|Saturday, September 13, 2008 7:39:30 am|| |
|Insomnia, Containment and High Visibility|
It all ends so undramatically sometime. Usually I’m the one that leaves, today the whole gang left Fiona and I in the HKG airport to head to Beijing for the closing ceremonies, hugs, well wishes, an excessive amount of baggage all flew round along with one monkeyed up ticket that they finally got sorted (despite a seriously spikey girl behind the counter).
And then there were two.
We went out to meet Fast Eddy, who was sporting his snazzy new Team USA shirt and went back to have some breakfast at the hotel. Eddy promptly put the car in drive in stead of reverse and ran into the hedge, not once – but twice. No harm done… We went to the barn to check in, jam some more stuff into the container and
Breakfast moved us up considerably as we had put in some serious time on the dance floor last night. David Hunter (Team Leader for GBR) had somehow strained a calf muscle in a wheelbarrow race after the medal ceremony but it wasn’t evident when he took to the dance floor. It was like a horse who didn’t realize he had a bowed tendon. I imagine he may be far more broken down as a result.
The band at Insomnia was awesome.
We spent the day doing some seriously heavy lifting as Fiona and I (along with James and the Schenker crew) moved everything out of two containers, sorted it all and repacked the container to go home on the boat.
Seven weeks worth of stuff, plus a variety of things we’d acquired fit in with plenty of room to spare and it was a seriously sweaty episode. I’m not sure that the guys helping James and Richard had ever seen women schlep stuff quite so furiously as Fiona and me. The team went to the Farewell Lunch, and returned with rave reviews.
We had Team dinner last night (pre Insomnia) at the YMCA organized by Team Doctor Michelle Look. This wasn’t your average YMCA, it was rather swanky and we had a good time.
The Brits won and won and won againon the last night. Their program and their horses are to die for and they are a class act in every single way.
They won 10 medals total (five Gold and five Silver) so there was plenty to be happy about for all involved. As fiercely as we compete we also look out for eachother... and we are very happy for them as they do for eachother. Ricky (who came second behind Lee) said to me after he rode(he went into the lead and Lee was next to go):
"Joanie, I want to win, but if I can't I want Lee too."
I met some good people on this trip.
Finally turned on the TV today and didn’t realize quite how bad the hurricane is. Our little HKG typhoons don’t even begin to compare.
No more medals, back to reality...
|Thursday, September 11, 2008 12:13:28 am|| |
|Loving Angels Again|
Ok, so I was told that my blog yesterday was boring.
Ahem. You shall remain nameless but those with their videos on YouTube really shouldn’t throw stones.
Humor has been returned to full value. Last night at the venue I felt a bit on my own as the US gang was finished and Fiona had taken them to Stanley Market. I was doing my British duties so Will Connell and I found ‘FEI Sarah’ (Hames) and Olivia Robinson. Those Brits won ANOTHER medal (Felicity – Silver) she was a total champ. Becca was in Bronze medal position until the very last minute and it broke my heart to see the German rider go ahead of her with a test that in my opinion wasn’t any better.
Becca and Steffen need to commiserate.
| Becca and her sister|
Lee Pearson was in high demand and he did a number of interviews, he wears his causes and his dreams so clearly on his sleeve. He talks about riding in London in the able bodied Olympic Games if he could find a sponsor to buy him the right horse.
Imagine that. There is no doubt that determination breeds dreams.
John Ridley told me last night that he is very superstitious, he was finding wood to touch when he was talking about accidents at the race track. I feel like superstition is like luck or karma. Or dreams for that matter. It only is what you make of it. Many of these riders are making more of what they have, and never considering what they don’t have (in some cases that includes limbs or use of them) as being unfair. I can’t actually say that for sure… but if they do, they don’t operate with that chip visible to the rest of the world on their shoulder.
| Keith and Pam... they WERE dancing|
The final US riders rode this morning and Barb, Lynn and Keith were all philosophical about their performances. There is always room for improvement in everything that we do. Whether you ride the horse, write about it, manage a team, run a venue – hell anything in life, we can always do it better.
But I think it has been a bit hard to swallow for all of us that we are coming home without a medal. We’ve been close on a couple of occasions. But this isn’t horseshoes or hand grenades.
That is also something that has, at times, been so obvious throughout all the Games in Hong Kong (and in the Olympic Games in general)… the line between winning and losing isn’t always very long.
Making history and making a mess sometimes don’t look very different from the outside.
I’ll stop philosophizing.
One of the friendly horses rolled in the main arena today at the end of a test which was quite funny.
I caught up with Martin and Henry last night (and another Fiona, it is weird as I only know two in the whole world and they are both here) at Knutsford Terrace. I hadn’t been there before; it was a cool place, lots of restaurants and shops up a bunch of steps. That isn’t really a worthy explanation… We sat outside and had a good laugh while they finished dinner. It is great to have Martin back. He was appalled that I have 249 unread emails on my Blackberry. He wasn’t getting the fact that I have actually read them on the computer (although at this point, I’d venture to guess that there are a few people that may argue). I was showing him pictures on his computer yesterday, his inbox had about six items in it. The busiest man on the venue only has six items in his inbox. Organization would be his forte – thank God.
| Walking Home|
My Fiona (sisters from another mother as we have dubbed ourselves) came and found us with USOC Rebecca and Dr. Stacey. It was a very enjoyable evening.
Am currently writing in the car with Fast Eddy, just became Eagle Eyed Eddy as he just spied a cop in the place where we always do a somewhat questionable U turn to get to the hotel in the construction zone. The other driver won’t do the U turn, he has named himself Careful Ken as a result of the hell that we give him about it.
Finishing up in the hotel and just had a call from housekeeping asking me if my TV was broken. I couldn’t figure out why until I looked at the note I had stuck on it that says Reining Preview. I guess I should go write that.
|Tuesday, September 9, 2008 10:34:29 pm|| |
|Sense of Humor Failure Recovery|
So, there was no blog yesterday. I had a bit of sense of humor failure for the first time since I’ve been here and wasn’t feeling it. Apologies.
But I can report a great karaoke session starring two of my favorite people…
Those pesky Brits are romping through the medals, they won three Gold and a Silver yesterday. It has been fun to get to know their riders as well. They are becoming celebrities over there (the BBC is here just to cover them) and they are some of the greatest bunch. Lee, Simon, Ricky, Sophie, Anne… the whole group is very professional. Their Para Equestrian program is 20 times the size of ours and I can only hope that because of the WEG we can push our program to new heights. Lee Pearson won his eighth consecutive Paralympic Gold yesterday. Remarkable.
There was no competition yesterday morning and we were civilized, had breakfast and then Fiona and I went to Stanley Market.
Armed with my credit card for the first time in weeks, I was able to demonstrate reasonable restraint. There is nothing you couldn’t buy there. I bought running shoes (as mine have wandered off) some gifts for people and a nice jacket to wear racing.
Speaking of racing, I was extended a very gracious invitation by John and Lydia Ridley to go to Opening Day here at Sha Tin. It means taking a few days off (which would be nice…) and staying until Tuesday but it certainly didn’t take much convincing. When will that ever happen again?
