It’s what Wimbledon is to tennis, and what Wembley is to football. I guess you could say Aachen is the equestrian sport’s World Cup. Apart from the Olympics, for the equestrian world, CHIO Aachen is what everyone works towards. Every year across ten days in July, the World Equestrian Festival is held in the beautiful show grounds of Aachen, Germany and sees the world’s top equestrian athletes compete against each other in the five disciplines of show jumping, dressage, eventing, four-in-hand driving and vaulting. They are cheered on by 360,000 spectators who all share a passion and have all come to Aachen to enjoy the world-class sporting demonstration and enjoy and unforgettable time.
But Aachen is also a festival for the crowd, famous for its unique atmosphere which sees a particularly special touch conclude the competition on Sunday evening once the final event has been decided, where both the riders and spectators pull out their white handkerchiefs to wave ‘goodbye’ and promise to see each other at the next year’s event.
Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor visited the World Equestrian Festival in 2008 and was so impressed by the entire spectacle claiming, “The heart of the equestrian sport beats here in Aachen.” It’s also an extremely popular event with the media – approximately 500 journalists and photographers, as well as 200 TV reporters and producers travel to the event each year to report the sport highlights to their audience all around the world.
But of course, the centre of attention for everyone is the question of who is going to immortalise him or herself on the CHIO Aachen’s winners’ board. From Isabel Werth to Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum to Hans Gunter Winkler, the who’s who of the equestrian world strive to have their name engraved on that board. As Winkler, the most successful show-jumping rider of all times says, “You must have won at Aachen to be someone in the equestrian sport world.”
I for one can’t wait to attend Aachen as a spectator one day. To be able to say I’ve seen the world’s best equestrian competitors battle it out against each other for glory is definitely on my bucket list. Who’s keen to come with me?
Reference: CHIO Aachen
Image credit: Horses Daily