I’m off to see the Wizards,

The wonderful Wizards of dressage.

Isabell Werth is a whiz of a wiz,

if ever a wiz there was.

If ever, oh ever a wiz there was,

Kyra Kyklund is one because

Because, because, because, because, because

Because of the wonderful things she does.

I’m off to see the Wizards,

The wonderful Wizards of Dressage!

Yes, you guessed it. I’m talking about the Global Dressage Forum, 2013 edition, which takes place as usual on the last Monday and Tuesday of October.  I am honored once again to be one of the handful of invited journalists, so if you can’t make it in person to this annual rubbing of great dressage shoulders, you can look forward to being kept up to speed right here on LowDown, as well as in print articles that I will write for several magazines – including of course the parent publication of this blog, Horse Sport International. If you do find a little free space in your calendar on that last week of October, it’s not too late to cash in on the discounted ticket price for the 2013 GDF. And there are several good reasons to go this year:

First and above all, the line up is to-die-for. Joep Bartels has been trying to coax Isabell Werth to the podium for years, and she has finally agreed to oblige by being this year’s headliner – and to give us a sneak peek into her training methods. Also on the roster this year are the Scand0-Super-Duo of Kyra Kyrklund and Jan Brink.  I will never, ever grow weary of listening to Kyra’s unadorned wisdom, or watching her gift for teaching and training. She is truly one of the greatest of the dressage greats. Not to say Jan is any kind of slouch  – and he is a very entertaining presenter. I particularly appreciate his occasional use of a well placed, but mild profanity.  And now that it’s okay not to hate the judges I can say I’m very much looking forward to Stephen Clarke’s presentation on ‘the perfect ten’, which was cancelled last year due to his being stranded in NY by Superstorm Sandy. Really, this year’s list of presenters is as star-studded as the GDF has ever been. The only thing that one might find wanting in the program this time around is that there is no novelty act (at least not so far – they do tend to add stuff right to the last week).  While I failed to appreciate the over-staged trailer loading techniques of Monty Roberts, there have been some fascinating demonstrations from ‘outside’ the dressage fold, particularly from last year’s Tristan Tucker.

The second unassailably good reason for going to this year’s GDF is that it is expected to be the last one to take place at the Academy Bartels for a while, as the event will be migrating to other countries over the next few years. The Bartels do this event up in very fine style, having perfected their methods over ten years of GDFs hosted at their charming facility in Southern Holland. From North America, Amsterdam is an inexpensive and usually non-stop flight from most major cities. From there it’s just a couple of hours on the road or train to be within a stone’s throw of Hooge Mierde, the hamlet home of Academy Bartels. If Brussels Airport is more your cup of tea, it’s even a smidge closer to the GDF – and you can load up on chocolate as you pass through. Now, I don’t doubt for a minute that wherever the GDF chooses to nest next year will be wonderful too – but this year will mark a bit of an end of an era for the Bartels family, who have made this event so special. I’ve been to that sweet little corner of Holland so many times that going there every year feels a bit like visiting the family cabin.

There is of course one more excellent reason to consider a first-hand experience of the GDF, and that’s the opportunity to be in the presence of so many of the sport’s most respected and accomplished trainers, riders and judges, in an atmosphere that is entirely different to the only other place you would find all these folks together – at a competition. If you have a reasonably good nose, you will have long ago observed that each stable has its own unique scent. Different bedding, different footing in the indoor, different types of grass in the hay, different plant life outside the barn – they all contribute to a barn’s special bouquet. But at the Academy Bartels, the aroma is like none other – it’s the smell of 3-400 world class DQs all in one room together.

Since I’m promoting equestrian themed travel today, I will take the opportunity to direct anyone interested in WEG 2014 in Normandy to my most recent post on my other blog, Straight-Up. I have just returned from a spontaneous trip to France, where I managed to squeeze in a little visit to Normandy to get a feel for the landscape. I can tell you this much right off the bat: if you were in Lexington in 2010, you can expect a smaller hit on the pocketbook for tickets, and a much happier stomach.