Time is flying by way too fast this time. My last couple of rides went very well. More great changes, some beautiful passage and she is really developing nicely in the pirouette work. I was able to have some of my rides videoed and look forward to sharing these training moments with everyone.
Today is my second to last ride and Imke wanted to focus on the pirouettes. I was excited to see what we could get if we asked her to step up to the next level. I warmed her up in some lateral work, using shoulder-in and travers to improve her lateral flexion and get her quicker to my aids. We also schooled some half-pass in trot focusing on more lateral ground cover. She loves to cover ground forward, so this challenged her to react quickly to my leg aids without driving beyond the boundary set by my outside rein. It took a bit of balancing to explain what I expected from her, but as soon as she understood, the half-pass blossomed. They were beautiful sweeping steps that were fully controlled from beginning to end. It felt fabulous to be so connected with her. We were dancing together…
We began preparation for the pirouettes on a 20 meter circle with perfect alignment. I really kept her ultra straight with my outside rein and leg and focused on maintaining activity in the inner hind leg. All of the lateral work during warm-up helped make this possible. We brought the circle down to a smaller size, first maintaining the straightness and eventually adding inner bend to begin positioning her body for the pirouettes. Horses need to lower their haunches and shift their weight into the hind leg in order to balance correctly during pirouettes and with her confirmation, this is not very easy. As I ask her to shift her weight back, she tends to slow her tempo too much. It feels like it is a combination of her really thinking about the movement and me feeling the amount of effort that she needs to put into good pirouette work. This is not the worst thing that could happen, but when she slows her tempo too much, she cannot activate the canter properly. As we began moving into a schooling pirouette, we focused on maintaining a certain level of activity even as the pirouette became smaller and smaller. As a rider, this requires a lot of balance, timing and organization. I could feel everything she was struggling with, but cannot allow it to effect me, as I am in charge of riding this pirouette successfully.
She also had a tough job though! She needed to maintain activity, use her body in a way that is not totally natural for her and listen to my aids that are directing her moment by moment. She did fabulous! I was pleased to see on the video that it did not look as difficult as it felt for her. All of the previous days of development and taking smalls steps to get her to this point really paid off. Something very important to me was that was not nervous or upset that we were putting greater expectations on her today. She gave it her best and I was very appreciative of her efforts…
Our last ride together was the best. We did a little bit of everything and she tried her heart out. I have fallen completely in love with this mare and am going to miss her for sure. When I left last time, I felt as thought W and I shook hands, said “good game” and “good bye”, but leaving this mare felt as though I was leaving a friend. By this time, she would talk to me when I walked into the barn every morning and she started to really enjoy being the center of my attention. We made a special bond together and it was a pleasure to be a part of her development.
Later that afternoon, I was able to take part in a very special experience. Imke’s mother Tineke invited some of the riders to sit with her during one of their training sessions. In addition to being included in such a personal moment between them, she opened the session up for questions. This particular horse had a bit of crookedness over his topline and they have been working on not only aligning him, but teaching him to use himself in a straight and efficient way. I experienced first hand the degree of straightness that Imke required of us during our lessons, but it was interesting watching it from this viewpoint. Not only was I watching her from the same position that she watched me, but I was able to listen to Tineke direct her towards perfection. The amount of straightness that she was working towards was incredible. She watched his footfall, the degree that he used his joints, the length and depth of his steps, the oscillation of his hips and the way that he used the individual sides of his topline. It was a very eye opening experience sitting next to her as she explained what she was looking for and what was going well now and what will need improvement in the future.
She was gracious enough to teach in English and answered as many questions as she could in English as well. There are some Dutch words and phrases that pertain to training, feeling or ideas regarding to dressage that don’t easily translate to English. I will be learning as much of these phrases as I can before my next visit to hopefully absorb even more of her wise words.
Imke touched on various movements and exercises during her ride and showed us both his highlights and his weaknesses. It was such a wonderful experience. After this session, Tineke invited us into the library to have further discussion on the session between her and Imke, our own rides and global dressage in general. It was such an honour to sit next to her and ask her opinions about training and competition. She talked about her riding history as a young girl all the way up to what she is working on currently. She touched on current and past happenings in dressage and her hopes for the future. She was so open to talk about anything that we wanted to ask of her. It was such a pleasure to be able to ask such a true master anything you want. I will never forget this day.
I took lots of notes during both the session with Imke and our talk in the library and will include them in the next post of “training notes”.
