COTH's newest blogger is sharing her adventure as an adult amateur dressage rider living in Germany.
Hey everyone! I’m Kristin Alexander, your newest COTH blogger. I’ll be chronicling my adventures (and language challenges!) riding and showing in Germany. So how does a regular, office-working, adult amateur end up in the Mecca of dressage? My husband is in the military and we moved here two years ago.The first year I lived the “normal” life; one where I worked, took vacations, and I was generally clean (no helmet hair) and didn’t have mud on any of my shoes. It was a great time, but as much as I loved seeing the sights, I really wanted to be viewing it all from the back of a horse. I was in GERMANY after all! It didn’t help that I had lived here briefly after high school as a working student, so I knew exactly what I was missing out on. When I got here, I had checked out a few barns, but they mostly catered to children (adorable ponies) and basic walk/trot lessons. I was working a weird schedule, we only had two years living here, and with the traveling I had accepted that maybe I would not end up riding after all.That all changed one day with a random meeting, at the post office of all places. I saw a woman in boots and breeches, and I gathered up my nerve and went to talk to her. The stars had aligned, and there was a horse at her barn that was in need of a rider. Little did I know it wasn’t just any horse, but a super horse! I was so nervous when I went out to try him. It had been about a year since I last rode, and I had been spending the majority of that year eating and drinking my way around Europe. Sitting trot was not exactly in my muscle memory. It was not a stellar ride by any means, but somehow I convinced them to let me lease him. I can only guess that my sweeping and tack cleaning skills learned from my last time in Germany may have had something to do with the decision! Acridos is about 17 hands, a former superstar jumper who transitioned into dressage so smoothly you would think it had been his first profession. He is the epitome of “been there done that,” and he has been lovingly referred to as “the professor.” He is one of those excellent athletes that you can just tell has always had great training and immaculate care and has the expectation that you will maintain his standards. I try every day to live up to those expectations…some days go better than others! He is not above giving me the horse equivalent of an eye roll and a big sigh, but for the most part is extremely patient as I figure out the best way to navigate all his buttons. Meeting Acridos happened about a year ago, and I can’t believe how much I have progressed. My trainer is fantastic and has kicked my butt into shape, and I’ve been doing monthly clinics. And as these things usually go, what started out as three times a week riding has progressed into six or seven, with the occasional second horse that I get the chance to ride. We started showing this summer, and I can’t even explain how neat it is to ride a horse like this at shows. He is the first schoolmaster that I’ve ever had the chance to show and is great to help me navigate the extra set of nerves that come along with foreign competitions. Aside from the riding, I’ve been enjoying the horse culture in the area. I’m a few hours from Aachen, and multiple CDIs are a short drive away. I was able to go to the Wiesbaden CDI and watch Totilas compete and still be home for dinner! Opportunities for tack shopping are all around, much to my bank account’s disappointment. There is even a tack store (incredibly well stocked) right outside of my barn. You should see the wall of breeches—I have never seen so many color and style combinations in one place. It is dangerous. As of this summer, I have two more years planned in Germany. I hope that by the end of the time my husband will be fully indoctrinated into the role of horse show husband, my German will improve beyond not such an embarrassing level, and I will have conquered the walk pirouette, my current arch nemesis. It has been an exciting adventure so far, and I can’t wait to see how the next few years play out.