Mol, Belgium – May 26, 2021 – In April, US Equestrian named Christian Simonson, Katherine Mathews and Melanie Doughty to the U.S. Dressage Young Rider European Tour. The Tour provides a link to the Discover Dressage™ USEF/USDF Emerging Athlete Program, and an opportunity for the athletes to gain experience in a team competition format abroad. The athletes will compete as individuals at the Compiegne CDIY from May 27-30, 2021, and as a team at the CDIO-Y Hagen from June 8-13, 2021. U.S. Dressage Youth Coach George Williams will serve as Chef d’Equipe for the Young Rider European Tour. With all three combinations settled in safe and sound after traveling to Belgium for the start of the European adventure representing the United States, PS Dressage invited Simonson to take us behind the scenes of his experience this summer. From packing to travel logistics, follow along for the first installment:
“After receiving an email from USEF that I and two other riders were chosen for the 2021 European tour, I knew that I had a ton of packing, scheduling, and organizing to do. Lucky for me, my trainer and Olympic athlete Adrienne Lyle is an experienced traveler and I had a ton of help as to what I should purchase and pack to get ready for this month-long European excursion. The first thing that ran through my head with this tour was how much grain and hay we would need in order to feed my two horses for a long month of training and competition. After discussions with our barn team, we decided that purchasing grain here and blending it with similar ones available in Europe was our best option. With the food part covered, my mind immediately went to all the other items that would be needed such as, what do we do for their shoeing cycle? Is my saddle well-fitted? Do I have enough detangler? And so many other small but important things. Luckily, with an incredible team, which includes my trainer and barn, my sponsors, our farriers and vets, the USEF, The Dutta Corp and many others most of these worries were quickly addressed. We contacted our farrier in order to get on a proper shoeing cycle for Europe, made a call to my sponsor Custom Saddlery to get my saddles tuned up, and lastly created a huge master list for me to order items needed for the trip.
With all of the major horse items covered we then moved on to the shipping of the horses to Europe. After many back and forth discussions with The Dutta Corp about when our flight would be, we finally settled on a date that would ensure our horses would have enough time to rest and settle into their new home 4,000 miles away. Flying into Europe as a human was yet another scheduling challenge, especially during a global pandemic. In order to be allowed to enter into the country, we were given special permission letters from no less than four countries. The USEF team worked tirelessly to obtain professional athlete exemption letters from their reciprocal organizations in The Netherlands, Belgium, France and Germany. Along with getting the proper paperwork in order to enter the European Union, multiple COVID PCR and Rapid tests were required all within a 72 hour window of landing. This meant that if one delay were to happen on a flight, the entire trip could be delayed by being outside the proper Covid testing window. Lucky for us, it was smooth sailing and the human travel went well for myself and my teammates all the way to Belgium.
Together with my horses, I personally brought four tack trunks packed to the gills with everything imaginable. We packed everything from Dayquil and laundry detergent to two sets of everything like boots, show coats and extra bits and spurs. After the horses were transported in large trucks to Miami International Airport, Dutta Corp loaded them on a Martin Air flight for the long 10-hour haul to Amsterdam. Once we arrived at Schiphol Airport, the horses were checked by a local Dutch vet to ensure that no horse was showing signs of EHV-1.
Once we cleared the six hour quarantine we were loaded up to head to our main base in Belgium. The trip to The Begijnhoeve in Mol, Belgium was a two hour drive and the horses were given two days to adjust to their new timezone and feeding schedule and take in their new environment. This two-day period included a lot of handwalking, grazing, and plenty of treats and affection. We were lucky that at our European barn we are far enough away from local horses in the stable to ensure that any possible EHV-1 outbreak will not affect us. After these two days, we started up our regular training schedule again, always starting with a light stretching on the first day followed by our normal lesson pattern the next day.
Now that we are only a few days away from our departure to the Compiegne CDI we are in full training so that our horses are fit and ready to compete. It did take our team a few days to get used to our European base, the tight Covid restrictions in Belgium and just being in Europe all together! But, we are all so grateful to have such wonderful hosts and such an incredible, state of the art barn at The Begijnhoeve Stud farm who have made the transition seamless. Go Team USA!”