After the discussion, I took a trip to the grocery store and grabbed some of my favourites for a cozy night in. They had some beautiful fresh baked bread in the bakery, bags of Asperge soup, metworst and my favourite garlic and herb butter spread (this stuff is so good that it actually improves the taste of bread). I snacked on the couch while I finished up my notes from the day. I went out to the barn one last time to give Ms B a hug. I sure will miss you girlfriend…
Today is going to be great! The sun is shining, I have stroopwafel for breakfast and Tineke is riding the my favourite chestnut. Everyone is riding early this morning, because there is a show this afternoon! Imke will be schooling Kazuki and her stallion Don Presidente in their Intermediare II test. I cannot wait to go! I love horse shows!
Ms B was a little frisky this morning. I was riding in the snaffle and lets just say that she was feeling good this morning! Imke had me warm her up using varying neck positions this morning. We began in a medium length neck focusing on maintaining a good connection over her back. It took her a bit of time to relax over her back and fill out the longer rein length, but each time she did, I lengthened and lowered her neck a bit more. Once she was following my contact as long and as low as I wanted, I asked for more roundness in a low, medium and higher frame. Although her neck is naturally flexible, transitioning between different neck positions requires a fair amount of balance and submission. Testing and improving these reactions is the purpose of “training” the neck. A dressage horse is an athlete and their neck is the bridge that connects the energy produced in their hind legs to the control center up front. If there is crookedness, stiffness or resistance in the neck, the bridge is compromised. A soft, flexible neck enables a resistance free connection from the hind leg to the bridle and this is an essential element needed to bring your training to the next level.
As we moved into the canter, she felt super! All of the transitions we did the night before, plus the improvement in her neck from todays warm-up really combined to make for a very soft, uphill feeling in the canter. After only a few times around, I could feel exactly what I needed for the changes. Imke agreed and we moved into some half-pass and shoulder-fore to put her body in the best balance for a good change. Imke had me ride her down a line off of the rail and focus on absolute straightness. Within that straightness, I activated her outside hind leg in preparation for the change and the very first one I asked for was big and clean and beautiful!! It was a real thrill to have our first change be so successful. I gave her a big pat and we began preparing for the other direction.
She was just as happy about the change as I was or maybe it was the fact that she could feel my heart thumping about 150 beat per minute… either way, she was up. We brought her back into half-pass and shoulder-fore in this direction and waited until she relaxed into these exercises. It was very important that I waited for her to wait for me before I returned to the changes or our next result would not have been as successful. Soon, I had her back with me and we had another beautiful clean change in this direction. I gave her a big hug and we spent the rest of the ride doing something that she enjoyed… moving out! It was a fun ride…
After my ride, I added another layer of clothing and we headed to the horse show! On the way, we stopped to have some lunch at Den Bockenreyder. It was one of those days where the temps began dropping around late morning, so when I rode, it was around 40 degrees, but by the time we got to lunch, it was closer to 30 and getting very windy. I wanted something warm and was advised that Erwtensoep or “snert” (Dutch green pea soup) would hit the spot. Not only were these ladies lovely companions, but they were also a good judge of soup! This soup was delicious and was served with the biggest bread I have ever seen! I wish I had taken a photo of it… the slices were literally two feet across! It was hysterical, but I am no quitter… I finished every bit of it.
After lunch, we continued on to the show. Somewhere between the snert and the show it started snowing… hard. Big huge flakes that within about 5 minutes had completely covered the roads. Luckily, my car was all wheel drive and handled the roads nicely. Even though I was not showing, I still felt that excitement in my stomach as we pulled into the show grounds (or maybe it was the three pounds of bread I just ate?). I am so glad that I had someone local with me, because this place did not look like show grounds. We walked into the show office which was a really cool little bar that ran the length of the short side with a large viewing area. Everything was indoors, but the bar was heated and had a line of tall tables and bar stools that you could watch the competition ring from. If you walked out of the bar, there was a very large viewing area with beautiful tables, plants and couch style seating. This place could accommodate a very large crowd and in nicer weather is probably a very fun spot to hang out...
Once it was time for Kazuki to warm-up, I headed to the schooling ring to watch him prepare. It was even colder now and getting dark. The schooling ring was quite small and full of FEI horses all preparing for their tests. There was a lot going on! Kazuki and Don Presidente looked calm and cool. Kazuki is a beautiful rider. He is so quiet in the saddle and doesn’t seem to be bothered by anything. He is a pleasure to watch. It was interesting watching Imke coach someone at a show. She expected a little bit more, but was very positive and motivating about it. I would love to have her with me before a test!