I caught up on a bunch of other stuff in the afternoon and then returned to the evening session. I took the train, which was jammed and got there a bit later than I had anticipated. I missed the first British rider unfortunately but there was plenty of excitement. The Brits were in a class of their own.
| Lee Pearson and I head to the Mixed Zone|
Our gang gave it there best shot, Keith finally got to have his turn and David O’Connor’s Walk on the Moon (Danny to all his pals) behaved perfectly in the main arena. Their relationship is brand new but Keith was as grateful a person as I have ever met. He then promptly tried to mow me down with his wheel chair as we were having a bit of a race from the mixed zone to the athletes stand.
| Keith and 'Danny' after their ride|
It is infectious here, my bad mood was dissipating. Between the friends I’ve made and the horses that make it happen. You can’t really stay grumpy here.
| USOC Rebecca, Fiona and Will |
|Monday, September 8, 2008 1:05:09 am|| |
|Twice A Day|
We haven’t done twice-daily sessions since the eventers left and the schedule is proving tiring. Our guys haven’t quite hit their stride yet as the arena is proving to be very buzzy (as it was for the other disciplines) and many of these horses haven’t been in this type of atmosphere. Everyone has been trying really hard, we just need a little bit of luck to bump our game up. The Brits just look invincible in the team portion.
After bouncing back to the venue last night after having tea with a good group and having a big laugh we watched the 1a and 1b classes. Lynn was super, she was third. Rhett is a cool dude and despite one very naughty moment in the beginning where he had a massive spook he was able to regroup and Lynn handled it like a pro. She assured me that he wouldn’t be doing that again.
Robin was happy with her horse but disappointed with her score… sometimes luck just doesn’t turn up when you need it.
It took ages to get the final results, so I tried to stay awake… it is always a bit hard to unwind at midnight when you get back from competition. I woke up at 4.30 in the morning half-frantic that I had over slept (I was moments late meeting Will Connell to go to the venue yesterday morning… Will was in the British army for 17 years so he is a stickler for punctuality, I have been known to be late once or twice in my life) relieved o know that I had two more hours of sleep. I don’t think I’ve been jet-lagged, just confused.
Which isn’t new to me.
Speaking of confusing, Fiona and I managed to seriously confuse the German vet at the Welcome Ceremony. He is a dead ringer for Aussie eventing rider Shane Rose and when Fiona and I saw him across the room we ran over to find out what in the world Shane was doing back at the venue.
Fortunately he was awfully good natured about two strange women accosting him.
Fiona: “Shane, what in the world are you doing back here?”
Joanie: “Oh it is great to see you!”
German vet: “I think you must think I’m someone else…”
| It's not Shane Rose|
But we took a poll and no one argued with us about the identicalness. Made us feel a bit less blonde.
They say everyone in the world has a doppelganger, just a bit weird that Shane’s is the German vet (and visa versa).
| Becca, Norteassa and Fiona|
Becca rode today and was good, a victim of the atmosphere and some erratic judging. She is such a class act. The whole gang has been doing a good job of keeping morale up even though the scores aren’t quite as good as we would like. They are handling the press like total pros which makes my job very easy. I’ve been giving the Brits a hand too, they have some seriously season characters on their team so it has been fun.
It is my first Paralympic experience and I’m nothing short of inspired.
Keith finally gets to ride his individual test tomorrow, and Robin goes tonight… more later… and I took pictures!
| Keith Newerla|
|Sunday, September 7, 2008 10:13:56 am|| |
|Ups and Down Around the Globe|
Team USA is on a roll all over the world. The show jumpers won the Nations Cup at Spruce Meadows, Chester Weber is leading the way for the four-in-hand drivers at the World Championships, he is currently also second going into the final day. The margin between he and the Dutch driver in the lead is very narrow… come on Chester!!! Our National champ deserves to be world champ too. Phillip Dutton was masterful on Woodburn on the cross country to lie second on Saturday night only to have to withdraw the horse before the trot-up. It just wouldn’t be his autumn.
Here, in Hong Kong the Paralympians finally got their time to shine. Our first two riders went this morning and did a great job in the seemingly electric atmosphere. Barb and Becca didn’t disappoint. Robin and Lynn go this evening. The Brits have won this Gold medal at the past three Games… I think I might make a wager with Will Connell to see how close we can get. They look pretty tough again.
We just flew back to the hotel with the world’s best NPC driver, Fast Eddy, who we have taught to use the phrase HOLY COW all the time much to everyone’s amusement (including his own). We had a bit of a karaoke session in the car with Eddie as Will Connell travels with CDs so we got into a bit of Abba and Tina Turner. I think Eddie might think we are nuts.
The effort that goes into these Games is amazing. I’ve been lucky enough to spend time with many people that do an exorbitant amount of work behind the scenes. From the vets, farriers to the venue staff and the logistics crew, they have basically put their lives on hold for these Games. They have done a fantastic job and would what they do could never be fully realized.
What goes into all these horses is just as phenomenal. There may be one horse and one rider in the ring but they are their on the backs and shoulders of a huge support staff.
|Saturday, September 6, 2008 2:46:05 am|| |
|Back to Business|
There may be hurricanes at home, but I’m happy to report that over here in Hong Kong we are typhoon free (for the moment anyway…).
It is very nice to be back catch up with people and to get to know this Paraequestrian group. They are serious athletes and very inspiring. The whole team (support staff included) is more than remarkable. The buzz at the venue is still great, it is a bit quieter (we only have five horses instead of 12 in our end of the barn) but everyone is happy. These guys have it great, four tack rooms and plenty of space, it was a bit crowded with the other gang here.
Caught up with Fiona Tibone (who is serving as the Chef d’ Mission for this adventure as Jim Wolf has gone back to America), and Will Connell (British Chef d’Mission) for dinner the first night I arrived after I tormented the Kenny (who met me at the airport (he works for BOCOG). It is fantastic to get off the plane, be met by someone right at the gate, get whisked through accreditation, passport control, customs and there you are in Arrival Hall A in no time at all. After such a long flight they make it very easy.
All I wanted was a cup of coffee, Fiona was coming to meet me, I got her one too, spilled mine everywhere, drug my poor sidekick all over the airport while first looking for a Starbucks and then looking for Fiona, whose driver was slightly confused as to which carpark to go to.
We finally connected, I think Kenny was more than happy to see me, my luggage and the coffee off. I wasn’t his problem any more.
Mayhem continued as my ATM card finally turned up in Kentucky (three days later than promised), I had a friend activate it, only it needed a different PIN (which no one informed me of) and the machine ate it (for those who just tuned in, my other card was eaten by a machine in Hong Kong).
I got slightly wound up at dinner on the phone to the bank… I think I’m used to it because it happens to me so much. I’m a bit of mess with stuff like this even though 50% of the time I think I may just be a victim of circumstance… The machine finally gave the card back, it in a FedEx package on the way here, I’ll be impressed if it shows up before I leave.
Got to the venue in plenty of time for the trot-up the following morning, our horses looked awesome. All 71 passed, the Ground Jury took a second look at three of them but everyone passed eventually. Dr. Stacey Kent, all the grooms and the whole support staff (including Missy Ransehousen – coach and Sharon Schneidemann – assistant coach) leave no detail unattended to. It was seriously hot and humid during the trot-up but then we had an awesome rain which broke it up a bit.
All the horses are very cool and seem to have settled in well. It was great to see my buddy Walk On The Moon. He belongs to Karen and David O’Connor and I rode him this winter in Florida. He is a superstar. Keith Newerla does a great job on him, ‘Danny’ is having his first Paralympic experience.
This is also my first Paralympic Games so I have a lot to learn (probably more than Danny as he seems to know his job). I went to the village for lunch with the gang yesterday and was amazed at the vibe there. The excitement was resonating around the place. It was very cool.
Caught up with John and Lydia Ridley from the Jockey Club last night, they have been amazingly gracious and kind to us (and all the teams). We drove about 10 minutes from Sha Tin and all of a sudden it was like being in California. We were in a total beach town. We walked along the pier and had dinner in a great square… dogs running amuck everywhere which we all got a kick out of. Met up with some other friends a bit later, feel like I’m running out of time to see everyone and do everything.
