There’s nothing quite like Aachen - it’s the Super Bowl of horse shows. A world-class party, the best riders in the world, and a place where dreams come alive. Aachen - simply put - is a magical place. Upon entering the arena at CHIO Aachen, the expansive grass field awaits rider’s entrance, the crowd’s ooh’s and ahh’s at the dancing duos and the high-speed jumping can only be described in one way - perfection.
It’s so good. SO. Damn. Good.
The 10-day event (July 13 - July 22) attracts top talent from around the world in a variety of disciplines from dressage, to show jumping, to eventing - even vaulting and four-in-hand driving. Not only a haven for professional riders, Aachen’s drove of 350,000 visitors come in packs to fill the 40,000-seat stadium that echoes with every magnificent round.
Coined as the “Weltfest fes Pferdesports,” meaning the World Equestrian Festival, celebrates world-class sport and is accompanied by unique exhibitions and events including the crowd-favorite Lavazza Cup, the Horse and Symphony, and Soers Sunday. The thrilling show program combined with the diverse mix of cultural events for all ages makes CHIO Aachen more than just a horse show - it’s a can’t-miss event to look forward to every year.
1. The Heart of Aachen - Show Jumping
A long-held tradition, show jumping is at the soul of Aachen. Held in the famous, yet intimidating, Main Stadium, horse-and-rider combinations will compete in front of echoing crowds hoping to etch their place in history. Classes to look forward to include the Sparkassen-Youngsters Cup, which features 7- and 8-year-old future show jumping champions. Not only does the winner receive a ribbon and trophy, but they also go home with a foal! A crowd favorite, the Prize of Sparkasse, puts horses to the test as they jump around the arena over natural obstacles such as the “Pulvermann’s Grab,” and gallop through the lake. The most sought-after class to win, however, is the Grand Prix of Aachen - part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. Since Scott Brash took home the coveted prize in 2015, no other rider has come close to winning all four legs of the initiative which includes: Aachen, Spruce Meadows, Geneva, and the Dutch Masters (added as the 4th leg in 2018). Who will be in the hunt this year?
2. Eventing’s Best Go Head-to-Head
Typically held over three days, eventing at Aachen is jammed into two days of exhilarating competition. With dressage and show jumping held on the first day, the second and final day of competition features the thrilling cross-country portion that sends riders on a track through the stunning Aachen Soers. Following the saying, ‘It ain’t over till it’s over,’ fans and riders alike will be chomping at the bit to see the world’s best cross through the finish timers penalty-free. Ingrid Klimke is fresh off a win at Wiesbaden and will look to build off her performance last year to take home the DHL Prize for the second time.
3. Dressage’s World Top 10 Battle at Aachen
What will it take to dethrone Germany’s dressage superstar and home crowd favorite, Isabell Werth, from the World No. 1 position? This year's dressage competition will keep everyone on their toes as riders from the World Top 10 FEI Rankings will ascend upon the Deutsche Bank Stadium with the hopes of dazzling the judges and crowds. Despite beating Werth before, World No. 2 Laura Graves and Verdades will put their best foot (or hooves?) forward and ride off their most recent success when they toppled Werth and Weihegold OLD’s winning streak at the 2018 FEI World Cup Finals. Not one to be discounted, World No. 5 Sönke Rothenberger is on the hunt too, most recently capturing the German Championship title aboard Cosmo. Other Top 10 riders attending include Denmark’s Cathrine Dufor (World No. 4) and Sweden’s Patrik Kittel (World No. 8).
4. A Home Turf Advantage for the Nations Cup
The Nations Cup puts the team before the individual for the chance in winning glory for their home country. On the dressage side of things, Team Germany comes in as the team to beat in the Lambertz Nations Cup. A strong contingent from Sweden will look to replicate last years performance to take home a second win in a row, but duking it out will be a powerful team of Americans. Not to be discounted is Team Netherlands which will consist of riders from their victorious team from CHIO Rotterdam.
For the show jumping side, the Mercedes-Benz Nations Cup features elite riders from around the world contesting to win the Challenge Trophy of the Federal Republic of Germany. Teams of four riders will set out to win over two tricky rounds. Last year, Team Germany took full advantage of being the home team and topped the standings, but which nation will take home the honors this year?
The FEI Eventing Nations Cup is up for grabs as horse-and-rider combinations will face grueling questions over the two days of competition. Beginning with dressage and show jumping on Day 1, the winners will be crowned once the last pair crosses the finish line on the gorgeous cross-country course winding through the countryside of Aachen. Following last years dominating performance, Team Germany is looking to hear their national anthem play once again.
5. German’s Know How to Throw a Party!
The Germans like to celebrate - especially the Soers. Not just a serious competition for horse and rider, Aachen’s unique Lavazza Cup pairs one show-jumper, one eventer, and one four-in-hand driver in relay teams to battle it out against the clock under the Main Stadium’s music and floodlights. A fast-paced and electric event, the Lavazza Cup is an Aachen crowd favorite. Another crowd-pleaser? The Horse & Symphony concert. The enchanted and mythical music performed by the symphonic orchestra is accompanied by dancing dressage pairs to transport the crowd into an atmosphere filled with fairytales and magic.
Photos by Erin Gilmore for Nöellefloyd.com