Since I am writing this blog in order to include you on the inside of my professional life, I will continue the saga of how Catherine Haddad Staller manages to pull herself out of a blue funk and get back on her feet.
The World Cup left me desolate and ready to hang up my spurs for a myriad of reasons. I had to kick myself in the backside to move on from there. Coming to a decision about my career and the near future was the first step in doing that, and rekindling my hope that a sponsor might step out of the woodwork to lend a hand in my dilemma is a further boost in the right direction. See previous blog.
Then I had to get back in the saddle and start training my horses again. I had to find my joy of riding. I did that a few weeks ago. I haven’t gone anywhere without W or Cadillac since June 15 (oh, except for the 17-21 of June when I taught in Sweden and France—crickey). Slowly, Rita, surely, both horses are getting back on track.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have two very capable riders at home who can keep my horses going for short periods of time with absolutely impeccable riding. Unfortunately, I lose my feel and my fine touch for these big, sensitive, powerful moving horses when I don’t ride them regularly. I have to stay home, stay in the saddle and keep training myself. As much as I love teaching, I have to find a different way to support my bid for the London Olympics.
So W and I have been training HARD, and Cadillac and I have been training SOFT for some pending Grand Prix starts this summer. Two different horses, two different approaches, hopefully the same result.
I took both horses with me to the WDM Falsterbo last weekend. W competed in the five-star, and Cadillac came along for some training and to have a look at his first horse show in 18 months. None of us were ready for this show. W is still not tuned up after his post-World Cup training pause, and I haven’t quite got my mojo back after traveling so much. Cadillac is almost ready to do a Grand Prix test after recovering from his injury last year, but I didn’t want to push his first start without being really ready for it.
So even though none of us was ready to do a big show, I KNEW that I had to “get back on the horse that bucked me off”—better sooner than later.
Three things happened at Falsterbo to really turn me around:
Firstly, Cadillac was so happy to be with us again that it brought joy to my heart. He was stabled next to Anky’s Salinero at the show, and both of them stood proudly in their boxes, exchanging looks and tosses of the head like two reigning monarchs observing the action at mounted games. I think they might have shared some notes on convalescence and recovery. I sat down and watched my big, black horse with his head over the stall door, ears forward, eyes bright, ready to work whenever asked, and I thought to myself, “I taught him that.”
Cadillac used to hate traveling and showing. He used to be scared of his own shadow. On this trip to Falsterbo he ate with gusto, trained with gusto and looked very, very happy to back in the game.
Secondly, Winyamaro was not ready to compete when I put him in the truck in Vechta. For the last two weeks at home, he has been lazy, stiff, resistant and the epitome of a Thelwell caricature. Trot? Bounce? Carry myself? Show expression? No thank you, I would rather look at myself in the mirror. I’m busy growing out my forelock…
I swear he is a pony trapped in a sport horse’s body.
At least he was, until he stepped out of the truck at Falsterbo. He picked up his head, listened to the rock music blasting across both the dressage and jumping stadiums, tossed his forelock, grew two hands taller and announced, “I have arrived.” I spent the next four days trying to stay on.
Needless to say, Rita, it was not our best show from a technical standpoint with me struggling to keep the little beast in the arena, but we had rockin and rollin FUN and the huge crowd LOVED our freestyle. We were fifth in both the Grand Prix and the freestyle at the five-star with scores based mostly on enthusiasm and sheer impulsion. I’m not pleased enough with my own riding to show you the whole test, but have a look at the CROWD in Falsterbo!
Thirdly, being at the show was wonderful. I had briefly forgotten how much I love to horse show, particularly in Sweden where I have a lot of friends. The atmosphere at Falsterbo is akin to a rock concert at the beach, with the smell of charcoal and grilling food wafting over the entire venue. The footing is excellent, the jumping is thrilling, the dressage competition is fierce, the spectators are so thick that you can’t get from one end of the show to the other without a bit of physical maneuvering, and THE SPONSORSHIP AT THIS SHOW IS AS GOOD IF NOT BETTER THAN ANYWHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD!
Now Rita, I have to say a big thank you to the creators of the WDM at this point. The five-star tour that has been established for dressage has brought a whole new dimension to our sport, and I can’t tell you how good it feels to come home with a big check in hand after a weekend of well fought competition. Show jumpers are used to this; we in dressage are still surprised to make a profit on the weekend!
I would love to name all the top sponsors at the Falsterbo Show in this blog, but I risk leaving one or two off the list. Suffice to say, Sweden’s top companies and the committed sponsors of the WDM combine forces to make this show one of the best in the world, and this rider is really grateful for your efforts! Thank you.
For those of you who are disappointed that I did not get on the team for Aachen, don’t be. There will be another team at another time, and I needed to put some money in the bank this month. My choice to go to Falsterbo rather than accept a consolation start in the Aachen CDI**** was part of that plan. So when the USEF High Performance Committee opted for other riders in Aachen’s CDIO*****, I just packed up and went to Sweden.
In the meantime, I wish the best to my fellow Americans who are riding for the team this week in Aachen: Steffen Peters with Ravel, Guenter Seidel with U II, Todd Flettrich with Otto, and Jan Ebeling with Rafalca. Good luck and good riding!
I’m Catherine Haddad, and I’m saying it like it is in Vechta, Germany.
Training Tip of the Day: When your horse lets the excitement of a venue take over, ride FORWARD and go for it! (Just try to stay in the arena.)