Hi, it's Rachel from the Communications team again. The FEI European Championships are finally underway! I actually arrived yesterday (Saturday), so that I could check into my hotel, collect my accreditation, get my bearings and – perhaps more importantly – check out the famous pancake house that's hidden in the woods in the middle of the Rotterdam venue. The rumours didn't lie – the pancakes are fantastic and I know what I'll be eating for the rest of the week!
Today, though, the fun really begins with the first horse inspection for the dressage competition. I head down to the venue early with a few other members of the team, plus our official photographer, Jon Stroud, so I could get set up in the media centre with plenty of time to spare. The venue is only a mile from our hotel and in Holland there's really only one way to travel that sort of distance – by bike.
When in Holland, do as the Dutch do – cycle!
All set up in the media centre, with mascot GBR Jack in pride of place
The first horse inspection for any competition is always a hold-your-breath affair – we've all heard the stories of horses who seem perfectly fine right up until the moment they're asked to trot up for the ground jury. Luckily, all four of our horses fly through without a hitch, and special mention must go to their grooms, who had them turned out beautifully for the occasion. The horse inspection takes place in the Para Arena, which is just a short walk through the woods from the dressage stables.
Gareth Hughes trots up Classic Briolinca. Image: BEF / Jon Stroud Media
Grooms Alan Davies and Lucy Scudamore look on as their charges are presented to the ground jury. Image: BEF / Jon Stroud Media
With the horse inspection over, it's back to the media centre so Jon and I can sit down and choose what images will best for to sharing the good news on social media. We also run through the lightning-speed process of getting images from Jon's camera onto social media when the real competition gets underway tomorrow. It takes me a few tries to get it right, but we get there in the end and I'm sure any kinks will soon be ironed out when I've got to do it for real tomorrow.
Really can't complain about the view from the media centre!
I slip away from the media centre when Jon's not looking to meet up with Gareth Hughes, his daughter Ruby, his wife Rebecca and Julia Hornig, who part-owns Classic Briolinca. I've talked Gareth and Ruby, who was part of the British squad who competed at the FEI Vaulting European Championships earlier this year, into doing a quick podcast interview with me. I love doing these interviews because it's a great opportunity to get to know the riders a little better and share some of their personality with listeners.
In the afternoon, it's time for the dressage riders to have their official training session in the main arena. The weather has been changeable all day – sunshine one minute and pouring with rain the next – and our riders find the second half of their session is rather a rather soggy affair. Luckily for me, I get to spend most of the session watching from the media centre, as Jon and I have a dry run of him sending me photos remotely and me watermarking them and preparing them for upload. However, I do manage to sneak outside for a bit before the rain starts and watch. I've been working in equestrian media for a number of years now, but being able to get such close access to world-famous riders such as Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin is still such a treat.
Lottie Fry and Dark Legend during team training. Image: BEF / Jon Stroud Media
Quick clothing change for Carl as he leaves team training. Image: BEF / Jon Stroud Media
The last thing I do before sitting down in the media centre to write this blog is stake out a place in the press stand for tomorrow's Grand Prix. With Matt not arriving in Rotterdam until Tuesday, it's down to me to help the riders go through the mixed zone tomorrow, as well my usual social media updates – I foresee a lot of running on the agenda tomorrow. Note to self, wear trainers!
The Grand Prix gets underway tomorrow with the first two British riders. I'll post their times on social media when they're announced so you know when to expect the scores.
Want to keep up with everything that's happening in Rotterdam and Luhmühlen? We've got you sorted...
There's a page on this website dedicated to all things European Championships 2019. This is your one-stop-shop for all the content we produce before, during and following on from the Championships, so keep checking back regularly so you don't miss anything.
Did you know that the BEF has its own podcast called the British Equestrian Podcast? Matt, the Head of Communications, and I sit down every Wednesday to chat about what's happening in the equestrian world and interview some of the key players, from elite riders to those involved with community projects, and everybody in between. We'll be bringing you episodes from Rotterdam and Luhmühlen at least once a week but hopefully more often, giving you a taste of what happens at a major championships and getting the low-down from some of the riders and support staff out there.
You can find the British Equestrian Podcast at Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify, or on your chosen podcast streaming service. Don't forget to subscribe to get notifications to your phone each time an episode goes live, and we'd love it if you could leave us a review.