by Fran Jurga | 22 August 2009 | The Jurga Report
Anky van Grunsven's Euro Championship qualifying horse Salinero with his faithful groom, Willeke van Uden, who will be caring for him at the competition. Photo courtesy of www.anky.nl.
Ladies and gentlemen, start your big, luxurious European horse vans! One of the most serious equestrian competitions in recent years begins on Monday at Windsor Castle outside London, as the best horses in Europe compete in the Alltech European Championships in show jumping and dressage. Today, they are driving across the continent and loading onto ferries and airplanes to get them to the Castle in time for Monday's vet checks.
In many ways, this will be a more true championship than the Olympics, since many countries were unable or chose not to go to Hong Kong last year.
But alas, the dominant German team is not up to its usual level, thanks to a combination of injuries in top horses ridden by Nadine Capellmann and Hubertus Schmidt and the disqualification of Olympic gold medalist Isabell Werth.
The Netherlands is expected to dominate, but Great Britain has been doing very well in recent months and, for the individual medals, stellar individual performers like Kyra Kyrklund must never be discounted. I'll be keeping my eye on the senior citizen, Balagur, the Orlov Trotter former police horse who piaffes so beautifully for Russia, and also on the Spaniards and Portuguese riders, although I think they will be riding warmbloods this time rather than Iberian horses.
As usual, Anky van Grunsven has been keeping us informed of her plans, although often in Dutch. What I've been able to get in English tells me that her groom Willeke van Uden left Holland this morning with the horse van carrying Salinero. They headed to Calais in France, where they drove onto the ferry that would take them to Dover in England. The trip would have taken about eight hours. I'm not sure why they chose the ferry over the Chunnel (tunnel under the English Channel) but I know that I wouldn't want to be stuck in a tunnel with a horse van if there was a traffic tie-up or an emergency!
Willeke went through special training to obtain her horse van driving license and animal transport certificate, although Anky also employs van drivers. When leaving the Olympia show in London at Christmastime in 2007, Anky's van was involved in an accident in England and the horses had to spend a night in a nearby vet clinic while a second van was dispatched from Holland to fetch them. (Click here to read The Jurga Report's coverage of the accident.)
By the way, Salinero is now just plain Salinero, as Anky has ended her sponsorship with IPS, except for the stallion IPS Painted Black.
Edward Gal and Moorlands Totilas also left Holland this morning. They are returning to England after their heart-stopping musical freestyle performance at Hickstead last month, where they earned the highest score ever awarded by dressage judges.
This is one of the many spectacular publicity photos for the event; can anyone tell me what that unidentified flying object is trailing the horse's right hind hoof?