As soon as Kazuki was on deck, she brought him over and gave him some last minute directions while taking Don’s wraps off. The competition arena is directly beside the schooling ring, so all we had to do was walk to the other side of the wall and you were literally standing behind the judge. I wasn’t sure where we were allowed to stand, but when Imke posted right next to the wall, I figured I was in a good spot. It felt crazy to be right there… I could hear the judges talking in their boxes and could hear Don breathe as he cantered down the centerline.
They had a great test! Everything looked very accurate and neat. It was very well ridden. His pirouettes were small and clean and his changes were quite nice. After his test, we followed him out showering him with congratulations and then all headed back into the heated bar. It felt so good in there! We got a table and watched the rest of the rides. Some were great and some looked tight from the cold evening. After the last ride, the judges walked in to the bar to check out the results and say their good byes. As they walked past us, I noticed that one of them was Sven Rothenberger! He has been one of my favourite dressage riders for a long time and here I am standing right next to him! He has represented both Germany and the Netherlands in World Championships and Olympic Games over the years and is truly one of the greats. It was a such a cool moment to be in Holland at a horse show with Kazuki Sado, Imke Schellekens-Bartels, Sven Rothenberger and some of my new riding friends. I had to pinch myself…
Our next few rides went better and better! She is finding an uphill balance easier and earlier each ride, but she is still not where I want her to be for a great flying change, so we are keeping them on the back burner until the time is right.
Here are some notes from the past few days...
- If your horse isn’t waiting for you, your aids will not be heard.
Of course, we need to ride well all of the time, but it really is imperative that your horse is waiting for your aids in order for your great riding to be as effective as possible. As a horses training advances, the timing of the riders aids becomes more and more important. A horse that is running ahead or lagging behind the rider is not waiting.
- With a sensitive horse, relaxation cannot become more important that a good response.
This is one of my favourite take aways from my time with Imke. When you have a horse that can be tense or nervous under saddle, it can be tempting to avoid asking for certain things in order to avoid disrupting them. Relaxation is very important, but obedience is necessary in order to progress. At times, when Ms B would start to really relax into her work, she would start to slip behind my leg. When I asked her for more activity or a specific response, her reaction time was slow. This was the toughest moment. Do I accept the slow response in order to keep her relaxed? Or do I correct her and risk her becoming tense? If the tension is there, we have to work through it and show her that there can be relaxation within a good response. Avoiding the question, only postpones the issue.
- Always be ready to give your horse more responsibility.
As a perfectionist, this goes against my natural desire to fix things before they go wrong, so they never go wrong and everything remains perfect. Although I teach this at some point during nearly every lesson, I was surprised at how many times I was busted for helping too much! More on this later…
It snowed for the first time today! I was in the barn and heard something hitting the windows… it was snow! Even though I have been shivering for days, it felt pretty festive. This morning, I had an appointment with Dr Saskia Heijkants on the Flex Chair. I worked with her during my last visit and was excited that she would be at the Bartels this time as well. I have been dealing with a pinched nerve for several months now and really wanted to know if it was effecting my alignment in the saddle. I had discussed it with Imke, but you never know if you are truly straight until you are hooked up to a finely tuned computer system, right? So in I went…
We started by testing my general straightness, if the weight in my seat bones were equal and if I was centrally balanced. Thankfully, I was good to go! This was very important to me. Straightness is such an important element to riding and I cannot expect my horse to be perfect, if I am not. Next, we moved into the way that I used my aids. The Flex Chair not only measures your balance and straightness, but it can also read if you are even in the way that you lower each seat bone or apply thigh pressure against the saddle. Dr Heijkants is not only a physical therapist, but she is also a rider, so she understands the way that aids are applied. She also has a very good eye! On the machine, it showed that I was dropping my right and left seat bones to the same degree and with the same weight, but when she watched my hips, she noticed that I was actually using them ever so slightly unique each direction. One hip was smooth and direct, but the other was a bit guarded and would not drop straight into position, it sort of “rounded” into its position. I was able to keep them even in regards to what I was giving to the horse, but I was not getting there in a perfectly even way. She directed me to stretch both hips out more when my nerve is acting up and to avoid guarding with the hip when I am nervous that it may hurt. It was a great session and I was very excited to take this into my next ride.
