Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Sad Finish

So I would have to say my first time at the Olympic Games has not been a good one. Of course many congratulations go out to Gina and Mac as well as her amazing groom, Sarah, who worked non-stop to help Mac be his best for Tuesday's performance.

I know most of you will be wondering what on earth happened to Simon and Phillip....well basically a new rule was brought into effect earlier in the year regarding weighted boots. This rule had not been passed onto the riders, therefore I continued to tack up Simon as Phillip required. Once he had finished jumping his awesome final round, his boots were checked..unbeknown to me that they were considered overweight.....when the officials got together, even the the competitions TD knew nothing of this rule.....heartbreaking is the only way I could describe it.

Simon is an amazing horse, and he deserves only the best recognitions for his athleticism. My heart goes out to Bruce who has supported Phillip and his horses for many years. He is a great owner who wants only the best for his horses. I hope this outcome will clear up the not-so-good communication pathways so that the U.S. can excel in 2010 and 2012......

I am looking forward to getting the horses back to England where Woodburn is waiting in the wings to shine at Burghley.....hopefully lady luck will be with us....and maybe I have to start reading too many rule books........

Simon is doing great and will get turnout on good British grass whilst his stable mate takes his turn in the limelight, until then heels down and kick on for 2010......

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Cross-Country Day

What a day... one with some highs and lows. The horses all traveled well to Beas River and soon settled into their new stalls.... just another horse show to them I expect!! The grooms' accommodation consisted of bunks bed in small "containers," the mattresses were on the rather stiff side... so I think we all had little sleep.

The weather first thing this morning was damp and grey, of course we all felt this a good thing as this meant cooler weather for the horses to run in. Riders started arriving early to start their personal preparations. Phillip checked in on Simon and then headed out on course. Bruce, Simons' owner, came to give same his daily peppermint, which made the boy very happy! Most of us went to see Amy in the large TV tent set up by the cooling out areas... Obviously shocked to see her take the tumble..... It was a few minutes before anyone knew if both horse and rider were OK. Glad to say, apart from a cut to his front leg, Poggie will live to fight another day. I didn't get see Gina, but from all accounts she and Mac were amazing. By this stage it was clear that horses were coming home tired, but soon recuperated and big Mac was no different.

As I went to prepare Simon, the sun had started to come out which made me a little more nervous. Simon can be quite hard on himself with his jumping so I was hoping for a little cooler weather to help him through cross-country. As myself and Max were getting our ponies ready and waiting for news on Becky's round, we both agreed we wish ours had been first so we, as grooms, didn't have time to sit and wait for ours to head out. Trying to find something to do besides tack up 45 minutes ahead of time can be a challenge in this kind of setting!

With both Comet and Mandiba home safe but not clean, I started to get real nervous about Simon going out on course. However, I guess I didn't have to worry too much... He warmed up great and the weather got cloudy again to knock out a little of the heat. I have to say once on course, myself and Evie basically walked circles at the finish until we heard he had jumped the final combination. He cooled down great, although his heart rate stayed high due to his nervous energy and not enjoying so much ice water being thrown on him! Phillip was really pleased, he felt he ran the quickest he could without taking risks and being able to bring Simon home safely.

All the horses are tucked up in bed getting some well-deserved rest. With the jog not being until 4 pm tomorrow, we are happy not to be getting up at 4 am to braid, ice and wash them.

The alarms are set for 6.30am...bit of a difference to Rolex!! Anyway, with the show jumping running late tomorrow evening, I hope you all get to watch the finals on TV... Until the finish...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

In Striking Distance

This has to be quick as we have to be in the barns to load horses in 30 minutes. I think overall everyone is pleased with the dressage outcome. Phillip hoped Simon would be a little more attentive but for the atmosphere that surrounded him I think he did pretty good.

Overall the team is lying third....right in striking distance....the riders are are at the cross-country venue looking over the course once more. We have got the U.S. show jumping team riders to help out with spotting tomorrow so they have gone to look at the course as well.

Sorry for the few words but have to go....until later...

Friday, August 8, 2008

It All Begins all begins!! After 11 inches of rain in five hours, the "puddles" started to clear, and we could get the horses out. Ring familiarization went well on Thursday night although a little chaotic as it was open to everyone at once. Yesterday, the grooms went to Beas River, the cross-country venue. Unfortunately, we did not get to walk the cross-country course, but we checked out the horses' accommodation; nice large stalls, air conditioning and close to warm-ups. The riders have now walked a couple of times, from all accounts the general feeling seem to be of a twisty course with the questions really starting at fence 4. Phillip says that he thinks the time will be very hard to get, although he is glad to have Simon here for this track.

The jog went well for all today, nothing too exciting to report there...probably a good thing!! Tomorrow Allyson has an early start with Poggio going just before 7 am, Gina goes around 9 am. Becky gets to ride under the lights at 8.30 pm, and then Karen and Phillip go Sunday........

Tonight, they held an opening ceremony at the Jockey Club and then had live feed to Beijing. Gina got to carry the flag for the USA. Fun was had by all with good food and wine although the riders left early for obvious reasons!!

