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You took my breath away
One of the highlights of living in Spain for a few months was to get to do some sightseeing in the wonderful city of Barcelona - of all the cities in the world I have been to, "Barce" has to be right up at the top as a firm favourite. The words above are from the Freddie Mercury song produced for the Olympic Games in Barcelona - and they pretty much sum it up!
I'm thinking everyone must have a "Bucket List" these days huh? You know what I mean - the list of things you wish to tick off before you depart this world? Well for as long as I can remember, visiting Gallipoli has been on my bucket list. My great grandfather fought at Gallipoli and my dear Poppa was a POW in Egypt in WW2. I remember going to Anzac parades as a child and ever since then Anzac Day has been a very special day for me and I have hardly ever missed a service, no matter where in NZ or the world I have been on 25th of April each year. Being in Europe in April this year I decided that 2012 would be the time to go to Gallipoli and fulfil my dream of seeing and experiencing Anzac Day there for myself.
After the not-so-happy time we had at the show Michelle and I got in the Wookie van and high-tailed it the hell out of Toledo! We decided instead of driving straight back to Barcelona we would stop about half way and sightsee for a day or two in Valencia.
A good friend of ours from a previous visit - Carmen - was there to greet us and be our tour guide. She found us fabulous stables to put Wookie in - and he was the star attraction - a big ginger Hanoverian amongst all the Spanish horses. The stable manager Vicente swapped a ride on Wookie for two nights of stabling - I didn't refuse the offer. I also did an impromptu demonstration on him at lunchtime in front of the restaurant there - we drew quite a crowd!
Ever wondered where that saying comes from? It comes from the Holy ancient city of Toledo - just out from Madrid. It's a city that is a World Heritage site and was once the capital of the Spanish Empire. Toledo has been populated since the Bronze Age and its a place where the religious cultures of the Moors, Jews, Arabs and Catholics are entwined throughout history. It's a very popular spot with the tourists in Spain and it was also the city that hosted my next show - the Toledo CDI 3*.
Before I set off from Barcelona I was very excited by the arrival from England of my new Horse Van - I am extremely lucky to have the support of my owners Erin and Warwick Mortimer and their daughter-in-law Larissa's company Horsevans.co.nz - we call this one the "Wookiemobile". See the photo below - it is a slick silver two horse model - on a brand new chassis - it's not often I get to drive something new! My very first journey was straight to Madrid from Barcelona - taking the coastal road thru Valencia. The van is a right hand drive model as it will eventually be making its way back to New Zealand. I'm not that experienced driving on the "wrong" side of the road, but I'm happy to report I made the 1500km round trip unscathed! Wookie travels really well in the van - he's a huge horse, but fits in easily and there was a ton on room between his butt and the wall so no rubbing at all (the horses face backwards and seem to travel very well that way).
What is it that they say about the best made plans? I'm not actually that sure to tell you the truth which is why I tend to not make too many plans! If you had said to me two months ago when I was leaving New Zealand that I would end up with Wookie in Barcelona I would have laughed at the idea - but now it is a reality...
In my previous blog in France I knew I needed to go somewhere to work on Wookie's piaffe / passage. And many people recommended I needed to go to "the expert" Agusti Elias, who travels globally teaching some of the world's best riders and horses for the piaffe and passage. When I met the flamboyant Spaniard at the show in France his answer to everything was "No Problem!" ie can My horse come to your barn? Can I come too? Is there somewhere for me to stay? Can the horse go on your lorry tomorrow? Can I travel with him too? To each question I got the "No Problem!" answer. I got the feeling I was going to like it in Spain!
Ever wondered about the logistics of entering an FEI show in France? I feel I'm almost an expert now as Wookie and I have successfully completed our first show "abroad" as they say in England.
When entering an FEI show the first thing you need to do is to be from a country invited to attend. New Zealand tends not to be on the invite list so you need to apply to Dressage New Zealand who then applies to the show to ask if we can join. In the case of this show at Vidauban they accepted two entries from New Zealand. I planned to go with ex-pat Kiwi Lisa White, and thought it would all be plain sailing as Lisa has done quite a few competitions in France before. However Lisa pulled out a few weeks before we were due to leave so I was left without a ride to the show! Stress! Luckily I found Patricia Williams, who had worked in Australia as a pro-groom in the past, and had even groomed for Brett Parbury when he owned Whisper. I did a deal with Trish that I would pay for her horse to come and train her on him each day at the show in exchange for the use of her lorry, driving skills and grooming skills whilst at the show. A fair swap - there was no way I wanted to hire a lorry and do the drive on my own...
in late January I said goodbye to family and friends and embarked on what will hopefully be a most exciting and fulfilling adventure to England to train my new horse Wunders-Tag with Carl Hester in Gloucestershire. It's always hard saying goodbye to those you love and care a lot for, but at least these days with modern technology like facebook and skype your mates are never far away.
I had a lovely send off at Auckland airport with Erin Mortimer (half owner of Wookie), Julie Malcolm and Judith Cowie all there to share a bottle of champagne and wish me well. I flew again on Emirates - my frequent miles allowing my some business class privileges these days but rest assured I'm still stuck in Economy on the flights! When I reached the UK I waited a few hours at Heathrow before meeting up with Clarke Johnson and Vanessa Way who had flown horses in the same day. Vanessa is basing at Carl Hester's yard, so I hitched a ride down with her.
Im uber-excited to announce that almost a year after loosing our wonderful Weltmeyer stallion Whisper, Erin Mortimer and I have found a lovely horse to follow on from where Whisper left off. And best of all the new boy is a grandson of Weltmeyer himself.
New Zealand, meet Wunders-Tag - a 16.3hh Hanoverian gelding by Wolkendanz out of an Andiamo mare. "Wookie" is a 12 year old who has competed just one Grand Prix test in his careeer thus far.
Less than three weeks ago a friend of mine Jan Milne (a kiwi equine photographer based in the UK) came on board to help in my quest to find a new equine partner. She went straight to the top and phoned no other than Carl Hester to ask if he knew of anything horses available in Britain. He mentioned a horse he rated as quite a talent, Wonders-Tag, who was owned by a pupil of his.