I’d just taken Ella back to the stabling after our last freestyle of Florida 2016 and my phone beeped. It was a message from Thomas Bauer, who is a Big Deal Guy—he’s part of show management not only for the Adequan Global Dressage Festival shows, but also organizer for some major European shows, and a member of the FEI Dressage Committee. He says he needs to speak to me.
And I have a middle-school flashback: what have I done? How much trouble am I about to be in?
Trying to keep my panic inside, I head back to the ring, where Thomas is waiting for me. Thomas is tall and German and not smiling. Oh God. Did I forget to fill out some paperwork? Is Ella’s passport not up to date? Does he hate my blog?
And he asks me this question: “Have you ever heard of Omaha, Nebraska?”
I have heard of Omaha, Nebraska, though I’ve never been there. But that’s about to change, because I’ve been invited to ride in International Omaha, a new CDI4* on May 5-6 and the test event for the 2017 World Cup Final!
This is super exciting—my first four-star, my first invite to anything, and the first big schlep I’ve ever made for a horse show as an adult.
But it’s also a logistical frightfest. The show could not be at a worse time of year for my clients’ competition schedule (it’s the same week as one of my favorite shows of the year, one we’d planned on sending a boatload of clients to). There is no easy way to get there; I didn’t look into flying because I can’t fathom how I could have afforded it, seeing as just putting her on a commercial van would have cost me $4-5,000 round trip, and so working student Sarah and I are driving Ella ourselves… 20-ish hours each way.
We’ll break the drive up into two days, but then that’s a four-day loss of time, and I have to figure out how to time everything such that Ella arrives with enough time to be fresh for Thursday’s Grand Prix, knowing that every day away from home is a lost day’s income.
But it’s also going to be so cool. So we’re going!
The jog is Wednesday, May 4, the Grand Prix Thursday, and the Freestyle Friday. The plan as of the moment is to leave the Sunday morning before and do slightly more than half of the drive, overnighting somewhere in Illinois (add to to-do list: find a layover barn), and then driving again all day Monday to arrive that afternoon. We can’t get into the show stabling until Wednesday, so we’ll find a local barn where Ella can kip until we can arrive at the show (add to to-do list: find another layover barn), and I think that’s all she’ll do Monday night and Tuesday—settle in, maybe go for a walk, and snooze it off.
Wednesday we’ll head to the show, and I’ll work her lightly then; hopefully we’ll get some arena acclimatization time. (Add to to-do list: confirm arena time.) Michael has also cleared that part of his week to come with (BLESS YOU MICHAEL YOU’RE AWESOME), so he can keep us from getting into trouble.
Thursday and Friday we show, along with quite the list of dignitaries, including at least two Canadian Olympians (not scary at all, no!), and we’ll head home Saturday and Sunday (add to to-do list: one more layover barn, probably in Indiana).
With three of us being there to look after one horse, we’ll probably have some spare time. I’m bringing my bike and my running shoes, because after a few weeks of training on my beautiful Virginia hills, I’ll feel like Speedy Gonzales on flat ground. And I’m taking suggestions of things to do and see while we’re in town, besides eating steak, which isn’t normally my thing, but I’ll suffer through what I hear is some of the best beef on earth. Life’s rough.
We’ll also get to watch some fun show jumping, as the International Omaha is a well established jumper show, though we’ll miss the Grand Prix on Sunday; a bummer, but them’s the breaks.
And until then, I’m trying to manage Ella’s fitness. She had her last week in Florida and about her first 10 days back in Virginia to fluff, just walk-trot-canter in the snaffle, thinking about throughness and not much else. I’m keeping her in the snaffle as I increase the work, but I’m increasing the work now, doing more piaffe and passage, and, if it’ll stop SNOWING (thanks Virginia; I want my money back), some work out on our hills for conditioning. The last week before we leave I’ll add a second set of work every day, walking in our exerciser.
And then we’re off!
I’m excited to see the new venue. I’m honored to have been asked to kick it’s proverbial tires. And I’m more than a little scared about all the details yet to figure out, including how to pay for it all. But come what may, it’ll be an exciting opportunity to ride my wonderful horse, be part of some world-class dressage in a part of the country that doesn’t often get to see it, and to eat some mighty fine steak.