“It’s better than Disneyland,” said Sherrie Martin, shortly after daughter Caroline completed the first horse inspection with Islandwood Captain Jack. And you know what? I’ve spent a full day ricocheting my way around CHIO Aachen, getting lost in its rabbit warrens of opulence and excess and exceptional equestrian sport, and the only thing I’ve managed to say about it all is that I can’t find the words to describe a first visit to this incredible place. Thank god for mums, eh? They save the day in mysterious ways.
She’s right on the money, for what it’s worth – the sheer scale and attention to detail here gives it the vibe of a horse addict’s theme park, complete with comical mascots, branding in the most innocuous of places, and an evident love for every facet of the sport and everyone within it. Nothing is too much to ask for here, and in almost every instance, my expectations have been blown out of the water. You get the sense that the casual viewer – or the diehard fan – of the sport is every bit as important as the world-class riders contesting the various disciplines, as important as the support teams behind the incomparable equine athletes roaming the multitude of arenas, and the owners tying the whole thing together. And you know what? That’s exactly as it should be.
I’ll save you a full-on love letter to the place – for now – in favour of diving into what we’ve all actually been getting up to amidst the madness. The first horse inspection took place this afternoon for the CCIO4*-S – a team competition, though not actually part of the FEI Nations Cup series – and gave us our first chance to take a look at the field in the flesh.
Presided over by a ground jury made up of Martin Plewa (GER), Anne-Mette Binder (DEN), and Peter Andrew Shaw (AUS), the trot-up saw 44 horse and rider combinations come forward, representing 10 nations. Though it largely passed without drama, our sole Japanese entrant will not proceed to dressage: Kazuma Tomoto‘s World Equestrian Games mount, Tacoma d’Horset, was unfortunately spun after being re-presented from the hold box. We’ll be sad not to cheer on one of eventing’s sunniest talents this week, but look forward to seeing the dynamic duo in action again soon.
Our American contingent has been whittled down to three after the pre-competition withdrawal of Tamie Smith and Wembley, but Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z, Phillip Dutton and Z, and Caroline Martin and Islandwood Captain Jack each sailed through with aplomb.
The field this week is mind-bogglingly competitive, as befits a competition dubbed the World Equestrian Festival, and will guarantee some incredible viewing in each phase. We’ve got five-star winners in the mix: both Tim and Jonelle Price bring forward Luhmühlen winners in Wesko and Faerie Dianimo, respectively, while Ingrid Klimke brings forward her Pau winner, former European Champion, previous Aachen victor, and general legend of the sport SAP Hale Bob OLD. Chris Burton will pilot last year’s runner-up Quality Purdey for a second attempt at the title, and Michael Jung rides FischerChipmunk FRH as one of his entries in the event.
Wherever you are, you’ll be able to live-stream the competition through ClipMyHorse.tv, and for those of you who like to enjoy a deep-dive into what makes a class like this so eminently intense, both SAP and EquiRatings will have some real treats in store for fans. Keep it locked onto EN, and we’ll funnel all the good stuff through to you (although I’m keeping the beer and sausages for myself, and I am entirely without remorse.)
The competition gets underway bright and early tomorrow morning, with dressage starting at 8.30 a.m. /7.30 a.m. BST/2.30 a.m. EST. Our US team will ride at the following times:
- Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z: 10.21 a.m./9.21 a.m. BST/4.21 a.m. EST
- Caroline Martin and Islandwood Captain Jack: 12.36 p.m./11.36 a.m. BST/6.36 a.m. EST
- Phillip Dutton and Z: 2.19 p.m./1.19 p.m. BST/8.19 a.m. EST
Showjumping will follow in the evening, while cross-country takes place on Saturday morning. We’ll be back with more Aachen content than you can shake a sausage at (please don’t) soon – until then, auf wiedersehen, guten abend, and GO EVENTING!