Later that evening, I had a lesson scheduled with Mischa Koot. I loved my ride with Mischa in May and was really excited to ride Ms B with her tonight. This ride was scheduled in the back indoor, which is one of the most beautiful indoor arenas I have ever seen….
We worked in collected trot full arena. Immediately before each corner, I rode a transition into collected walk and rode the inside hind deep into the corner. As soon as she was back against the new wall, I rode a quick transition into collected trot. Every element of this exercise was to be ridden very purposeful. The transition into collected walk had to be ridden forward. This transition had to be crisp, but not abrupt (we repeated it many times!). The goal was that she continued her energy throughout the corner and did not stop and start with the energy as I asked for transitions and a lateral response. The purpose behind riding her inner hind leg into the corner was to place it under her centre of gravity, so that she was ready for a quick, but well balanced transition back into collected trot. As soon as she relaxed into the exercise, each transition became more consistent and her entire way of going was improved. All of her energy was waiting for me and because she was not behind me or in front of me, we were able to move in unison and it was totally fabulous!
During our break, we talked a bit about her changes. I explained to Mischa what we had been working towards up to this point and she was right on board. She asked me to ride a few walk - canter - walk transitions and they were successful, but when she asked me how much I was helping her during the transitions and it hit me that I really was helping her a lot. In order for her to take on more responsibility within these transitions, we had to find the weak spots and improve them.
In collected canter, we asked her to compress more and more, similar to the preparation for a transition into walk and as soon as she lost her balance, we refreshed her activity and then brought her back into collection. Each time I rode through the transition, I expected her to maintain better activity in the canter leading up to the transition and better self carriage in the transition. It was hard work for her, but she really stepped up to the challenge. She made some mistakes, but Mischa was very quick to forget the mistakes and praise her efforts. The more we adjusted the canter, the better she sat on her hind leg and her canter became very expressive and uphill. It was a great feeling!
Towards the end of the ride, I started to get the feeling that I had been looking for before I asked her for a flying change. Tomorrow just may be the big day…
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The next morning I woke up early and went straight to the indoor (you never know what kind of cool stuff is going in on there!) and I was not disappointed. Imke was riding one of the most fabulous horses I have ever seen (I know I have said this before, but this one actually was), Tineke was schooling Japanese rider Akane Kuroki’s Olympic mount Toots and Japanese FEI rider Kazuki Sado was riding one of his horses as well. My only complaint was that I only had one set of eyes. There was something to learn from all three of them.
Imke’s horse was being a bit naughty. It was a cold, windy morning and he seemed to be feeling very fresh. It was great watching her remain so centered and calm as her talented young horse expressed his excitement in various athletic ways. She used her voice and purposeful circles to help keep the young horses mind with her during the warm-up. It was wonderful watching his energy begin to balance and shift from negative tension into positive energy.
Tineke’s ride was very different. Toots is seventeen years old and well over eighteen hands. He has a very lofty way of going and is full of suspension. It is very obvious that Tineke and Toots are partners. During their warm-up, you could tell that a lot of conversation was going on under the surface… a little flexion left, a little flexion right, a little bit forward, a little more collection… it was so subtle that I really had to watch carefully. It was interesting to watch Tineke correct this horse. It was not a “teaching” style correction, but more of a reminder. It was almost as if she was telling him that she knew that he knew how to do this better and she would like him to give it a little better effort this time and when he did, she smiled and gave him a pat and they moved on to something else. The ride was so structured and although her aids were subtle, it was obvious that she was working towards something. It was a pleasure to watch.
Kazuki’s horse seemed to be very relaxed this morning. Once they were warmed-up, Imke encouraged him to ask for more activity through quick transitions. It was obvious that his stallion preferred to conserve his energy, but Kazuki’s persistence won out and as each transition became more responsive, his self carriage improved and the whole horse became lighter and moved more efficiently.
All three pairs were completely different, yet there was one very important common thread throughout their rides. It didn’t matter if the horse was tense or relaxed, green or experienced… they were all expected to be in front of the leg and working towards balancing themselves. I thought about this a lot as I tacked up Ms B for our ride.