Today, I went out and watched the second group of our guys train. Keith and Lynn looked relaxed and happy despite it being one of the sunniest mornings we've had. Missy and Sharon rode the horses a bit first, it seemed to all go quite well.
I promise pictures tomorrow. Fearing more rain (which was realized) I left my camera at the hotel.
Competition starts, Becca says the butterflies have woken up. I can’t wait either.
But first the welcome ceremony this evening.
|Thursday, September 4, 2008 12:22:23 pm|| |
|Here We Go Again|
I’m back on the plane to Hong Kong, this 14 hour flight from Chicago to Hong Kong is getting somewhat mundane. Being home was a whirlwind. The reiners headed to Italy for their World Championships, the drivers scattered to Poland and Holland for theirs, dressage, eventing and show jumping were all invading the Kentucky Horse Park. The show jumpers were getting set for Barcelona. Will Simpson, Gina Miles and Laura Kraut were headed to Oprah today with more than 100 other medalists. The show airs on Monday… they filmed live in Millennium Park. DON’T MISS IT!
My own life was looking a bit frazzled as well. Oil changes, dry cleaning, battling the mysterious crickets-on-steroids that took up residency in the basement (they are peace loving, just freakishly large), catching up with friends, watching some racing, pulling weeds, planting flowers, trying to explain to the back why I needed a new ATM card rushed – which for those that have been following didn’t make it ‘due to the holiday.’
My first major task (after being relieved to not see a puma or a monkey in the backyard/jungle) was to fetch two perfect canines from North Carolina where they spent August at Murray Family Summer Camp. Both were covered in paint when I picked them up.
They had been ‘helping’ paint Will Faudree’s living room… and they seemed very happy about it.
The 5-month-old Jack Russell – Brighton, from the infamous b line of Irish black and tan Jacks made famous by eventers Julie Richards and the Karen and David O’Connor… only problem is she came out mostly white with big black splotches all over her instead of being black and tan. Aside from that she’s pretty much perfect, she’s also kind of a midget, but her sidekick weighs 86 pounds so maybe it is just perception – anyway she learned how to swim like a demon when I was gone, one of the perks of being raised by a Labrador Retriever I suppose – although I’m not sure conformationally it looks like it should be possible. She also has taken a serious liking to Poly-Track and runs around like a maniac in the arena whenever we go ride. Endless circles as fast as she can.
I’m sure she’d like the footing at Sha Tin too. She’d probably also like this trip. Puppies like adventures and she likes to fly.
Speaking of trips, her big brother (in size and age), Sailor, was more than happy to give this one a miss. Closing in on a decade, Sailor has been to more horse trials and horse shows (and steeplechase meets for that matter) than any horse I know. I think he’s missed Rolex once in the last 10 years (and no… I haven’t always lived in Kentucky so he used to actually make a trek), he’s been to Foxhall, North Georgia, Red Hills, Groton House, any and all events in the Mid Atlantic... he’s also been to Saratoga, Gladstone, Upperville, most of the shows at the Kentucky Horse Park, polo in a variety of places, the Virginia Gold Cup, both Cups in Camden, SC, Middleburg Races…
Needless to say he’s over it.
He would be happy to never leave the back yard again except to maybe walk downtown and chase tennis balls at Woodland Park or swim in the pond at Keeneland.
No cars, no horse vans, no trucks, no trailers… ever again.
So our return from Southern Pines in the Subaru was powered mostly by panting Labrador. That seems to be the only way that he voices his objection but it is tedious for both of us. Contrary to popular belief, he’s not hot. He’s annoyed.
I have some advice for those who make their living in renewable energy: harness the power of the panting Labrador. There is no way in the world that any country, ever, could use it all up.
I miss them already, and ‘my’ horse, who isn’t really mine, he belongs to some friends and I have him to sell him for them. He’s off the track (was trained by the owner… he was a pretty nice racehorse). Now he’s a star, he seriously jumps and because of him I have forged a great friendship with his owners.
Luckily for me: the horse has evolved from rank (armed with a serious buck) to pretty close to perfect over the last six months. Would be one of my biggest off-the-track successes, I think largely because I didn’t have a real plan, I just listened to him instead of trying to get him somewhere. He’s that type of horse, he has a lot to say.
This job is great, I’m really lucky. I get to go to amazing places with amazing people and witness history being made by the best horses in the world.
On a regular basis.
But, there are days, when it is 9.30 at night, I’m still working and I’m frustrated. Without getting to actually be part of a horse’s daily life, it is far easier to forget why it all matters. Some days horses are just as frustrating, but they are always honest about it and it is very rare that it isn’t warranted.
Hell, I spent the first three years of my life furious that no one understood what I was trying to communicate. Imagine being a horse and having some human just not get it for days at a time.
He’s headed to three weekends at the horse show when I go home, I can’t wait. I’m very lucky. I have to get a different helmet though, one with one of those stripes down the front, as I feel as though I have a Scarlet E for Eventer on my cross country helmet when I go to the horse show.
| Return to Sha Tin|
More from Hong Kong tomorrow, or today, or yesterday. I’m halfway over Hudson Bay (which seems to be completely the wrong direction but I don’t get paid to fly the plane as I’m sure the pilot doesn’t get paid to write press releases) I don’t know which day it is… or will be when I get there but there will be more, from Hong Kong.
|Wednesday, August 27, 2008 8:35:14 am|| |
|Around the World and Back Again|
So I made it home.
Mind you, I’ve been up since 4 am, having finally gotten to my house at 10.30 last night. I had to con a friend into coming to pick me up as I lost my debit card in an ATM machine in Hong Kong and was short on cash for a cab when I got home. The flight was a long one, Hong Kong to Chicago but the Fantastic Dr. Farrell gave me some miles (we were on the same flight) and I got to fly business class! It was such a nice gesture and I slept, really slept, not airplane sleep, for at least eight hours. I’m seriously indebted.
I’ve always said that too often we don’t take advantage of the opportunities horses offer us, I’ve always tried to take advantage of as many as I can. One of those is forging friendships with the people they attract. I’ve built a lifetime of them. I consider myself to be extraordinarily lucky.
The morning before I left, after a much needed super fun night out with a great group of riders and staff, we decided over breakfast (which included the recently arrived Pam Lane, who is the USEF Director of Paraequestrian) that I should stay for the Paralympics. What these riders achieve is extraordinary and needs to be celebrated. It simply wasn’t on the USOC radar screen for me, so we decided I would come home for 10 days and then head back. The decision was made through utilizing some United VIK, a deal with helping the British Chef d’ Mission in his attempt to multi-task as Press Attache during Para, and some rearranging of schedules. We all felt really strongly that is was not only feasible, it is a necessity. Not only are the next few weeks imperative but many of these riders will be aiming for the World Equestrian Games, here, in 2010.
So, I head back on September 3rd. I had to get life in order a bit better here (bills, the jungle that is my yard, my dogs, horse, etc) plus catch up on the hundreds of emails that have been put into the ‘follow-up’ category. The driving World Championships get underway this week, we have reining World Champs soon too – my fantastic intern Gillian went back to school − there is a lot going on.
After these trips, I go into some sort of deep reflection. It may even border on depression or critical evaluation. Once the buzz dies down, it is hard to keep the momentum. As Olympic fever wanes, I spend a lot of time thinking of how I could have done things better. Done things differently. I struggled with this when I was a groom too and would return from a major competition without my horses having won. Sometimes those things were a lot more tangible than this trip.
