin and I went to pick up our Chef d’Equipe and our team photographer, as they were stranded somewhere (not too far). Another reason to go off the site haha, I felt imprisoned. The ride was really nice, listening to our favorite music, singing loudly, while cruising the mountains. The view was spectacular.

In the evening, we had a team briefing in the stables. Our national coach and our chef d’equipe had a meeting for all the captains before the briefing – there were still a lot things uncertain – and in this meeting, they updated us about the latest developments and about the VET-check the next day. You see, I changed my high heels for flip flops in the mean time, starting to get acquainted to the camping life haha.

And we received our starting number (to attach to the bridle)(saddle pad in my case, since my horse doesn’t accept anything near her ears).

August 22, 2018

In the morning, I went to Calysa to give her some TCL (and some food) and I took her for a stretching walk. I made this video:


Our chef d’equipe Japke is SO COOL! She made goodie-bags for all the team members, also a card with a very personal message. She knew about all my doubts of going, my insecurities. And chose following message for me:

Time for the VET-check! It was a complete chaos, nobody knew when they had to show up. But as usual, in the end all works out well. I think the VET check was the thing I was most nervous about! What if Calysa was not fit to compete? All the trip, all the everything for nothing. You never know. Maybe she was stiff because of the trip, maybe she steps into a stone when presenting her to the VET’s……. OK, STOP THINKING DOOM-SCENARIOS, As! Of course, we were fit to compete! We got our official bracelet, I was happy.

In the afternoon, the first competitions already took place. My team member Nicky had to do her dressage test for the cross country. So of course, the team went to see/ support her. The complete event was being broadcasted live. My friend (in the Netherlands) sent me this App “hey, are you wearing yellow? I think I see you” and sent me this screenshot. YES! That is my! Why wear orange when everybody is wearing orange, haha.

Now that it was “official” that I had to ride (I always kept room for the unknown), I suddenly realized that the competition was coming closer and closer. And that it might be good to train a little :-). So, me and my room-mate Karin dressed up in our sponsored gear and went to the stables. Not without taking some Selfies!

And I dressed up Calysa in our National halter, which we all found in Japke’s goodiebag.

(I gave this halter with Calysa to her new owner, not realizing she is now “Belgium”, but ah well haha.)

I asked my trainer to train me this time, in the outdoor arena. Calysa was energetic! Our team photographer Mignonne took some nice pictures.

In the evening, it was time for the “Presentation of the Nations”, which means waiting, waiting… And waving with our flag! I think we had the biggest (team) discussion of the event on what to wear during this presentation. To show that I don’t always get what I want (haha), I obeyed, I’m weating white riding pants. And I survived.

Do you see me?

August 23, 2018

Time for our first competition! The starting order etc. could be found all over the Internet (only part of the big list).

I was not so happy with my starting position – being one of the first. But, it could have been worse, if I would had to start at 8h in the morning.

At work back home, they watched my ride live (on big screen):

Also my Instagram-followers were watching, tagging me in their story:

And my dear family at home sent me this, to show that they were supporting me:

In the evening, after the competition, it was time for the soundcheck of the Freestyle, the next day. I have MANY, VERY BAD experience with music suddenly not working on the “moment supreme”, so when I had to wait LONG to hear my tunes, I almost had a heart attack. But, it worked. This time, I did not screw up when putting the music on CD (sorry parents, I had to use 4 CD’s to do this, I screwed 4 CD’s up, again, I’m very sorry, hope you didn’t notice^^). I was spotted again, on the livestream, by a friend. “Are you wearing a red dress?”, yes, that’s me! ON FLEEK!

August 23, 2018

Freestyle time! Again, VERY bad starting position (in the beginning of the competition), but, after noon, so am not complaining. Happily my friends were still following and supporting me.

Freestyle went better than regular competition the day before. After my test, the audience completely went crazy! Tolles Music! I really HATED the music haha, Sound of Music, but my trainer said I HAD to use it. And in the end, I had no time to find something else. And I was happy I didn’t.

After the test, I got off Calysa, to check the scores online, and handed Calysa over to my groom Kim (my niece). Calysa is really an engel! My other niece took care of her cooling down^^. Under while I peeled my sweaty clothing off.

August 24, 2018

Calysa & I were finished, our duty was done. On the 24th, I was “off”, so I enjoyed the quiet of the caravan, listening to my own music and doing my make-up, making some Selfies. Just like a normal day in the weekend^^.