You can see it in every rider’s eyes. At the exact moment when so many are watching them, there is nothing they can see other than the jumps on the field. There’s nothing they feel other than their fingers on the reins, and their horse underneath them. It’s not an over dramatization to say that when a rider enters the arena at CHIO Aachen, everything beyond the connection with their horse melts away. What’s left is the sport of show jumping at its purest form.
This is what we saw on Thursday night during the Mercedes Benz Nations Cup in Aachen, Germany. As a photographer, I take in that Aachen energy too when I walk across the hallowed grass arena to take my place on the field of play. Penned in as we are by a green Rolex barrier fence, we photographers can look up from the very center of the action, out to the 40,000 spectators that surround us, to a passing horse making the ground beneath our feet throb, and feel a little bit of what the riders feel. It’s one of the great privileges of the job.
Throughout Germany’s triumph, tense clear rounds, poles falling, and finally, the great relief and celebration of victory at the in-gate, all the other noise of the day faded into the background. Because when Aachen is at its best, there isn’t room for anything other than these great moments of equestrian sport.
-Photography by Erin Gilmore.