I feel a huge responsibility to my riders, to get their names out there and their faces seen. It is hard for me to accept the response, that, yes they won a gold medal, but Michael Phelps won eight, Bolt broke three world records, etc. The networks are nuts over those stories… and now if your name isn’t Obama or McCain… well… Our lesser know sports sometimes fade into the shadows. I wish I could change that, and I’m giving a lot of thought as to how.
We have to wade through the weeds and remember what lies at the soul of all this: these horses. Our sports can be complicated to those of us on the inside, on the outside even more so… but we can never lose sight of the most important things in all of this: Brentina, Ravel, Mythilus, Neruda, Connaught, Mandiba, McKinlaigh, Comet, Poggio, Cedric, Carlsson, Sapphire, Champ and Authentic. There are also so many that got so close, just ask Northern Spy or Kingston.
We have some amazing stories, and some amazing athletes. We have some unbelievable support staff. The vets, grooms, farriers, physios, the USEF staff. Sometimes the story, no matter how good, isn’t enough to get past the things that are mainstream sexy. It isn’t an excuse, but it is a reality that I’m not always prepared to contend with.
I went to the barn the afternoon before I left, there was stuff everywhere as Dougie Hannum was breaking down three weeks worth of accumulation. They have to disinfect the barns before the Para horses arrive. There were five horses left in the barn, four of which were our show jumpers (one was an Irish horse). The grooms were having a very well deserved outing to the sights and the horses were unwinding. I walked in and one of them whinnied. Four heads flew to the front of their stalls and I cut up a carrot and dished out the goods. It is the peace and quiet of these animals, and the comfort we find in them, that is sometimes lost in all the chaos at these Games.
I studied our four gold medal winners. There wasn’t one similarity in their faces. Cedric, little and grey, always looks somewhat surprised and expectant. His future is so huge. Sapphire’s big emblazoned (as in: with blaze) chestnut head assesses the surroundings confidently and knowingly, there’s not much this classy veteran hasn’t seen. Carlsson would climb over the stall door if he could to get closer to a human. He doesn’t know he missed the individual party because of a rule, not because of his performance. I’ve told him more than once, I’m sure Will (and Roger his groom) has too. And Bud, well I think Mark Todd once said that that his horse Charisma oozed his name. Bud does too. He studied me harder than I studied him. He couldn’t have been as impressed as I was.
These horses are the soul of what we do. If that ever escapes me, it is time for me to move on.
I hope that day never comes. I’m off to the grocery store, where they better let me write a check. I’m out of coffee and two cups isn’t going to get me through this day.
So… on to Paralympics I guess this blog will continue, and I promise to ask IT about photos.
|Friday, August 22, 2008 7:22:09 am|| |
And then there were none.
There were no more medals to be handed out.
Beezie stole the final bronze medal from Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum with an unbelievable performance on my friend Bud. She copied McLain’s shortcut and was just absolutely lightning fast. Beezie is stone cold. I’ve never seen someone with nerves like that. Eric Lamaze was a pretty popular winner, he’s been to hell and back personally and has triumphed.
Authentic truly is what his name means. He has three Olympic and two World Championship medals to his name… Beezie said she knew from day one that he was a star but she wasn’t sure at first if he had enough scope. I think he would jump the moon for her.
McLain was pretty awesome too, he dared himself at the last and Sapphire couldn’t quite get it done, but if he hadn’t tried he wouldn’t have won the medal anyway.
It was a really long night, medals, press conferences, etc, but no one noticed that it was after 12 when we left the venue. We had a glass of champagne for Beezie, who left for a family reunion at 4 am today, she was one of the very few who got out, the rest of us are stuck in the hotel in the typhoon. One horse flight got out this morning as well but the rest have been postponed until tomorrow afternoon at the earliest.
The weather in Kowloon (hotel) is fine, just damp and rainy. Out of the city it is very nasty by the sounds of it. The horses are all good and so are the grooms that are out at the venue.
The fantastic Dr. Farrell (who over the course of the last three weeks developed some aliases: Dr. Bob (which he came with), Typhoid Mary (because of course the doc got a cold), Typhoon Mary (evolved from previous) and my favorite: Mr. Fantastic Four (which a local cab driver named him and no one has been able to really understand why)) and I decided to go out for a walk. We were extremely disappointed to not have much action. Everything is closed (from Starbucks to the mall) but people were out and about. It was windy but nothing like the 100 plus mile winds they had promised. The hotel put tape on all of our windows and we were told to look out for flying debris… so far Dorothy hasn’t flown by.
It is weird to think that it is all over now. We have to wait another four years to do this again. Imagine how much will change. Hopefully, like this year, we will see some horses return.
But before London, we go WEGing, all these fantastic horses and riders (and more) come to Kentucky in 2010 for what we hope will be the greatest show on earth. We have two pretty hard acts to follow (Aachen and this) but I think we are up for it. The World Equestrian Games is an amazing chance for the US and for Kentucky.
I think tomorrow I will make a list… people like lists.
|Thursday, August 21, 2008 2:40:32 am|| |
We had a ‘day off’ yesterday. There was no competing, the show jumpers jogged beautifully and we went to Victoria’s Peak for lunch with the Brits.
They have a great staff and are a fun bunch, considering all the controversy surrounding the show jumping with John Whitaker’s horse not being able to jump it was nice to mend some fences although on a personal level I’m not sure any were ever broken. The inconsistencies in much of the stewarding and rule making here has been frustrating but for the most part, friendships haven’t been jeopardized.
For me, having lived in the UK during the heyday of the legendary Milton, nothing would have made me happier than getting to see John jump 18 years later. I understand the rules, but he falls into the Toddy and Ian Millar category, everyone wants to witness a legend.
So we went to the peak but then we had to leave to go see Amy Tryon off. She was finally getting out of the hospital and heading back to Seattle. Where we had lunch was halfway up the peak and we never got further.
As Fiona said, “Only you guys would plan a trip to Everest, run out of time and only get as far as base camp…”
The funniest part is that the only part of Amy we got to see was her pulling out. She could see us out the window waving like mad. I’m so happy for her to get to go home and see her dogs and horses.
We went to the Jade Market yesterday and got our bargaining shoes on. I got some cool stuff, we all did. My Yankee roots were happy to be getting a deal or two, I had to get a few things for the people who are looking after all my moving parts at home.
Strangely enough when we pulled up at the Jade Market… there was a guy standing there in handcuffs with the police. The whole situation seemed quite calm… just somewhat odd.
I got a text that Mandiba and Comet arrived in New York from Tim (Pedens). Tim isn’t coming back and it is somewhat sad now that people are leaving and everything is winding down. We have had some fun. James returned from dropping off that group of horses in Europe but he lost all of his luggage. In 2004, I lost all my luggage on a horse flight coming back from those Games and since James assured me then that there was no way it was possible that he lost my bag… it returned from Germany a week later when I was still in the UK waiting to go to Burghley… so I had a big laugh when I saw James in shorts and a tee-shirt last night. He is luggageless.
We went to dinner at an amazing restaurant on Hong Kong island. We got all dressed up and felt like we were having a real cosmopolitan experience. We came back to our happy group of Brits and we had quite a few laughs…
My battle wound from watching show jumping is finally heeling. I had inadvertently stabbed myself in the hand with a pen when Will won the gold medal for the team. Those that witnessed it couldn’t believe it when the blood started pouring out of my palm. Those that have since fabricated the story further (the original version is ridiculous enough) find it hilarious and I think it even made the British blog.
I did another stupid thing... I left my ATM card in the ATM yesterday. I cancelled it... but I'm pretty grumpy about it.
