On the 3rd of August Zoe Etherington, Rachel Lade and myself (Rupert Batting) flew to Stuttgart, Germany, to compete in the next stage of the Student Riders Nations cup series. The trip got off to a good start, all meeting at Rachel’s house before going to Birmingham Airport together in our matching Team GB polo shirts, very cliché of us. After the short flight, concern that we were stranded set in. After waiting an hour for someone to pick us up, we were eventually rescued and made our way to the accommodation. Following a few introductions, we set up our camp with GB flags and headed to the first party; a fairly tame evening meeting our new international friends for the weekend. We headed home to our luxurious airbeds, surrounded by the other 50 or so international competitors in one very large gym!
Things got off to a leisurely start on Friday morning with a European breakfast at 9am and then all riders were chauffeured to the local town centre for a champagne reception with the town mayor. Fortunately his speech was in English before we headed to the event site. Acting Chef d’equipe Zoe did our draw for the team dressage. She had assured us we would be fine as long as we weren’t drawn to ride first… We were drawn to ride second. Annoyingly this meant we weren’t able to watch any other nations do their test, as we were busy warming up our own dressage horses. We had a variety of horses, mine was a little fresh going first and added some extra movements down the centre line; Zoe and Rachel rode good tests and everything in the team test went pretty much to plan. Unfortunately the German judges weren’t our friends and none of us made it through to the second round of dressage, Zoe and Rachel only missing out by a small margin. In true Brit style we put this behind us and refocused for the ‘Dragon Boat Race’ that was set up for us by the event organisers. Teaming up with the Irish we adopted the tactic that singing ‘row row row your boat’ would aid our efforts in winning the racing, shockingly this did not work and we also lost the boat race.
A quick BBQ followed and we headed home to prepare for the Friday night party, this was movie themed and Team GB were given James Bond. So I did my best Daniel Craig (basically black tie) accompanied by my two bonds girls we were off to the party along with Doctors, Smurfs, Mickey Mouse and other film characters. Now the weekend, there were a lot more German supporters who impressively managed to ballroom dance to club music, which provided some great entertainment. Another great night we headed home to get our important sleep ahead of the first days jumping.
We only had one round of jumping today and we were looking for a better day after the disappointment of dressage and things were on the up. Rachel jumped a lovely clear round on her horse which she was first to go one, Zoe also rode a great round to also jump a great clear and I was last to go on my horse who we named ‘Bertie’ who jumped clear for me, despite being incredibly difficult for the other riders who had drawn him. After our good rounds we eagerly wanted to know the results but had to wait until the gala evening where the results would be announced, so a lot of waiting and sun bathing was the order of the afternoon.
We headed back to our accommodation in an attempt to scrub up for the black tie gala evening, everyone donned their best outfits and many many photos were taken. Again we were ushered into some cars, not knowing where we were going, but amazingly we ended up at a little Champagne reception in the middle of the local town where we mingled, drank and took even more photos. The gala evening was so well organised and the venue was incredible. We took full advantage of the three course German meal that was provided for us. Once we had over indulged in the food there were some great speeches, thank yous and prizes given out; and we eagerly anticipated the results. Good news! I had made it through to the second round and Zoe had to ride in a rare ‘ride off’ having finished on the exact same score as another rider. It was one of our newly acquainted Irish friend’s birthdays so we had a mini celebration before we headed to the after party in a nearby church, sounds a bit strange but was actually very cool, and this was made even better by the park outside which kept us entertained for hours. Following some antics, great dancing moves (some of which ended on the floor) and German beer it was time for us to head home.
Zoe was up early on Sunday for her ‘ride off’ and we followed as soon as we could get a car to go and support, we arrived just in time to see Zoe ride a good round and get through to the second round. Team GB was gaining momentum!! Zoe was last to go on on her horse and she had to jump a clear to get through after the first two faulted; of course that’s what she did and made it through to the third round. I was first to go on my horse, he was a small athletic horse and we enjoyed a great round for a clear. Team GB’s surge was continuing with Zoe and I both making it through to the semi-final, the only nation to do so along with Ireland. Things got a bit more exciting with the course set at 1.10/1.15m, Zoe drew a difficult horse and was second to go on him; the first rider had a refusal but jumped the rest clear, Zoe and the Irish rider both had a couple of poles so sadly Zoe didn’t make it through but gave the horse a super ride. I was lucky enough to be drawn last to go so knew I had to go clear or have a fast four faults to get through. After an early pole I sped up a little and managed to get round just quick enough to make it to the final!! The final consisted of myself and a girl from the Netherlands (Alex). We were given a seriously talented horse for the 1.20/1.25m final and the course was very twisty. First to go I went for a steady clear and the horse jumped super helping me out in a couple of places and clearing the fences by miles. Before the Dutch girl rode we had a traditional student riding ‘kissing ceremony’ where we have to take a shot, kiss and then role along the arena; bit bizarre but we are students at the end of the day. It was then Alex’s turn to jump and she unfortunately had an early refusal but jumped the rest clear, so amazingly I won individual gold!!
The prize giving was great with more champagne available, music playing in the arena and some great prizes. We had a good feeling that Team GB had won gold in the show jumping but didn’t know the final results, so it was a huge relief to hear our names read out for the gold medal! The whole weekend was an incredible and amazing experience, we made so many new friends, memories and we were very grateful to the organisers for having us and running such a good event. We can’t wait to go again!!