She warmed up very well. Something I noticed right away was that she remembered me and picked up right were we ended yesterday. Our transitions were a little more in sync and I felt like I was able to ride her more today. She is a very sensitive horse with a lot of energy, so when I ask her for something, he first reaction is to rush instead of waiting to see what I want. I don’t mind this, because she is always willing to do something. As long as I remain patient and focused, I can begin to shape her desire to react into something that I can use.
We started in canter with the goal of potentially of riding some flying changes. This mares canter is unique. She is naturally very quick off the ground, which is pretty, but does not give her much time to do a flying change. Like I noted earlier, she is not built uphill, so her balance is more horizontal. This confirmation divides her energy equally over the front and hind legs. This is not ideal for creating an uphill balance, so Imke wanted me to begin shifting more of her energy onto her hind leg, so we could create as much lightness in her front end as possible. We did this several different ways…
First, we had to get her straight. So I alternated between riding full arena along the wall and on the quarterlines. I used the wall to help get her between my inner hip and outside rein and then tested her straightness on the quarterlines. Imke wanted her straight… very straight! She teaches in a chair that sits facing right down one of the long sides and you can feel her analyzing your alignment as you ride towards and away from her (it feels like a combination of walking a runway and walking to the front of the classroom after the teacher calls your name). Not only did we want her footfall to be aligned, but she also had to use both sides of her body the same. We found that she tended to be a little more open in her left shoulder and tight in the right. So once she was traveling straight, we moved onto a circle to addressed the unevenness in her shoulders.
Imke wanted me to develop better flexion in her inner jaw on the circle, but was quick to correct any loss of straightness. This was quite a difficult balancing act. Like most horses, she was happy to bend her neck to the inside, as long as she could fall through her outside shoulder. Every time we lost correct alignment, we returned to straightness for a moment and then added the flexion to that. One of the things that I love about Imke (and have “borrowed” from her) is that she breaks down a big goal into tiny reasonable pieces. Ms B needed much better right flexion, but we started by asking for 2% more and when she achieved this, we asked for 2% more and so on, always checking to make sure that we were keeping the balance between asking more of her and keeping her happy. The fun thing about this mare was that she felt as though we would never get to “too much”. She was always willing to give the next step a try. Now, there were mistakes and we exposed weaknesses within her development, but mentally she was always looking at the chalkboard and ready for the next question.
By this time, she had already worked very hard for the day. We both agreed that today was not the day to work on the changes, so we ended on playing with some adjustability in her canter. Not only does this address something else that we will need for good flying changes, but it also gives us a fun way to finish the ride.
Later that evening, a few of the riders and I went to a fabulous restaurant in Hilvanrenbeek, Taverne Paulus. I ate here several times during my last visit and knew I wanted to go back again. The food is warm and homey and really hit the spot on this cold, rainy evening…
The first time I went to Holland, everything was unknown. I had no idea what any aspect of the experience would be like, so I felt about a 50/50 mix of nervousness and excitement. Well this time, I knew what I was in for, but I was still feeling that 50/50 mix! Now don’t get me wrong, I had the time of my life a few months ago, but on that first trip, nothing was expected of me. I was a stranger on a difficult horse that I had never sat on before, why would anyone expect much out of this combination?
Well, by the end of my stay with the Bartel’s, I had made great strides with W (both literally and figuratively) and received some very confidence boosting words from Imke and Mischa on the progress that we made together. W ended up selling very soon after my time with him and I was on cloud nine after making a real improvement on a horse in front of riders that I have idolized for so many years. Now that I was returning, I really wanted to be able do that again and soon, I would have that chance.
Later that week, I boarded the most beautiful FinnAir flight from Tokyo to Helsinki. This plane was sweet! Roomy seats, big bathrooms, the nicest crew and I’ve saved the best for last… baskets of warm bread with each meal. It is no secret that I love bread, but maybe a lesser known fact is that I am not a fan of airplane food. I think that I have been on so many planes this year, that I just start to feel a bit green when the cabin fills with the smells of tin foil wrapped fish. A few hours in, they announced that dinner was being served, but didn’t say what it was. Most of the Asian airlines (which is what I have been flying lately) pass out little menu cards with “Japanese, Chinese… etc” or “Western” meal options, so you typically have a choice between two or three options. As they began to serve dinner, I noticed that it actually smelled good… really good. The person in front of me asked what their choices were and he was told that if you didn’t mark a preference when you purchased your ticket, that you would be getting shepherds pie tonight. Shepherds pie on a plane? I was not holding out a lot of hope… until my plate (yes an actual plate) was set down in front of me. Remember, I fly economy, so I usually don’t get real dishes and silverware. I usually get a little tin tray and a plastic spork. Well, let me tell you that FinnAir goes all out my friends! A glass dish filled with a tasty little shepherds pie, a salad, crudité and warm dinner rolls.
