Here we are, bright eyed and bushy tailed, on the morning of day two of the 2010 GDF. It’s the tenth anniversary of the event, which is good to see. I wondered in 2009 if that would be the last one, but not only did the show go on, Joep Bartels says the number of attendees (the paying number, no less) is up this year after a couple of years of decline. According to my new bff Trond, though, the judges have run away. He says that there was such a show of disrespect for them over the past year that they have withered under the uncharitable fluorescent light of the media’s stare. Actually, we got blamed for pretty much everything yesterday. During his presentation about how awesome the stewarding is now that it’s been fixed, Jacques van Daele kept walking in front of ‘journo row’ and giving us long looks, occasionally mentioning us as if we were the scourge of the earth. When he first started talking I noticed Jacques was suffering from dry mouth and was in desperate need of a glass of water. I was just starting to feel really sorry for him when he turned on us. My sympathy melted completely away.
Leif Tornblad (one of the judges who did come out to play) jumped in with his point of view, which magically morphed from ‘too-tight nosebands are the real problem caused by judges punishing even the slightest pink ribbon of tongue showing’ to ‘it’s the media’s fault for reporting on the wrong issues’. The problem with this attack was that it prompted an enthusiastic counter-attack from the media – and so goes the vicious circle for another revolution.
As always, Kyra provides both insight and comic relief. This isn’t the first time she’s said it, but she reminded everyone of the slippery slope of getting to over-the-top with the abuse thing by pointing out it could be argued that riding a horse is abusive in itself – and then the horses would really be finished on Earth. In reference to the tight noseband thing, she mentioned the hazards of the two finger rule: “two fingers, but whose fingers, and where?”
The Jonny Hilberath presentation was interesting. I think the idea of having a top trainer try to demonstrate his methods by working for 15 minutes with riders and horses he met only once before is not the friendliest set up. I didn’t like the session, but I liked Jonny. He was not shy to make positional corrections of the riders who are students from here at the Academy – not the easiest task when their coaches are right there watching – but the fact that he had to spend so much time telling riders to let go of the inside rein and get their legs underneath their hips meant he wasn’t working on the finer points of his extensive knowlege, which was a shame. Too much of a riding lesson, and not enough of his philosophy of training horses. I liked the honest way he answered questions and didn’t get riled up at what someone else might have taken as an attack. I was also impressed that a recently appointed German team trainer came to a Dutch event. Jonny is my pick for GDF Bridge Builder 2010.

I can’t quite decide how I feel about last night’s after-dinner entertainment. Jean François Pignon. Hm. I don’t even know where to start. Dare I criticize his hair cut and his white satin tights? The last time I was critical of a French presentation (Cadre Noir at the 2008 GDF), the CoTH dribblers went nuts on me. Aw, who am I kidding? I don’t care if the dribblers or the Ultimate Dressage UDDers are enraged. Jean F. did some fascinating things with his little herd of Camargue mares. The horses clearly love him, and clearly they are getting enough groceries – especially the little Shetland pony. But his presentation would have benefited from a better outfit. I also cringed when he told us that 50% of what he did with his training he had learned from the Bible. Maybe next year we’ll find him in Vegas with an act called The Horse Evangelist. The scary thing is there is probably serious market potential for such an act. 


Knight in white satin… 

Things are happening at lightning speed today, so I better get back to paying attention – this may be the most meaningful GDF ever – certainly since I started coming to them in 2006. But before I go, I thought I’d add my usual irrelevant bits about the pink Fiat Panda we were given at the airport in Amsterdam, the bungalow that makes us feel like Hansel and Gretel in the woods, and the creepy guy that decided to spend his Sunday night walking back and forth on the little track in front of the bungalow until I opened the door and yelled into the dark, “Go away or we’ll call the police!” Who’s we, you ask? Well I never go anywhere without my trainer, so my constant companion in laughter and libations is Rebecca Garrard. 


We call him Lipstick. Rebecca and Horse & Hound’s Sarah Jenkins spreading the love in the parking lot.