Thursday, July 31, 2008

Beijing or Bust, Even in Coach

It is Wednesday the 30th of July. The world travelers are off on the start of their grand adventure (talking about the horses here). They left the quarantine site at about 5 this morning. All done without the grooms present, quite the accomplishment for a bunch of Olympic riders left on their own.

They have a stop in Dubai to refuel and then on to Hong Kong. We learned today that waiting at the airport for the horses are two sets of lorries. One set transports the horses in air conditioned luxury and the second set follows each lorry in case there is a mechanical breakdown of the first lorry.

It was back to Aston Farm where Amy had an appointment with a photographer that was freelancing for Business Week. They are doing an article on Nike. Amy has been helping design some equestrian riding boots for them. The magazine needed some pictures of her wearing and using the boots. So America’s next super models (Amy and Leyland) were put through their paces for about an hour and a half. Leyland was so over it about 5 minutes into the “shoot,” (I think his rider was over it a lot sooner than that!). Of course the biggest challenge is getting non-horse people with big camera flash equipment to move calmly around a 1,000 pound furry ADHD child. All in all, Leyland took his new found star-status in stride. Amy even commented that he was more rideable during her jump school immediately after the picture shoot. Great, Pogi is already a ham when it comes to cameras, and now there is another one in the household. I’ll tell you the story of the Nike boots later.

We received a phone call at 5 in the morning (31st) that all the horses had arrived in Hong Kong, apparently fit as fiddles… not really sure what that saying means, but nonetheless all appears well with the ponies. Another step down. Given that we are flying coach to Hong Kong, I am not sure that we will arrive in as good of condition. I guess it helps to be British and fly BA, since the Brits are flying business class to HK. I guess as Americans we should be lucky that we are not flying in the hold of the British Air flight.

We are quickly wrapping up packing and all the assorted last minute details of going. We are leaving the young Leyland in the hands of Katrine, Amy’s groom. Katrine has the completely not-so-glorious job of staying behind and keeping Leyland going so that he can compete in a 3* event in Scotland upon Amy’s return. It may be less glamorous than traveling to China, but I can say that going to the Olympics would not be feasible if there wasn’t anyone able to care for and keep Leyland in work while Amy was gone. So my thanks are with Katrine for keeping things going!

I will wrap up this short blog and say, see you soon. If you could only imagine the impatience of 4-star riders going to the Olympics, then you would understand the joy I am feeling about now…

I would like to pass on some well wishes to both Amy’s and my fathers.

Take care.

- Greg

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Englands Short, Hard Summer & Off to Hong Kong

It is Tuesday the 29th of July. Summer is over with, and the wind and the rain have returned with a vengeance.

We arrived at 0545 this morning at the quarantine site, which meant we got up at 0430 to get here. Today was the final jog up to see which horses are getting on the plane for the Olympics tomorrow morning. This is why when people ask if you are excited about going to the Olympics you give the standard speech about being honored to have been selected for the Team; however, it still a not a for gone conclusion about actually riding at the Games in Hong Kong. The priority each day is to show up at the barn (the POW camp) to make sure everyone is fuzzy side up, standing on all fours and has a cheerful disposition. While Pogi displays his cheerfulness on his face, Leyland is usually a little bit more forward with his ADHD (an up close and personal toothy love nip is his ideal hello!)

A brief catch up before I get to the who’s who on the plane note…this past weekend was brutally hot by English standards, into the 90s. It is hard enough to find ice in England when it isn’t that temperature. I had to drive an hour and half to find ice, all 8 one pound bags worth (that ices about 3 horse’s legs, once - and they typically ice up to 3 times per day depending on the need/conditions). I am digressing a bit, but this is a fascinating country from the stand point that speed limits (when you can find them posted without having already set off the speed camera – speed cameras feel a bit like the paparazzi are following you with all those flashes going off in your rearview mirrors) are in mph as are most distances on signs. Yet all conversations are in metric. So there you are driving in your car showing miles on the speedometer after being told to go 17 kilometers… Oh yeah, remembering that gas is ten plus dollars a gallon to boot!

Back to the brief catch-up: The weekend was hot, the fuses were short, and the ground was really hard. Another thing you realize about England, it once sat underneath the ocean on a really big chunk of ice so it is covered in limestone and is really hard when dried. This is important because the horses are not so fond of hard ground; their footsies get a little tender. The run through of the Olympic Dressage Test for Sandy and Mark Phillips was one for the record books. Not sure who was the most exasperated: the coaches, riders, grooms or the horses.