I slept like a baby for the rest of the flight…
↓Look how skinny Okinawa is!!
The Helsinki Airport was very cool. Modern and all dolled up for Christmas. They had these cute little mistletoe stations set up (where is Nate when I need him??), piles of reindeer pelts for sale and lots of good shopping…
I landed in Amsterdam late that night. It was 3°C and pouring. Thankfully, Desiree (the Bartel’s stable manager extraordinaire) stayed awake late into the night to let me on the property when I arrived. The farm is all locked up at night, no one in or out without special provision, so I am very glad she was waiting for me! During my first trip, I stayed in the “hotel”, which is a small barn finished out just like a modern hotel, but this time, I stayed in one of the on site apartments and they are warm, cozy and very inviting after a long trip!
The next morning, I woke up bright and early with one thing on my mind: my horse. So, I put on my riding clothes and headed for the door. Unfortunately, as soon as I opened that door, I turned right around and added several more layers. It was cold!!… and raining! Once I was properly layered up, I headed for the stables where I was introduced to my new friend Ms B. She looked beautiful, but reserved. She looked at me quickly and then returned to her breakfast. I don’t like to be disturbed when I am eating either, so I let her do her thing and I headed for the indoor. Sitting in the viewing area of the main indoor at the Bartel’s is second only to actually riding there. It is like an assembly line of the coolest horses on earth, one after another, being ridden right in front of you by some of the very best riders in the world. I can literally sit there all day.
This morning was special. Imke was riding this stunning young stallion, there was Christmas music playing over the sound system, I had a cup of hot chocolate and someone brought me a little dish of kruidnoten (little Dutch spice cookies) from the kitchen. It was awesome!
Later that morning, I had a meeting with Imke to discuss the horse. B is a nine year old KWPN mare out of the stallion Johnson (Jazz/Flemmingh) and this excited me, because I have been a fan of these bloodlines for a long time. She was working some lateral movements, but was struggling with flying changes. This can be very disappointing for a horses future, but I was looking forward to the challenge. I consider flying changes to be one of my specialties and I now have a chance to test myself with this horse.
Next, I headed to the barn to get her ready for our first ride. She was a lot bigger than I thought once she was out of her stall and I noticed that she was built a little high behind. Sometimes this effects a horses way of going and sometimes it doesn’t, so I kept an open mind. She has a lovely personality. She was reserved, in an elegant way, but not snobby. She wanted to take look at each brush and towel that I brought into the wash rack and loved having her shoulders curried. I needed to find a little ladder to bridle her (she is tall and I am not) and then we were on our way to indoor…
I took our first ride slow. I really wanted to give her time to get to know me. I think it is very important to introduce yourself to a mare in a fair way. Of course, we should ride all horses kindly, but if you get right on and tell a mare what the plan is, you have a good chance that she will explain her plan to you soon after.. In the end, I am the boss, but it is imperative that a mare feels that WE are working together. If I don’t take the time to get us on the same page, we will remain at odds and this is no way to develop of a positive relationship with a horse. By the end of this first ride, I felt confident that we understood each other and I was really looking forward to tomorrows ride.
That evening, I was invited to dinner in the library with the Bartel’s, the stable crew and the other riders. The library felt so cozy. There was a big fire in the fireplace, soft music playing and it smelled incredible. Annet Broeckx cooked the entire dinner and every bite was delicious. She made traditional Dutch winter dishes like stamppot (mashed potatoes with spinach, carrots and onions), rookworst (smoked sausage), warm clam chowder and an apple tart with whipped cream and her homemade caramel sauce. Annet rocks!
After dinner, we watched some video snippets of Imke and Tineke from past competitions. It is a surreal feeling to be watching the same videos that I used to watch over and over as a little girl now sitting right next to these women. I had to pinch myself. As the evening went on, someone brought up Santa Claus and asked me what kind of Christmas traditions that we have in the United States. Then someone told me the story of Sinterklaas (the Dutch Santa) to me and we all had a good laugh discussing the differences between our two Santas.
It was a lovely evening and I slept well with a belly full of Dutch winter favourites….
Click here for Training in Holland 2.0 - Part II