Apparently we are having another typhoon tomorrow.
|Tuesday, August 19, 2008 11:42:23 pm|| |
The show jumping finale couldn’t have been more exciting. I know it is old news by now but it was history in the making. The US horses jumped phenomenally, but three of the four of them put a foot on the water. Cedric jumped clean like a pro, a true testament to his ability as he is so inexperienced.
We were forced into a jump off with Canada, our first three horses produced unbelievable performances and because the first Canadian had a rail, Beezie didn’t have to jump. Will’s clear round sealed the deal. The Canadian gave us a serious run for our money especially because they were down to three horses. Watching Ian Miller jump in his ninth Olympic Games was truly witnessing a legend. At 61 years old, he is a master.
Like Mark Todd.
We had a celebration in the sky bar at the Sheraton which was well deserved… the medals are awesome.
Mr. Lau, our driver, proved to be our good luck charm, he was as excited as we were. He came into the venue and watched… we needed him to hold over for Steffen.
Yesterday was filled with photos and media requests, my carpal tunnel is absolutely killing me, so this might not be extensive. We went and visited Amy in the hospital, she seems to be doing well and she flies back to Seattle today. Fiona and Dr. Farrell performed a herculean effort to get her on a flight.
Dressage finished up last night and although I will not go off on one of the great injustices in the world (dressage judging) Steffen really deserved a medal. Ravel was just awesome in his first international competition.
He was fourth. Steffen is probably the classiest guy I’ve ever met. He’s remarkable and so proud of his horse. As he should be. The Rolling Stones and the Talking Heads made his freestyle the crowd favorite.
We celebrated again for him last night, telling more tales around the campfire. The Brits joined in and legend Rosemary Bartlow who organized the International Federation Tent (as she does every Games since 1984) is always highly amusing (but very proper because of course she’s British)…
We woke up this morning and went to watch the jumpers jog for the individual final. Unfortunately for Will he doesn’t get to jump after his accomplishment the other night because only the top three from each country go forward. He finished on 16 and Beezie is on 15.
Bummer for him as he has half of California here to watch him. They should all get to go, because they are all in the top 25.
We have the day off today… we are about to head up to Victoria Peak. More later.
|Monday, August 18, 2008 1:36:11 am|| |
|As Predicatable as the Weather|
After the late night dressage we all slept in yesterday morning… I think I’m becoming nocturnal except for the fact that I’m not actually sleeping all day. SO what do you call something that doesn’t sleep at all?
Whatever it is, that’s us.
I went on a completely futile trip to the venue yesterday morning only to have everything take way longer than I expected and have to go home for a staff meeting. There are so many moving parts at these Games that we all have to check in everyday to make sure we still know which way is up.
All the eventing riders are gone minus Gina who is taking her silver medal to the closing ceremonies in Beijing (and Amy who is still on the emend in the hospital.
Let's talk about Michael Phelps. The man must be part fish. Watching the replay of gold number seven was remarkable, I’ve never in my life seen someone with such long arms. Number eight was not as close but just as cool. Eight gold medals in less than two weeks… doesn’t seem possible.
Will Simpson’s kids turned up just in time to see him jump three nights ago, he got them all decked out in USA gear and I’m sure they will be going wild again tonight. Three of our Olympians have kids and two are over 50, equestrian is the EOE of these Games.
I had my daily meeting with Authentic, I had wanted to share a carrot with him but he was adamant that he was the only one eating. Bud looks phenomenal… smiley and confident. Clark (his groom) was working on keeping the ever impractical white Ralph Lauren shorts clean (they had not been thinking of grooms when they designed team kit) I wandered down the aisle and all the horses looked well, it was quiet in the barn as the five eventing horses were gone. Dressage horses seemed well Rafa insisted that I visit with Ravel, who was awfully proud of himself after his performance the other night. It didn’t take much convincing.
The weather here has been remarkable, it certainly hasn’t been unbearable. No worse than Virginia or Kentucky in the summer. It is humid but as we were talking about today, when we have spells like this at home the horses are at the horse shows in plastic tents and are competing during the middle of the day. We could have it a lot worse, no question.
I missed my favorite race in Saratoga, the Sword Dancer, but watched the replay with John Long and warrior Better Talk Now almost stole another one. The defending champ hung on and Grand Couturier looked quite good in his win.
The defending champs looked quite good in their show jumping gold medal defense too. McLain and Sapphire were PERFECT. Their round was phenomenal and they are tied with Eric Lamaze and Hickstead on ZERO after two rounds for the individual title. McLain talked about how much they have sacrificed to get here on such good form, not just in their lives but in the competition arena as well.
Laura almost repeated the effort with Cedric... only to have the very last fence down. Laura was thrilled, we were still sitting pretty as there was quite a bit of carnage. Will and Carlsson put a foot in the water jump and then had part of the triple down. The course was tricky, there were plenty of related lines and the first bending line was a style, left hand turn to the open water, right handed to another oxer. It caught out plenty of people but Will certainly held his own.
Then the strangest thing happened to my friend Bud.
He was jumping for fun until the final line, where he started shaking his head furiously while holding is ear out to the side. He never even saw the first element of the combination and ran right by it. He was still out of sorts when Beezie came around the second time and had the first part down.
So he added 11 faults, which was the drop score. Bud isn’t the drop score very often. Beezie wasn’t too deterred. The team was still in the lead and she wasn’t worried it would happen again.
Some of the strangest things have happened to us at these Games. Who ever would have ever predicted that?
It was another late night and we slept in a little bit this morning.
Neruda and Champ flew out this morning...
Will Connell (GBR Chef d’Mission) amused us this morning and now we wait… team medal on the horizon??
|Saturday, August 16, 2008 2:21:49 pm|| |
Show Jumping, Dressage, Airport and a Headache
The show jumpers renewed our faith last night. You would have read about it earlier but our internet is down again. Sorry about that.
McLain and Sapphire started it off with one of their textbook clear rounds. Laura and Cedric were next in for the US and the tiny grey horse jumped phenomenally. Laura was a bit overpowered coming into the triple and had the middle part down. Laura was seriously pleased and thinks he will improve off of last night. Will Simpson was cool as could be in his Olympic debut with Carlsson vom Dach. The horse’s technique has improved dramatically since Florida. They jumped clean too. Beezie was awesome, as always, with Authentic, he looked as good as ever which is saying a lot because he was is so consistently phenomenal.
Three clear rounds… the best performance of any nation all night - which means we jump last in the first round of the Nations Cup.
This picked up our heads considerably as we were feeling pretty despondent there for a bit.
We aren’t quite Michael Phelps yet but we at least have our confidence back. Our driver Mr. Lau told us that we had to beat the Germans as he was very sad for our eventing riders.
Lizzy, Fiona and I woke up at about 4.55 to leave the hotel at 5 am to go load the eventing horses, as the grooms were flying out at the exact same time. They all marched on the trucks like pros, but then we realized we were short a person and James Luck (works for Peden, hilarious) told me to stay on the truck and Jim would pick me up at the airport. Worked for me.
Some massive confusion ensued as Lizzy Chesson ran to get my bag, which, when she brought it back to the truck we realized it wasn’t mine. turns out it was Emma’s (who grooms for Phillip). She had Dougie Hannum’s on the truck in the stalls in front of me. The trucks pulled out and Emma, who doesn’t know how to panic, and was going to the UK on the horse flight, wondered what was going to happen as none of us had anything that we needed (especially her passport). Dougie wasn’t going anywhere but it seemed like maybe his stuff was. Luckily we pulled up in the venue to wait for the rest of the convoy and the bags were all returned to their rightful owners.
