That’s the Global Dressage Forum I’m referring to, not the Global Dressage Festival. It’s a bit unfortunate that the dressage circuit in Welly World has the same initials, since it would be easy to confuse the two things, which really have nothing to do with each other. In fact the Global Dressage Forum, hereafter to be referred to by me as the GDF, is a unique event not to be confused with ANY OTHER dressage event in the universe. There is only one GDF, and it’s the one about to take place for the 12th time at the Academy Bartels in the charming but unpronounceable town of Hooge Mierde in southern Holland. There are rumours of a North American event of the same name, but let me disabuse you of any connection between the two. There is none.
I missed the GDF last year in order to be at the Pan Am Games, and I thought I was going to have to give it a pass this year as well, until a previous commitment fell through and freed up the date for me. A quick look at my Star Alliance points balance and this year’s GDF program were all it took for me to decide that I simply can’t justify missing the GDF this year; though as my husband Jan said at the airport in Paris last week, I might as well have just stayed in Europe instead of coming home only to turn right around again and fly back. Oh well, as long as I evade deep vein thrombosis it is well worth the additional jet lag. It also means I will have a chance to visit my favourite tack store just across the border in Belgium, Emmers. And one more thing: I get to miss my least favourite child-centred holiday of the year, Halloween.
I have long puzzled over the difference between the dressage crowd and those who cherish the other disciplines. Dressage queens are special, aren’t they/we? I guess I have to include myself since the last time I went over a jump was a cross rail a couple of years ago and it was in a dressage saddle since I no longer own a jumping saddle. I even asked Stephen Clarke if he could explain why dressage people seem to have so many more things to dispute and discuss than the other disciplines, particularly since it is the least dangerous and least prone to corrupt activities such as doping of the Olympic disciplines. Here is what Stephen replied:
“I don’t understand it really. When you get to know all the different individuals they are all great people. But there are a lot of outside pressure groups of non-dressage people. I think the determination to keep our sport pure and squeaky clean perhaps takes it beyond the limits sometimes, but when things slip into being not horse friendly, people are always going to have different opinions.”
Stephen’s answer was thoughtful and sincere, but it still leaves me searching for the secret of why dressage marches to such a different drummer. And that is one reason I’m going to the GDF for the sixth time.
Another reason I’m going to the GDF is because this was an Olympic year, and a historic one at that. The GDF tends to be more lively following a major championship, and the London dressage is on the program for discussion. In fact, the entire program for this year is so full of goodies, I’m expecting to have a bad case of repetitive strain injury in my fingers from all the blogging I’ll be doing. The GDF organizers make every effort to ensure that the media have everything at our fingertips, including unlimited wifi access, so I’ll be posting at least once a day, very possibly twice. It will keep me from drinking too much wine during the lunch and dinner breaks.
I can’t promise I’ll come away from this year’s GDF with any new insight into the Great Mystery of the Dressage Personality, but if I’m going there with one burning question in mind, that is the one. Just in case you have some free time and an inclination to travel at the end of October, the GDF will take place on October 29 and 30. And if you are a fan of any of these mistresses and masters of the sport – Ingrid Klimke, Adelinde Cornelissen, Patrik Kittel, Helen Langehanenberg, Stephen Clarke – I’m sure it’s still possible to buy tickets.