Postcard 6: 2008 Developing Rider Tour, Germany

USEF Show Jumping Developing Rider coach Melanie Smith Taylor treks uphill to a castle overlooking the town of Stein am Rhein, Switzerland, home base for the tour during this leg.

June 14, 2008 — Hello everyone! All our riders have qualified for the grand prix today beginning at 3 p.m., so I thought I would write a bit in the meantime about my morning.

I don’t always get enough sleep, but when my eyes are closed it is wonderful because of the comfortable beds with down comforters of just the right thickness, not too hot but just right. I leave the windows open for that crisp cool mountain air and the hourly soft chiming of distant church bells through the night. Some nights the sound of soft rainfall makes slumber especially deep.

Hotel Chlosterhof means “sanctuary,” and the town is full of churches with their lovely spires and bell towers.

There is an ancient castle sitting above the city that had me tempted to explore, so I decided to walk uphill instead of jogging today. I found the old path that left the road near our hotel and headed up through the vineyards. It was a real hiking trail with switchbacks and steep steps that raised my pulse rate! When I reached the top it was the most spectacular view of the surrounding countryside brimming with crops, the sleepy town of Stein am Rhein and the hustling Rhine River. I felt like I was on Lookout Mountain in Tennessee except, instead of seeing several states, I can imagine I was viewing several countries.

I was sorry I had not brought my camera, but there was no chance of my repeating that hike as my calves have now seized up. I hope my words can help you visualize. As I walked around the castle, an amazing structure, I couldn’t help but wonder how these monstrosities were built centuries ago without motorized vehicles, fork lifts and the like to put the giant stones in place–and I think our tack trunks are heavy!

My roundtrip was actually less than an hour–of course the way down took much less time. I noticed on my walk down how the city is actually walled. The houses are all connected on curves, which makes a circle around the city square where no cars are allowed. Yesterday there was a wonderful fresh fruit and veggie market set up in the square. I was salivating over the golf-ball-size bing cherries and raspberries, apricots and various other fresh fruits.

The weather has held for us–coolish but no more rain during the day yet. The Friday night class got very cold. The horses reacted with extra freshness in the lighted atmosphere. It was a good learning experience. There are times when we all gain comfort from our horses’ confidence but in this case the riders for the most part had to impart confidence to their horses, often leaving an erratic school behind them and going in the ring and just getting the job done.

So, after the grand prix, trunks and trucks are packed for an early morning departure to the layover facility in northern Italy where the horses will enjoy a bit of R&R, and the riders and grooms hopefully a bit of sightseeing. Next week is an off week before shipping an hour in Slovenia for our final show of this tour.

Have fun wherever you are–that’s what we are doing!

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