So after 3 and a half months of planning and training on the 27th June I set off to Sweden for the World University Equestrian Championships. My journey there went smoothly except for a train cancellation which meant I had to go through London, on the tube (not fun with all my luggage!). When I arrived in Copenhagen I had to take the train to Sweden, it was surreal travelling over such a long bridge between two countries. I eventually arrived at the hotel at about 6pm. All of the teams were staying together in the Hotel Djingis Khan, a four star hotel which was a lovely change from most student competitions. The rest of the Dutch team had driven and they finally arrived at around 9pm after being stuck in terrible traffic. It was lovely once the whole team was together and they had brought the final pieces of my kit with them. They were a stock and beaded hair tie from Plastron’s Enzo, underwear from Q. Linn, a beautiful jacket from Tattini and most excitingly 2 jackets and a t-shirt from KNHS (the Dutch equestrian federation) this is the same kit that the championship riders for the Olympics are supplied with!
On Tuesday, there was no riding as we all needed time to recover from our long journeys especially Japan and Thailand. We started the day with a guided tour of the city of Lund, which included the first building of the city, the church that is thought to have been built by a giant and the buildings of the University of Lund. We had lunch in Lund, healthy salads for all the athletes; then we made our way back to the hotel for the accreditation. In order to be accredited we had to show our passports and student cards to prove we were eligible to compete, we had a tense moment when Marjolein’s student card was rejected, but in the end it was all ok and we were issued with very official passes.
After we were all accredited, we set of to the venue of Flyinge (said Flu-ing-ge) for the opening ceremony. All 18 countries assembled and we all walked in in alphabetical order to the most classical sounding ABBA I have ever heard. The flags of Sweden and FISU were brought in by a carriage pulled by four black Shetland ponies and the games were declared open! The ceremony included a demo of show jumping, dressage and carriage driving as well as an appearance of two storks who threw sweets into the audience.
On Wednesday the competition began at 8:30am with the showing of the horses for the first round of dressage. In this round there is a mark given for the overall team impression as well as individual marks for each rider. The first team to go was Germany and we were all expecting perfection, but as is the nature of this competition there are so many unknown factors and when one of the riders struggled with his horse we knew this was going to be an interesting competition. Competing against Denmark and Poland, the Dutch team were last to go and by this time the weather was awful and they had to ride their test in the pouring rain. Despite the conditions and a few mistakes they scored 68.4% leaving the team in fourth just behind Ireland, Sweden and Poland.
Marcia finished in the top ten after the dressage, but unfortunately the other rider on her horse was just 1% above her. Marjolein rode really well on difficult horse to progress to the second round. After lunch we had a clinic with top Swedish showjumper Maria Gretzer, who gave us tips on how to get the best out of a horse in five minutes, as well as giving useful training tips for our horses at home. In the evening we all went to Malmo where we were hosted by the University of Malmo. We were taken up onto the roof of the University building where there were spectacular views across the city.
On Thursday, the second round of dressage started at 8:30am, with Marjolein first on her horse and sixth to go. She drew a horse called Never Give Up which unfortunately seemed to be a warning to the rider, he was very difficult and spooky and did not make her life easy. As the dressage went on he settled and the final rider achieved the best score, which was a shame, but nothing you could control.
In the afternoon the show jumping began, we had drawn against Poland and Finland. Marcia was first to go and unfortunately her horse was not easy and she had a few problems, but completed. Joanne and Marjolein also rode lovely rounds, but they were beaten on style marks, meaning no Dutch riders were through to the second round. The biggest shock of the day was Estonia who rode fantastically to qualify their whole team for the second round and knock Germany out in the process! A slightly dejected Dutch team then made their way back to Lund for the evening activity which was a Pub Quiz about Sweden and Flyinge. On Friday there were the next 2 rounds of show jumping and the 3rd round of dressage. Even though we had no one competing it was still interesting to watch the 12 best riders of the competition jump round 1.20m on a horse they had only sat on for 5 minutes!
We also took advantage of all our free time and went for a tour around Flyinge. It was the Swedish National Stud and was established in 1661, it now is mainly an education centre where riders can come and train to be professional riders or young horse trainers. I have to admit this did sound appealing as a back-up plan after I heard that when you arrive you are given 4 horses to train! It was amazing to have a behind the scenes look at the site including the round pen which was built in the 1900’s for horse sales, the horses would be tied under cover and the sellers would camp in the middle.
The evening saw us getting dressed up and heading to the Grand Hotel in Lund for the Gala Dinner. It was a beautiful setting definitely making us feel that we were at a championship and combined with wonderful food made for a great evening.
Saturday, was the final day and included the medal deciding rounds of dressage, show jumping and teams. The dressage final was between Ireland and Denmark, in this final each rider rides both horses, one is for the set test which includes canter pirouettes, half pass and three time changes; the other horse is for the kür. Both riders rode really well, but the Danish rider had the edge and took gold.
In the show jumping final again the two riders ride both horses over a course of 1.35m with faults and time deciding the winner, it was between Finland and Japan, with the Finnish rider jumping double clear to take gold.
The top three teams had to compete again in a harder team test and a higher jumping round to decide their final placings. It ended up with Japan taking bronze, Ireland silver and Sweden gold.
After the medal presentation and the closing ceremony we headed back to the hotel for the after party, one final chance to meet the rest of the competitors. I can’t believe that the week went so quickly, it was an amazing experience not just to meet student riders from all over the world but also to watch such amazing riders and learn from them. It was a little disappointing about the team result, but when we saw realised that we had the eventual individual winners of the dressage and jumping against us in the first round we didn’t feel so bad. To round the week off when I got home I looked at my results and saw that I had achieved a 2:1 in my degree so I’m heading off to Imperial College to study a Masters in October! :D WUEC 2018 anyone?