Well that's about it for now, until more later......

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Category 8 Typhoon

So today we all had an early start only to find that nothing can be accomplished due to a category 8 typhoon....great!! The barns are so well built you would hardly think severe weather was happening outside.

All the horses galloped well yesterday. In the evening they got to ride in the main arena under the lights with the 2 jumbotrons and the music going. For the most part everyone dealt well with the atmosphere with only Comet having to spend a few more minutes working to settle down. Fortunately there are so many lights there are no shadows. Tonight at 9pm we have a 15-minute period to jump a course in the main ring to allow for more familiarization. My only hope is the late night riding not effecting Simon's appetite!!

Tomorrow, both riders and grooms will get to go to Beas River to see the cross-country, obviously something we are all looking forward to. Horses are going to be shipped to the site starting at 1pm on Sunday after the dressage has finished. The grooms get to stay on site. Once cross-country is finished, they will start to ship horses back to the main venue three hours later. They will try and do it by nation although, we are told, there will be no pressure to move horses if they are not comfortable. The movement of horses is done with the Jockey Club trucks. A police escort goes to and from the venue so the shortest amount of time is taken to travel the horses....something else Simon will appreciate considering his not so much love for traveling!

Afraid little else to report on. Once the storms pass we will get back into gear to work the horses. Until later.......

Monday, August 4, 2008

Hong Kong Agrees With Connaught

Horses are all doing well and settling into a routine. As the Captain [Mark Phillips, team coach for the U.S. Eventing Team] reports back from the many meetings, we are all getting into competition frame of mind. Connaught—or Simon for those of you who don't know him—is being a super star. The heat thus far has not been an issue, and from all accounts it has encouraged a much more improved appetite. He has always been a quirky horse about food, and only Simon knows why Hong Kong has bolstered his eating habits!!

Amy, Karen and Becky jumped today whilst Gina and Phillip flatted. It's a bit of a fight for ring time, but with Dougie [Hannum] in charge of securing the ring slots we will prevail! Tomorrow the horses do their final gallop on the racecourse, in the center is Penfold Park. It has a small number of cross-country fences to school, including a water jump for those who wish to do so.

As grooms, the only complaint we have are some of the barn rules on hand grazing. The head steward has been changing the times in which we can walk and hand graze the horses. Hours were varying from noon to 3 p.m. or 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. As most of you know, we want our horses to spend some time in the heat not only to let them get used to it, but also to keep up the routine of regular hand grazing, as we have been doing the past month. Finally after a few “discussions” a suitable time frame has been agreed upon.

We did get off the grounds today to try and combat the train system. After one sticky moment of explaining where we wanted to go, we managed to find our way downtown. Hong Kong is a city like many others with its skyscrapers and crazy busy streets. The people are extremely friendly and helpful, even the local tailor took us to the Olympic shop, which we would not have found in a million years. There are many sites we all would love to see. Fingers crossed the event runs to schedule so we can have a few days to explore this intriguing city.

Right now I'm off to tuck the ponies in for the night so until later......

Friday, August 1, 2008

We've Arrived!

I'm glad to say the trip went extremely well. In total, the horses were traveling for approximately 24 hours, and all are happy and hydrated. There were 24 horses to load at Standsted on Wednesday morning, with the Peden grooms in charge [from Peden Bloodstock International Horse Shipping Agents], the whole process took about 1 1/2 hours. For those of us flying with the horses, we had first class seating behind the cockpit with hostess on hand....who said flying with horses was difficult??!! Once landed all horses were off the plane and put straight into air conditioned trucks and then on their way to the Sha Tin race course, from plane to stables it only took 1 1/2 hours—I don't think a minute was wasted, and compared to my experience last year landing in Rio [at the Pan American Games], there is not one thing I could improve on.

The girls were waiting on arrival all anxious to see their charges. Waiting for the horses were large, deeply bedded stalls in an air conditioned barn.....I think all ponies were happy to have a good roll and stretch of their legs. We have a large arena-sized paddock to hand graze as well as being allowed on part of the race course. So far, the temperature has felt like one of the hotter muggy days in Pennsylvania.

Spoilt, I think, is the only word to use for the grooms' accommodation. We have small rooms with in-suite bathrooms, two people to a room. I am sharing with Max [Corcoran, Karen O'Connor's groom] who I think would agree, that the living arrangements are definately more up market than in previous years!!

Today has consisted of collecting urine samples to check glamour here!!.....If only we could train Mac [McKinlaigh] and Comet to be less bashful!! Jo Pagen and his gang from [Kentucky Equine Research] have been extremely helpful in ensuring our horses get all the feeds and hay best suited to them. They are responsible for feeding and bedding of the entire equestrian venue, no small task there.

Well it's time to take Simon [Connaught] out for some grass. Phillip arrives later today, so he won't get a chance to see him, however, I think he will be very pleased with how Simon has traveled. I know he can't wait to take him for a hack around this great venue. I am hoping to get some pictures up soon, just got to work out the logistics......