Monday, August 6, 2007

To The Netherlands


Sunday July 29 2007

I was catching a ride Sunday morning with Netherlands rider Jeanne Linneweever, from Libramont, Belgium, to Jeanne's home 6 hours north. Jean and her husband Charles are Dutch through and through, but their home is actually just over the border in Germany, out in the farming countryside where it's quiet, and there's plenty of room for her horses, and for riding.

I had to take the train back to Libramont in the rainy morning, then a bus from the station to the Libramont Fair. Instead of going right in the backside, where the endurance was, I was dropped off a ways from the front entrance. I followed the people, in the rain, into the Libramont Fair, intending to head right for the endurance area, and I got lost. This is one of the biggest agricultural Fairs in Europe, after all. Not too many of the workers even knew in which direction the endurance village was!

In the rain, with hundreds of other people, already this early in the morning, I wandered through display booths (lots of sausage booths and wine booths) and tractors, pig barns, sheep barns, horse barns, dairy cow barns. Now, a word about these dairy cows. I didn't get to see what kind they are, but they had big lumps all over them, like they were afflicted with some terrible disease or were disfigured! But no! These were some prize-winning milk cows. The lumps are supposed to be there. What are they – muscle? Fat? Makes the milk richer? I didn't have time to find out, or taste the milk.

I ran, through the rain and mud, past stalls of the Ardennes draft horses, past a show ring where, in the rain, draft mares with their foals were waiting to show. And everywhere – loads of people, walking with and without umbrellas, slopping through the rain and mud, enjoying the Fair. I ran past a stadium with pony games going on in the muddy grass, past the jumping arena (sand) with competition going on in the rain.

Finally, near the jumping venue, I knew I was getting close to the endurance venue. Parked outside the jumping arena was the horse van parking – hundreds of vans, parked in a sea of mud! But which way was the endurance village? Nobody knew! It was getting close to 11 AM when I told Jeanne I'd meet them. They were probably already packed up waiting for me. I was soaked, in mud up to my ankles, and lost among a thousand horse vans! Which way – this way through the mud, or that way? Climb up on a van and look? That would have been the quickest way, but I ran and slipped back and forth through the mud until I finally came to a fence. Once I crawled through that, the trailers thinned out, and I could see I was on the backside of the endurance parking.

Jeanne and Charles and friends were indeed waiting on me (“not long,” they said, uh huh); Jeanne fetched her horse Riki's Macho Man from his covered stall, and loaded him onto the horse van with his travelling companion, rather round Shetland pony mare Julia. They closed up and handed me the keys to their assistance van... I'd be driving their niece Scarlett in the van and following the Linneweevers home. Yikes! But, the steering wheel and gear shift was on the right side, and over here they drive on the right side of the road, so it was just a matter of driving through rain – about 6 hours of it!

We stayed on roads in Germany all the way, much of them the autobahn – they are better and faster than the narrower Dutch highways (though of course we weren't driving that fast with a horse van) – and arrived at the Linneweever home, in the SUNSHINE, near the little village of Itterbeck, Germany. Jeanne and Charles moved here 4 years ago (it's just a few kilometers from the border of the Netherlands), because there's more land available, there's plenty of area to ride in right from their house, and it's less expensive than in Holland. They have been remodeling the house since then... horses take up all their spare time, imagine that!

We unloaded the horses, who went straight to roll in the mud, got them settled. Then we got ourselves settled, ordered Indonesian Chinese food. Welcome to Dutch endurance!Or, technically, a little Dutch endurance part of Germany!)

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