I blame the fact that a. all the bags are identical team issued kit and b. we hadn’t had coffee yet because the Sheraton doesn’t serve it until 6.30 am.
So Mandiba, Poggio and I were on the road. Again.
Poggio left Washington state in January, went as far north as New Jersey, as far back west as Kentucky, to Virginia and then to England. You cannot tell his years by looking at him, his legs are tight, he is very shiny and you’d have to look pretty hard to find a grey hair. But as I studied his face on the quiet ride to the airport, his wisdom and integrity was unmistakable. He’s as understanding a horse as I’ve ever studied. If a horse was ever reflective, it would be Poggio. Two World Championships, two Olympics, a Pan Ams and countless Kentuckys will do that to you I guess. At 16 years old, he has been around the world more than once. He’s certainly earned his retirement, even if his last event didn't end how it should have.
Mandiba is at the other end of the spectrum. His career is only just beginning and he was far more interested in trying to bite the sheepskin off Poggio’s halter than reflecting on his first Olympic Games. At 9, he was thrown in at the deep end when he replaced Northern Spy at the last minute. The score sheet may not reflect his class… but he is nothing but. There will be many more stamps in his passport.
We, and all the other horses on the flight, got a police escort straight to the airport. I don’t think the driver touched the brakes until we pulled into the cargo terminal.
The horses arrived at the airport and we were greeted by Jim Wolf and the Peden crew. Jim wanted to jump in the air conditioned truck and hang out while they finished up unloading the cargo from the incoming flight. He promptly whacked his head in a poorly timed leap and I sent him to go find a vet to further examine him. He’s fine, mostly it made for a good story.
Fiona and Lizzy showed up because we had forgotten some of our fluids (in case the horses need them when they get to the UK) and they then further examined Jim. I managed to get completely covered in grease (no idea how) while moving all the gear into the pallets. I was the only one by the looks of it.
The process was seamless. Robin (Pedens) and Emma got Connaught’s kick pads in place, Emma loaded him up and waited while I got McKinlaigh off the truck and into the pallet next to him. I jumped out and that pallet was gone to the plane with Emma, Simon and Mac aboard. I turned around, the other pallet was already in place, I got Poggio off the truck, Jim grabbed Mandiba and they were loaded (Comet was just ahead of us with an Irish horse). We grabbed the rest of the gear threw it on the pallet in front of the horses and they were gone too. I love this buzz at the airport and was glad I lucked into going. It is a fascinating process.
We waited while the next flight to Amsterdam was loaded and then we got a lift back to the Sheraton for some breakfast. This morning was quite a bit longer than we expected. As we pulled out Henry Bullen (Pedens) got word that the plane was pushing back, just before wheels up time.
And just like that, the first Olympic chapter was closed. 1/3 of our wing of the barn was now empty.
Then I was tired, Christy, Lizzie, Fiona and I took a nap by the pool. Jim, Fiona and I went to visit eventing rider Amy Tryon (she is in the hospital with an infection but is in great spirits and on the mend) then we headed back the venue to watch dressage.
Our guys were awesome. Steffen and Courtney got great tests out of their horses and 5.2% is all that separates eighth placed Courtney from the winner Isabell Werth. Steffen is even closer in fourth. Ravel and Myth really rose to the occasion. We are really starting to feel a bit better about life around here.
Dressage is totally subjective which is frustrating as some of the horses ahead of ours made mistakes. The freestyle is on Tuesday and we are praying for some more hardware!
Michael Phelps set an Olympic Record in the pool by .1 second. He also won gold.
Sometimes that is the only difference between gold and silver, in any sport.
|Friday, August 15, 2008 2:01:50 am|| |
|Hit By a Bus|
So the hits keep coming. The US delegation cannot seem to manage to shake the team medal drought. Courtney King-Dye got the dressage ball rolling with a great test on Mythilus on Wednesday night. Watching their test you would have no idea it was their first Olympic Games.
We couldn’t have been more excited for Debbie and Brentina. One of the classiest and experienced combinations in the world floated in to the main arena at Sha Tin. We thought we were on a roll.
But then it all went wrong.
Brentina, who is rock steady, wasn’t herself in the ring, she was spooky and not going forward, she was inconsistent and simply wasn’t scoring well. It was awfully quiet in the athletes stand for the US crowd that was assembled to cheer. Deb was despondent. We all were.
Brentina has never scored like that. Ever. Deb is a class act, she handled the mixed zone like a pro – faced the press, but the disappointment was very clear. Brentina came into the competition better than ever, which is the saddest part. She is happy and sound and had been going better and better than ever.
Now the pressure was all over Steffen. He needed to score 73% to secure the team bronze medal. Ravel has only been competing at grand prix since March and although he’s undefeated in the US, he’d never been in an arena like this.
He tried hard and did some unbelievable work. He’s seriously for real but he was just short of the seasoning of some of the more experienced horses. He scored 70% flat, good enough for tenth individually and fourth for the team. The world hasn't seen the last of Ravel.
The Danish got us by one point…
The team medal drought continues.
Steffen and Courtney qualified for the individual portion of the competition. But for Brentina, her Olympic Games and her career have come to a close.
Nothing can take away from what she has achieved in her unprecedented career. She is some horse.
I tried to get hit by, not one, but two buses last night leaving the venue. I'd literally take that one for the team. I couldn't even get that done successfully.
The jumping starts tonight with the first individual qualifier… let’s go guys.
|Thursday, August 14, 2008 12:34:49 am|| |
|I wish we had Michael Phelps on our team|
So our website crashed so there is a bit of delay in information… for which I apologize.
Gina winning the individual silver medal was remarkable. McKinlaigh was amazing. They are such a cool partnership… Gina is a cool customer and McKinlaigh jumps with the best of them.
Their tensest moments were at the horse inspection when McKinlaigh was held. He has a funny way of going in one of his hind legs and the vets wanted a closer look. Brendan and Wendy Furlong (vets), Steve Teichman (farrier), Gina’s groom Sarah and the rest of the crew did an amazing job as always and McKinlaigh was passed.
Watching him jump it was quite evident he was no worse the wear.
The disappointing part of the evening was Phillip being disqualified from the individual portion of the competition after an amazing clear round.
Connaught was wearing boots that, under the new FEI rule, proved to be too heavy. It was a mistake. No one knew about the rule that should have and we got caught out. Phillip handled it like a pro, he’s pretty stoic. It was very disappointing for everyone because we know we can and should do a lot better.
Karen and Becky both jumped well too, we have a lot to be proud of but we also have a lot to improve.
We had some very much deserved champagne for Gina but the night was really late because the class didn’t end until midnight.
Yesterday proved to be an exercise in frustration in a number of ways but the really good news is that I finally bought some glasses. I’ve been avoiding the reality for quite some time and although I’m sure it was not the most thorough eye exam I’ve ever had but the glasses make a difference as I spend so much time staring at this screen.
We had a big party last night at Aqua which we hosted with the FEI and the World Equestrian Games people. It was good fun and the sunset overlooking the harbor was unreal. We left after a couple of hours and went to the venue for the first night of dressage.
The US had a kick ass draw: LAST of all the teams. This meant only one rider had to go on Wednesday. Courtney and Myth truly rose to the occasion and put in an awesome test. They sit fourth individually halfway through the class. Our other two big guns go tonight and everyone seems really ready. Brentina and Ravel continue to improve which doesn’t seem possible.
Reserve rider Michael Barisone has to have his horse and himself ready before each of the dressage riders in case something happens. It is a serious mental exercise for him but he, Neruda and Justin (Michael’s groom) have been up to the task and very good team players.
