One thing I’ve learned over my past four days in Germany is that you just never know what’s going to happen next.
Some things are predictable.
OK, so the random falconry exhibition immediately following cross-country was a bit of a surprise. I snapped a few photos and shuffled back into the media tent, ready to chug espresso and do some writing while the weirdness died out.
A few minutes later: the “Chariots of Fire” theme song and the roar of the crowd. That falcon must be really putting on a show!
I wandered back out in time to see Andreas Dibowski thundering around the ring on a proud-looking RH Butts Leon. At 18 years old, the horse’s prolific career has taken him around the world and back, literally. His accomplishments include two clear cross-country rounds at the Olympics, two World Equestrian Games, 2nd place finishes at Badminton and Pau, and a win and a 2nd right here in the 2009 and 2011 Luhmühlen CCI4*s.
Andreas took his partner over a few final jumps in the ring and they looked as keen as ever. The crowd clapped in time with the music and waved white handkerchiefs as they galloped past. It was a deserving tribute and touching farewell to one of Team Germany’s most accomplished equine athletes.
Luhmühlen sure knows how to put on a show, and it’s no surprise that this event is a destination for equestrian enthusiasts from all of Europe and beyond.
The 62-horse competition itself is, of course, Luhmühlen’s centerpiece. But the organizers seem to understand that it’s in everyone’s best interest to build out the schedule in a way that capitalizes on the excitement of the event. In addition to falconry and grandiose retirement ceremonies, there are breed inspections, pony brigades, bagpipes and karaoke at night for anyone who dares.
Luhmühlen is at once spectacular and user-friendly, not so crowded that you have to fight for a glimpse of the water complex but large enough to do justice to the big deal that this CCI4* actually is. The course is a work of art and the quality of horses here is astonishing.
The dog-watching is pretty exciting, too.
Also, a shout-out to the cutest outriders in the land…
…and to parents who pull their kids around in wagons.
It’s been an exciting day and I can’t wait to see how the rest of the weekend shakes out. The CCI4* inspection begins at 9 a.m. CEST (3 a.m. ET), with show jumping from 11:15 to 12:30 CEST (5:15 to 6:30 a.m.). Until then, gute nacht!