The first event of Poland’s Strzegom Summer Tour is taking place this weekend and we’re excited to have someone to cheer for! Aki Joy Maruyama, a 20-year-old from Atlanta who rides for Japan, and her horse Balou Moon are entered in the CCI1*. She and Balou have been living in Belgium since April 2019, training and working under Kai Steffen Meier and Lara de Liedekerke.
Aki Joy moved to Florida in high school to be a working student for Kyle Carter with her horse J’Espère, whom she successfully competed through the two-star level. She bought Balou, an offspring of Balou du Rouet, from Joe Meyer and although he can be a bit high strung and difficult, their partnership has been steadily progressing.
Aki Joy’s mother, Monica Maruyama, says that living in Belgium has been hard on her daughter. “She doesn’t speak French and though she lives in a gorgeous 400 year old castle, she has little time for relaxation,” Monica says. “She is also very homesick for Florida especially in the winter where the cold is blistering. (I was shocked to see unsightly chilblains on her legs! I had never heard of it but it’s like frostbite and apparently common over there, but summer is so nice and cool compared to the terrible Florida heat) but she is getting an invaluable experience being coached on many different horses by Kai and Lara and will probably remain under their excellent guidance for a few more years.”
The pair had a solid first outing at the two-star level at Waregem last year but, after retiring on cross country at Westerstede last month, they are opting to drop down a level for Strzegom. “It was the first show of the season and though her coaches thought she was plenty ready, he is a spooky horse and was a little overwhelmed,” Monica says. “They will build back up, competing next week again in the 1* in France and if all goes well, back to the 2* at her home turf in Arville in Belgium in August.”
Best of luck to you, Aki Joy and Balou!
Strzegom’s summer tour encompasses this competition and another during the third week of July. This weekend, almost 140 horse/rider combinations representing 13 countries will contest CCI1*, CCI2*, CCI3* and CCI4* divisions. The CCI4*-S division has 12 entries, including Katrin Khoddam-Hazrati of Austria; Lara de Lidekerke-Meirer of Belgium; Heike Jahncken, Nicolai Aldinger and Kai-Steffen Meier of Germany; Merel Blom, Raf Kooremans and Jordy Wilken of the Netherlands; and Mateusz Kiempa of Poland. Merel Blom and The Quizmaster with 28.4 points are leading in CCI4*-S after dressage test.
The event will start on Friday with dressage followed by show jumping on Saturday and cross country on Sunday.
Due to sanitary restrictions, the event will take place without audiences and media. However, there will be live streaming available on the official website of the show and Facebook.
Live video schedule:
Show Jumping – Saturday, July 4, 12 – 6 p.m. local time (6 a.m.-12 p.m. EST)
Cross Country: Sunday, July 5, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. local time (3 – 9 p.m. EST)