Postcard from Fabulous Falsterbo

Coach Melanie Smith Taylor on the U.S. show jumping team's exploits at this Swedish show on the European tour, which featured a big win by Hillary Dobbs--and the well-known sport of...bunny jumping!

July 20, 2008 — Hello everyone! Here’s a summary wrap-up for the week of Falsterbo.

We all arrived in Copenhagen Tuesday and Wednesday and drove over what I call the “bridge to nowhere” as the half leaving Denmark is a tunnel rising out of the Baltic Sea midway onto a spectacular bridge simulating a sailboat that stretches to the coast of Sweden. But when viewed from the air, the bridge looks as if it empties you into the sea.

The horse show puts us all up at a hotel in Malmo, which is right across the water from Copenhagen and the third largest city in Sweden. The show in Falsterbo is a good 35-minute drive. Shuttles were also provided out to the small peninsula town surrounded on three sides by beaches. This area is packed with people and campers. I am told that most of Sweden plans a holiday to attend this show. It is bumper-to-bumper traffic at peak times arriving and leaving the show. The show grounds are wall-to-wall people.

Falsterbo has a huge trade fair and the arena is surrounded with bleachers that remain full all day. Dressage is going on concurrently with the jumping–also young horse classes and, best of all, bunny jumping! The world champion rabbit show jumpers perform here. We priced a few of them and they are a good deal–average price for a good bunny jumper is $65! You can Google or YouTube them for further entertainment.

Rain has been coming off and on all week, blowing in off the sea from many directions. You never know from minute-to-minute whether to don a jacket or remove a layer. A raincoat should never be out of reach. We have all been caught off guard when the sun was shining when we left the barn only to be drenched up at the ring moments later. Sunscreen has not been necessary.

We have also had a bit of drama here and there. We only have four riders–Nicki Simpson, Hillary Dobbs, Charlie Jayne and Michael Morrissey–instead of the normal five at this show. Lauren Hough will join us for Hickstead and Dublin. We need all horses and riders to stay healthy.

Friday morning of the Nations’ Cup found Nicki on the ground writhing in pain. She had been stepped on as she hopped off her horse. The steel caulk in the horse’s shoe had ripped a hole in her boot and gone through to her big toe. She just kept saying, “I’ll be all right, I’ll be all right!” The paramedics tended to her and suggested she put her boot back on and not take it off until after she finished riding today, which was fine because the last thing Nicki wanted to do was look at it. Fortunately the toe didn’t swell, just turned glorious colors immediately–red being the main one.

Everyone did their part in the Nations’ Cup. Michael led off with Crelido and posted our best total scores of 4 and 0. Hillary with Quincy B in her first European show was solid with 8 and 4. Charlie on Urbanus mirrored Hillary with 4 and 8. Nicki on Dragonfly rode like a champ and produced a first-round clear, but the mare faded in the second round with 12. We ended up in a tie for second place behind Denmark (Achaz von Buchwald, Denmark’s chef, reminded me that he had been second to us last year!).

Saturday was a super day for us, especially for Hillary, who with Corlett had qualified for the derby with a second place on Friday. The derby course was enormous with all the natural obstacles that none of them had ever seen. The class was run in the pouring rain, which made the footing a bit dicey adding to the difficulty of the marathon course. Only 2 combinations jumped clear, and Hillary was the only double clear to win handily. Charlie on Gangsta was a strong 7th place finisher with only 4 faults. They were our only 2 entries.

Today was grand prix day and the best word to describe our performances is consistent. Everyone had 3 rails down–Michael/Scarabaras, Hillary/Quincy, Charlie/Urbanus and Nicki/Tomorrow. Tired horses may have played a small role–more travel and showing than we are used to in America, possibly.

But everyone is in great spirits and ready to move on to the challenges of Hickstead in England next week!

Oh, I must not forget about the show class today that was basically for spectators. One American along with other foreign riders was asked to participate in the Ride and Drive competition, and Charlie volunteered! He had to ride his horse over a speed course, then jump off in a flying leap to a scooter/bike which he rode to the middle of the ring (the clock continues to run), and then he jumped in a Volvo pulling a horse trailer and drove through a course of cones with tennis balls perched on top. Knocking off a tennis ball incurs the same penalty as knocking down a rail. He finished by flooring it through the water jump with the trailer practically leaping off its hitch and then screeching to a halt just past the finish line. He wound end up 4th with his valiant effort as we dissolved in laughter.

Bye for now, cheers and on to the next event!

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