We got home late to no internet… so no blog and no press release. The eventers are beginning to ship out today, Phillip leaves first. All the eventing ponies are fine, they had a serious lie-in yesterday, the girls left them sleep in until 7 and they were still looking for their second cup of coffee when I arrived a couple hours later. I will miss all these guys.
|Monday, August 11, 2008 11:50:38 pm|| |
|Good for the Sport... |
Cross country day knocked everyone around a little bit… it certainly didn’t go as we expected. In just a couple of moments our medal hopes were dashed.
I can’t remember the last time I was at an event when Amy fell off. Becky and Comet are one of the most reliable cross-country combinations in the world. For them to have a run out and then make a silly mistake correcting it is something none of us would have predicted. Mandiba grew up exponentially out on the course but he was faced with a monumental task. Karen tried to get it done but it was a position that she shouldn’t have had to be in.
Phillip and Gina were stars, both Simon and Mac rose to the occasion beautifully. Mac appears to be going in slow motion because his stride is so long. He just stepped around the course. He doesn’t pull and those were the horses that handled the terrain the best. Gina rode smart and they kept their cross country jumping record clean.
Phillip did a masterful job with Simon, the horse doesn’t gallop as well as he jumps.
But he jumps remarkably.
He was tired by the end of the course but Phillip looked after him and got him home safe.
Simon’s owner, Bruce Duchossios picked up a stick (like from a tree) at Rolex, carried it around all week and the horse won.
He brought the stick with him to Hong Kong (after travelling from Aiken to Wellington to pick it up). He was losing faith in the stick after the dressage but now his horse is 10 points from a gold medal and show jumps very, very well.
The Germans were on fire as were the Aussies. Shane Rose was the fastest of the day. Again the horse doesn’t pull, he cruised around in a rubber snaffle on a loose rein.
It was one of the coolest days on record in Beas River. We really lucked out. The horses handled the conditions remarkably, I was spotting at fence 24 and Toddy came through first. He is a master. I got goosebumps. When I saw him afterwards he said he had fun… once he got out on course.
It was a fantastic day for the sport. No bad falls, Andrew Nicholson rode as fast as he possibly could, the horse pulled a shoe between the two angled brushes at the second to last and he fell. Lord Killinghurst was no worse for the wear.
We finally had a night off from competing, the horses got back to Sha Tin very easily. I got myself a great souvenir: two awesome carved snails from the cross country course. It took a bunch of coercion much to Mike ES’s amusement – and one of the course builders drove me out on the course to pick them up. They came back with the horses and kit and are now living in Dougie’s office at the venue. One is going to Gladstone and one to Lexington.
We finally got back to the hotel and had great sushi with the Peden crew. It improved our spirits after a bummer of a day. Everyone had to turn over their cell phone which Henry collected at one end of the table. Everyone had at least two and the waitress thought we were nuts.
It was a total laugh riot.
We all got to sleep in today a little bit… the trot-up is not until 4 pm so the horses will get plenty of rest and the show jumping is going to be fantastic. It is SO close.
|Saturday, August 9, 2008 5:27:31 pm|| |
|Eventing Dressage, the Market, etc|
I forgot two of the most exciting parts of the trip so far… Sara Ike and I went on a food shopping adventure to get food and nosh for horses and grooms back at the stables. Mr. Lau (our trusty driver) finally realized that while, we may be good at what we do, we don’t need to take some things quite so seriously when he was our tour guide/translator/bag carrier during the food shopping.
It was like a parking garage with lots of different tents and stalls jammed with all kinds of things. We found Red Bull, Guinness, mystery fruit, Pringles, Doritos, Cheetos, cheese, Life Bread (very common) and a variety of other things.
It was fun.
Mr. Lau thinks we are crazy and I have a feeling and he might be right… we ran around like nuts but found everything we needed with no trouble. The Red Bull came in a glass jar and those that consume it say the HK version tastes better.
The dressage kicked off this morning… at 6:30 AM with Mark Todd and Gandalf.
Dressage certainly isn’t the horse’s strongest phase, but Toddy is Toddy and got a serious tune out of the horse, everyone said it was the best he’d gone since he arrived. A score of 49.4 got the day started and the legend is officially back…
Our first rider was rock solid and stone cold Amy Tryon… Amy and Poggio survived the scary camera that apparently was an equine consumer at the end of the arena. It claimed a number of victims including super duo William Fox-Pitt and Parkmore Ed.
Poggio came to grips with the camera and put in such a classy performance in what promises to be his last major outing. The 16-year-old hasn’t missed a team since 2002 and will retire after this competition. Everyone was so proud of him.
Gina Miles and McKinlaigh were next to go and they pulled out almost every stop. Some bobbles in the flying changes took away from a personal best for the California combination.
After the morning session, a press conference, time in the mixed zone and a press release we returned to the hotel for some lunch and a staff meeting. Sara Ike and I had lunch, the Dutton crew was in full force, Evie (Phillip’s wife), his step daughter LeeLee and a slew of owners, supporters and friends turned up and were a laugh riot in the hotel café. Everyone in Hong Kong for the Olympics seems to be enjoying themselves.
We returned to the venue and I had an afternoon visit with all my four legged friends. Cedric (Laura’s show jumper) tried to climb into my lap as Laura told the tale of how she found him. They were truly a couple that was meant to be. I got my daily fix from Authentic and his groom Clark told me that his name used to be Nimrod. Now unless, in some other language, that word means equine genius… seriously, I cannot begin to imagine how anyone could name a horse like that a name like Nimrod. Champ sleeps through most of the afternoon and Carlsson seems to enjoy his first Olympics. Sapphire (Sara) had to get a haircut today. Lee – who looks after her decided she was too furry and since he clips like a pro (obviously), you could hardly see a clipping line on her when he finished. There is a grey horse (I have no idea discipline or country) who looks like a zebra due to what appears to be clipper malfunction… surgical clip in some parts…
Dressage superstar Brentina is on fantastic form and like Poggio, this is her last major competition. “Big Momma coming through” is chorused whenever she parts the sea and saunters down the aisle with her fantastic groom Rubin. Brentina, like Authentic, knows how special she is. Mythilus has settled in like an old pro at his first Games, as has Neruda. Ravel seems to continue to improve somehow (he was pretty damn good when he arrived) and the dressage crew seems ready for an assault on some medals.
The US eventers were, as they should be, pretty chuffed with themselves. They knew they had done well and Comet was pretty proud of himself.
My heart broke for Nicholas Touzaint as he had to withdraw in the final warm up with the horse I (and most others) had picked as an individual medalist: Galan de Sauvagere. He put on a brave face for the press conference but there was no hiding his anguish. The horse sustained a stifle injury in the stables and just wasn’t himself. No horse deserves to get so far only to have it end like that. Nicholas did the right thing for the horse but there aren’t words to describe how pained he looked.
Horses are horses and even the best ones in the world will break your heart.
Our website was down so sorry for the delay. Going to watch Doodle and Simon do their dressage then off to the cross country course… NO afternoon dressage so finally a bit of a pause.
|Friday, August 8, 2008 12:43:43 pm|| |
|And they're off|
There was not quite as much rain today, the weather is fine. Not too hot but we haven’t seen the sun yet.
The Olympics are like going to the first horse show of the year… you see all the people you haven’t seen since the last major competition and it is like old home week. It takes a couple of days to get to all the barns and make the rounds but there are a number of people that I haven’t seen in years that are here.
