Aachen….where to begin? Its hard to describe the feeling of walking Christine Bates’ horse Adelaide Hill around the grass arena’s , as riders like Ingrid Klimke and Marcus Ehning just casually stroll past you! These are the riders that have inspired and continue to inspire me everyday so it is a very surreal and cool experience. Going into Aachen I was both very excited and nervous.I had never been to a show of such calibre so it was a little daunting! Christine and I both laugh at how OCD we are, we enjoy everything being orderly, so being in a different country with unfamiliar surroundings can be quite tricky. however, once greeted by the large Australian banners streaked across the stables it quickly felt like home.
Once Adelaide was settled into his stable I took him for a walk around the grounds. To get to the grass arena where you were able to warm up, lunge, hand walk and graze you went through a maze of stable blocks and crossed over various paths which included bypassing the amazing trade stalls, to this point Adelaide was his normal chilled self, however this quickly changed when low and behold the marching band got starters. Oh my gosh I don’t think I have seen a horses eyes pop out of their head more than Adelaide’s did haha…once that passed he was a man on a mission to get to the grass. We joke at home that when he comes in from the paddock in the afternoons his head is always fat, we suspect it is because his piggy self just eats and eats and eats, he very much enjoyed the Aachen grass after his long travels across from the UK.
On the Friday Christine and Adelaide put there best foot forward to produce two fabulous results in both the show jumping and dressage arena. It was a very proud groom moment as I watched them make their way down the centreline looking very much the part with the Australian flag proudly stitched onto the saddle blanket.
I made sure that I always gave myself at least 45 minutes to get Adelaide ready, it was important to me that he looked the best he could, fortunately he is already very handsome so he makes my job quite easy! Lots of gear cleaning, baby oiling, makeup and brushing! Once Christine mounted Adelaide I would quickly follow with my little bag filled with everything you could possibly need before entering the ring- sponges, towels, brushes, studs, baby wipes, camera, whip and everything in between! The horses were all turned out to such an incredible standard. One thing I noticed that over in the UK they tend to do lots and lots of little tiny plaits so I was very relieved when Christine said it wasn’t what she wanted.
One of the highlights of the whole event was being in amongst the warm up; wether that be waiting to take the boots off or walking Adelaide around. I was so proud to be wearing the Australian uniform, I felt apart of something very special. I was seriously impressed by the professionalism of not only the riders but also the stewards and marshals, it was really outstanding. The grooms at Aachen were treated with such respect; we were given three free meals a day (who am I to turn down free food!) and had access to almost everywhere on the grounds including the fabulous trade stalls which I made full use of and definitely put a dent in the bank account. The grooms were all great and it is so lovely when passing grooms from other countries and you can exchange a nice smile and hello. I became particularly close with Andrew Hoy’s groom Katie Dutton. Grooming can be a tough gig at times especially when things don’t always go to plan so it is always nice to have the support of other grooms!
On Saturday morning cross country approaches , and the stables are always in madness with everyone trying to organise ice, studs, the cool down and gear. Unfortunately team Bates had a disappointing morning with the decision to withdraw Adelaide due to presenting lame out of the stable for XC. Although this is not the result anyone was hoping for, Adelaide and Christine had proven themselves at an international level and I felt very proud of them both.
There is definitely a certain feeling in the air on cross country day and even the horses could feel it, so much excitement and adrenaline! I was lucky enough to go sit in the main stadium and watch the riders over the last few fences. A highlight would definitely be watching Chris Burton come through the finish line. You can see how he earns the title of being the fastest cross country rider in the world. The cool down is always a bit of a stressful period for grooms, you want to make sure you get the horse cooled down as fast as possible especially in the German heat, lots of water being thrown everywhere, sometimes not actually on the horse but the people around it haha.
As I left Aachen on the Saturday night, exhausted and very poor I was filled with such excitement and so many great memories. It is an event that I think everyone should put on their bucket list wether you are horsey or not, there is something for everyone. As a groom I walked away with more respect and knowledge of the sport I love and it opened my eyes to the opportunities that the equestrian world can offer. I was able to make friends with grooms from all different countries and feel apart of something very special. It was tiring, emotional and at times overwhelming , but totally rewarding and I loved every minute of it and am super proud to have been a part of Team Bates.
Groom Izzy over’n’ out