First of all: I love to travel. I particularly love Europe. I'm pretty sure I was accidentally born in the wrong country (although my penchant for matcha lattes and Whole Foods might disagree). At the very least, I was Parisian in a past life, I just know it. When Nöelle asked me to take a last minute trip to Germany to cover CHIO Aachen, I just about threw down that dairy-free matcha and picked up a baguette in celebration. I didn't, because I'm gluten-free (I live in Southern California), but I was that excited.
"I've been here at the show for approximately 36 hours, but I'm already smitten."
CHIO Aachen has been on my bucket list for a very long time - and it should be at the top of yours, too. Aachen itself, a small town in Germany nearly touching Belgium and The Netherlands, is charming and quintessentially old-world European. The show is exceptionally modern in contrast but holds a world of charm with every carefully thought out detail. Watching the best riders in the world in three disciplines - show jumping, dressage, and eventing - up close and personal, plus the inclusion of driving and vaulting, is a top three bucket list item all on its own.
I've been here at the show for approximately 36 hours, but I'm already smitten. I may never leave. I'll do a full travel diary when this whole shebang wraps up (it's been eventful), but for now, I'm soaking in every minute. But because I want you to experience this insanely amazing event too, I'm popping into the press room occasionally to post a few quick updates.
Highlights thus far:
1. Watching Henrik von Eckermann, McLain Ward, and Marcus Ehning battle it out Gladiator style in the jump-off of the Turkish Airlines Prize of Europe
After getting my press pass and learning the lay of the land (the show grounds are massive) the Turkish Airlines Prize of Europe was the first class I settled in to watch in the gorgeous, and enormous, main jumping stadium. 11 riders made it to the jump-off, and whoa, was it a tough one. I literally bit off two of my nails in sheer panic as Yuri Mansur and his beloved stallion, Vitiki, fell through the DHL oxer at the far end of the ring. I hate seeing a horse get hurt, but thankfully CHIO has incredible veterinary care on-site. Steve Guerdat and my all-time favorite mare, Bianca, nearly fell through a different oxer just a few rounds later but were able to finish the round unscathed. USA's Laura Kraut took a tumble at the jump right in front of where I was sitting, but fortunately neither were hurt. I told you - this jump-off was tough.
Three riders, however, were able to really master the tough course and get through it crazy fast. Henrik von Eckermann blew my mind with his expert navigation of the course with borrowed horse, Castello, clinching him the victory. McLain was close behind on everyone's favorite girl, HH Azur, and Marcus came in third with his home-bred stallion Funky Fred, who has a magnetic presence worthy of his downright incredible name.
2. Soaking up all the little details
I'm not going to lie - it took me several hours to explore the show and really get my bearings. There's so much to see, and something going on in every corner. Let me tell you - if you're into shopping for anything and everything horse related, coming to CHIO Aachen is like dying and going to horse heaven. I have never seen so many incredible brands in one place. I had to hide my wallet from myself.
There's also food (aka meat and carbs, in true German style), champagne, and Aperol spritz everywhere you turn. I am the absolute worst with German food because of my obnoxious food allergies, but I got real creative and still had a delightful culinary journey, including Thai mango curry, a pineapple mint smoothie, and Currywurst sans bun and sauce. Of course, I also had to sip on a requisite Aperol spritz, possibly my favorite drink on earth. I search for them high and low everywhere I go, but in Germany, they're very on-trend and therefore very readily available. Is there anything better than a refreshing spritz while watching Eric Lamaze soar to victory in the Prize of StädteRegion Aachen? I think not.
3. Being in Germany as the Germans swept the Havens Horsefeed Prize in the dressage ring
Home field advantage? Apparently. The ladies of Germany were on in full-force during the dressage evening program, securing the top four placings with stunning tests. I'm a show jumper through and through, so dressage is something I've been trying to learn about and understand in a deeper way for a while, and this class was mega-inspiring on that front. Watching the gorgeous extended trots, passage, piaffe, and everything in between, it was easy to tell how in-sync the women of Deutschland are with their mounts, all who looked very proud of themselves upon exiting the ring. And they should, because they just may have converted this show jumping die-hard.
- By Nöelle Floyd Managing Editor, Erin Lane
All photos by Shannon Brinkman.
Written by Erin Lane
Erin Lane is Nöelle Floyd’s resident Managing Editor. An enthusiast of matcha lattes & weenie dogs and rescuing as many animals as possible, she gave up dreams of competing on the world stage at age 18 & decided to be a tv host instead - which she has since realized was the wrong choice & has returned to her roots; competing in the jumper ring and traveling the world chronicling the best in horse sport as a show jumping loving journalist trying her very best to understand dressage and the jumping of solid obstacles.