Fiona Tibone, Jim’s right hand (Christy Baxter would be left) hasn’t crossed my path since 2004. We couldn’t do these trips without her. She can do anything and everything and has lots of answers. She even managed to get my Hong Kong phone to call Beijing today which was no easy feat.
I have spent a lot of time on horse flights in my life, many of which involved lots of waiting with the Peden Bloodstock crew. These guys are the best, a big laugh, brilliant and efficient. If there are hitches no one but them ever knows. They have organized the logistics for the entire Games, they got a heck of a lot of horses here from all parts of the world. As soon as this effort is over and all the horses are back in their respective homes, Peden will start planning to ship horses to Kentucky for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
There is also of course… Mark Todd.
The man, the myth, the legend.
I’ve seen him hundreds of times, and was lucky enough to eat dinner with him once BUT every time I see him… it is truly witnessing greatness. Even walking by him while he's talking on his cell phone causes many in my generation to become half apaplectic.
He has been selected by the New Zealand team to ride first (after a 7 year break I might want to watch someone else go first... but that is why he's Mark Todd and I'm writing about him). As the most experienced rider in the universe, he will not only lead his team but the entire field at 6.30 tomorrow.
It is a big task to be the very first rider of the entire Games.
There are horsey legends too... Authentic and I hung out for awhile today with Clark, his groom. One look at the horse, even snoozing in his stall, and there is no doubt of his integrity or character.
The trot-up went well today, all the US horses looked beautiful thanks in large part to our fantastic grooms. Emma, Sarah, Max, Aubrey and Allyson are total pros. Our vets and farrier (Dr. Brendan Furlong and Dr. Wendy Leitch and farrier Steve Teichman) are the best - making sure that none of our horses ever go without. Doug Hannum hasn’t missed an Olympic Games since 1968 as the stable manager and no one moves more stuff or answers more questions.
The trot-up wasn’t without event, Phillip and Gina were among many who jogged twice. There were a number of horses held, including William Fox-Pitt’s Parkmore Ed… the classy horse has a girth rub that looks sore but he was accepted as soon as the vets took a closer look. Jackie, who is William's right and left hand, and has been for more than 12 years will have him sorted out I'm sure. Two South American horses, one from Brazil and one from Argentina were spun. Sad, especially as they are very far from home.
Early start and late finish for dressage tomorrow. I hope Amy, Gina and Becky are dreaming of 10s.
|Thursday, August 7, 2008 2:07:11 am|| |
|And So it Begins|
After numerous requests… here it is blog number one! That day I lost somewhere over the Pacific would come in really handy as I hit the ground running and am now finally catching up.
I arrived on Monday night in Hong Kong after five days at our North American Junior/Young Rider Championships (NAJYRC) in Colorado. Leaving one of the driest climates I have ever been and heading to one of the wettest was an interesting switch. I would be lying if I said NAJYRC wasn’t inspiring. Those kids are awesome, the reining kids were a great addition and the coolest part is that I’m pretty certain some of our next Olympians were there somewhere.
The flights were fine, somewhat disappointing when you wake up and feel as though you’ve been asleep for a week only to find out it has been 45 minutes, I read my book sparingly, had no one sitting next to me (score) and arrived in Hong Kong to a relatively seamless process of getting my accreditation validated and away we went. Morgan Miles (husband of Eventing rider Gina) was on my flight and wonder woman, Christy Baxter met us at the airport. It was about 7.30 pm by the time we got to the hotel.
Jim Wolf and team (Fiona Tibone and Christy Baxter) have, as usual, done an amazing job of making sure we are all organized. Herding cats is no small task. The hotel is great, in a neighborhood called Kowloon and we went to dinner right on the harbor over looking Hong Kong Island, more buildings and lights than I have ever seen in one place. Bed was welcome and I slept, something that seems to allude many.
I couldn’t wait to get to the venue, so we headed out the next morning, the racecourse at the Hong Kong Jockey Club is some of the most beautiful turf I have ever seen. Usually I spend some part of this month in Saratoga at the races, so I will have to get my fix this way… it is humid and warm but certainly not unbearable as many predicted and feared. It took a bit of negotiation to get a stable wrist band but Jim can get anything done and soon I was in the barn visiting with all my four legged friends.
Horse, grooms and riders all seem fabulous. The barns are beautiful and cool, roomy stalls and beautiful hay, feed, grass and carrots (most importantly) for the horses. All this shipped over by Kentucky Equine Research. The dressage horses and event horses have all been training well and look raring to go. It is great to see everyone again as people have been scattered about the world since the spring. We have an unbelievable range of experience in horses, from Brentina and Poggio, who are at Olympics number two to Mandiba who at 9, isn’t quite sure what all the fuss is about yet. Mandiba has been taking full advantage of the rolling pens, which are padded ceiling to floor and are full of sand to soothe all those post training itches.
Had the distinct pleasure of meeting John Ridley who is the Operations Director of the HKJC. He and his team are phenomenal and we went to dinner in a super cool ex-pat neighborhood on the island. There are still 1200 horses on the racecourse, not in the secure part of the venue but on the other side. Tradition, not the weather as we were first told, is the reason for no racing in July and August. They are still training though. Can’t wait to catch a glimpse.
It was at dinner that we got the call that the flight which was carrying the show jumpers from Amsterdam to Hong Kong was in jeopardy of being delayed due to the incoming typhoon. Lots of phone calls back and forth to Amsterdam and the decision was made: people (staff and riders) would stay on the flight and the horses would come off. They would fly on the same flight the following day.
The typhoon arrived with wicked rain and wind, but the flight landed with no trouble. A Level 8 typhoon is very similar to the Nor’easters we had growing up in New England. There were not cows and small children flying through the air as I had anticipated.
However, not much goes on in Hong Kong during a level 8… similar to a state of emergency from what I can gather. All the shops close and the work force goes home. It also effects public transport… so I decided to go check out the Olympic village, I didn’t want to be stuck in the hotel.
The OLV is pretty cool, I met up with the eventing riders and some of the Canadians for breakfast. Any kind of food you can imagine was offered. The Canadians now famous outfits (courtesy of Youtube – it is not to be missed) made an appearance as we killed some time due to the venue being in a holding pattern as well. I did manage to get on a bus and get to the barns where I got to spend some quality time with the grooms and horse. I was given an umbrella by a staffer, it was so windy it didn’t do much good, but people are very gracious here and go out of their way to help.
Steffen Peters’ groom Rafa was battling Ravel’s unruly mane when I arrived… it has a mind of its own on a good day but the humidity isn’t doing him any favors. Brentina was itching for some activity as was Courageous Comet. His keeper, Aubrey was pulling his mane too… any shorter and I’m not sure braids will be possible. Everyone was looking for something to do. There was some napping and exploring, Max (who looks after Mandiba) and I got stuck in Canada (the barn not the country) as it insisted on raining sideways after we visited. There horses were bored too, either trying to climb out of their stalls or snoring.
Finally they decided that there was enough of a break to ride… everyone was happy for something to do and they managed to only get slightly damp not drenched. I think we were wet all day. We returned to the venue for evening jumping practice for the eventers in the main arena, not one was bothered by the lights or the big screen which had been the subject of much discussion earlier in the week. McKinlaigh, Connaught, Mandiba and Courageous Comet cruised around the main ring while Poggio practiced in the warm-up.
The footing is remarkable. After inches of rain there was not a puddle anywhere. They have spared no expense here with the footing, something which, it goes without saying, is unbelievably important. The show jumpers were kicking around when we returned.
Today the show jumping horses turned up looking very well this morning. We unloaded them, they ate and drank and finally all the horses arrived. They came in on the final flight and the venue was really buzzing now.
More later… still raining.