Since I had some extra time over the weekend, FEI dressage chair, Mariette Withages graciously invited me to attend her 2000 CDIYJ–an FEI dressage competition just for Juniors and Young Riders–in Belgium. Riders were in attendance from Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, the United States, Finland, France and Japan.
The show was held in a small town named Braine l’Alleud, about half an hour south of Brussels. Though Mariette had e-mailed me directions to the show, driving in Europe is very different from driving in the United States, and I did manage to get lost. I found a nice couple on a side street who were getting into their car. After trying to give me directions in broken English, they finally had me follow them to the street where the show was located. It’s a good thing because I’d still be driving around!
Once I arrived, I was struck by how beautiful the farm is. The main house is painted pink, so you can’t miss it from the road. The barn is lovely with high ceilings and a large indoor ring where the competition was held. Up a marble staircase is a grand seating area and the secretary’s stand with windows that look out into the competition arena. There was a large spread of delicious food for the competitors and spectators.
Watching these Juniors and Young Riders, there’s nothing young about them. They all ride and compete with the air of more experienced professionals. The quality of riding and horses is quite impressive.
After a short time, I found America’s Jackie Paxton of Batavia, Ohio, who was getting ready to ride her first horse of the day, Cinbad. She placed third on Friday and was the only Young Rider to have two horses in the competition. While Jackie had a lovely ride, she had an unfortunate off course, though she still scored in the 60s.
The Japanese team rode borrowed horses since their country has very strict quarantine requirements. They certainly had quite a cheering section!
Mariette was looking forward to the Sunday competition, as the riders were performing freestyles and pas des deux. I watched a pair practicing their pas de deux on Saturday, and somehow they did quite well considering having to navigate the crowded warm-up arena. Everyone seemed to know how to work around each other.
I made the two-hour trip home without getting lost–a first so far!