Friday, May. 24, 2024

Aachen: An Equestrian Sports Fan’s Dream Come True 

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All you need to know about my background is this: When I was a teenager, my prized possessions were a copy of Reiner Klimke’s “Klimke On Dressage,” a VHS tape of the 1997 FEI Dressage World Cup Final I watched until it broke, and a sign, purchased on a trip to Germany, that said “Dressurpferd Crossing,” which I hung in my bedroom. I took German in high school to help my “dressage career,” though I can admit neither that career nor my German skills really got off the ground. 

My heroes were Isabell Werth, Anky van Grunsven and Klimke, of course, and my holy grails were Dressage at Devon, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands, (site of that famed ’97 WCF, though I had little idea where it was at the time) and, of course, Aachen. 

Fast forward a few decades, and while I no longer have a Dressurpferd Crossing sign in my bedroom (though that Klimke book is still on my shelf), the appeal of Aachen hasn’t gone away. In fact its pull has grown even stronger in the decades since because I’ve learned more about it. I’ve seen all the photos; I’ve seen videos of some of the world’s greatest performances that took place here; I’ve learned quite a bit more about the other disciplines besides dressage. 

And now, pardon this not-even-a-little-bit-humble brag, but I’m here. My 12-year-old self couldn’t be more excited, and my 38-year-old self? Also very excited! Especially as I’ll be seeing a roster of elite dressage riders, including Charlotte Dujardin, Ingrid Klimke, Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and Charlotte Fry—plus many, many more, including our fabulous U.S. riders. 

But Aachen isn’t just about dressage, and as the Chronicle’s Official Rolex Grand Slam Chaser, I’m also closely following that show jumping story. Can McLain Ward take the title? All will be revealed in a few days. 

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Even without any horses in it and with just a few spectators (because it’s early in the week), this ring is very exciting for a horse sports nerd (me). Lisa Slade Photo

But in the meantime, I’ve visited the showgrounds for the first time. I’m not doing my job as a journalist to tell and not show, so I’ve included a photo, but the main thing that comes to mind is a very articulate, “Wow.”

For U.S. horse sports, there really isn’t a comparison to the scale and grandeur of the main stadium; it looks more like it was built for soccer or football, and the number of people streaming in even for a relatively “slow” day—the bigger classes begin later this week—was also more reminiscent of a major sporting event or a Taylor Swift concert. 

But as we know (all too well), horses are the stars here, and I can’t wait to see many of them a bit later this week. 

Follow along with the Chronicle’s Aachen coverage here

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