The next day all was well and the gifted athletes, equine and otherwise, returned to normal good humor. In celebration of that return, a hodge podge of a BBQ was conducted. “I have 2 pieces of chicken, we have 3,…well we have some salad fixin’s and oh yeah we have some wine…” so goes the sanity check BBQ. Having had the honor of being a fly on the wall to these world competition preparations for the last 10 years or so, this one is clearly being done on the shoe-string by all involved, given the price of everything these days.

When Monday arrived, so did the last gallop, and a final opportunity for the selectors to make sure they had sound horses ready to go to Hong Kong. This is one of those necessary evils, i.e. it helps with fitness, but you keep your fingers crossed since anything can happen. Hopefully the pictures (to be posted soon, finding a cable to download pics from the camera in the UK is proving more difficult than finding ice) will provide some impression of this hill we (listen to me “we”, jeez) have been using for our fitness and for that of the horses. The benefit of the hill is the increased work for the muscles and cardiovascular system without the impact on the front end of the horse. A thousand pounds at 500 to 700 meters per minute is a lot of motion to deal with.

The horses that galloped seemed to come through just fine, on good track for being ready for the Hong Kong heat. Heidi White did not gallop her horse and has made the decision to withdraw her horse from contention for going to the Olympics; Bonnie Mosser (an alternate) did the same.

Later that night the US Team selectors named Karen O’Connor as the new member of the Team. Like all ups and downs (notice the tie in to the farm – for those of you that don’t know, Upson Downs is the name of the farm we manage in Duvall, WA…), this change, like the day to day stress of trying to get to the Games, brings relief, sadness and for some, happiness. (Pictured: Pogi in a paddock enjoying some grass)

Okay, I’m back to the 0545 start time of this blog standing in the cold windy rain waiting to make sure Pogi is as interested in going to the Olympics as we are. He doesn’t disappoint; and other than the tail clamped tightly against his furry little butt to block the wind, he seems quite cheerful this morning. Apparently he is pleased that all are joining him for his morning romp at oh-brite-thirty.

In order to make sure what they were dealing with before going to Hong Kong, the Team Vets (3 of them) directed that all therapeutic care was to cease at 10pm the night before the final jog. The care prior to the cut off consists typically of lots of ice for the front legs to remove any inflammation from the gallop (or jumping); and magnetic blanket for the body to help reduce muscle fatigue and soreness and they stand on a magnetic pad for the feet to do the same.

With all that fun behind us, the next step is to get all the US gear loaded onto the lorry heading to the airport. This was the fastest onload I have seen, 15 minutes flat. Of course, there was the repetitive walk around the compound to make sure we hadn’t in fact missed something in our haste: saddles, bridles, spare shoes for the horses, feed, and yes all seemed to be there. Guess we will find out in a few days and several times zones away from being able to do anything about it if we were right or not.

Next is a race back to Aston Farm so Amy and Karen can get their intensive dressage training from Sandy on her fancy Grand Prix horses, just so that they can race back to the quarantine site in time to baby sit their horses as the grooms are heading to Hong Kong tonight. And do not think for a minute that there isn’t some apprehension on the grooms’ part at actually leaving their charges in the care of their riders! Trust me the riders don’t want to screw it up either and suffer the wrath of the Grooms! (Pictured: Allyson, Pogi's groom)

The process is that one US groom gets to fly with all the US horses. The shipping company provides professional grooms to help manage the travel of all the horses on the plane. In this case, Emma, the very experienced groom of Phillip Dutton is flying with the horses, while the others travel on ahead to make sure all is ready for the arrival of the horses on the 31st. The horses leave the quarantine site about 5 in the morning so as to make a late morning flight.

Since there are five horses traveling, and they are shipping two horses to a pallet, one gets to travel with another Team’s horse. It looks like Pogi, the world traveler, is going to have another grand adventure! The other horse is apparently the first horse to be competing for the country of China in Eventing. Of course, the horse is English, his rider, speaks fluent English as spoken at the posh school of Eton here in the UK. Can you imagine the stories they will share on that flight around the world?

So I need to make another side tracked comment. Today, a friend sent a very timely email, at least for me. It was a wish for all things to be well and to have great fun in this grand adventure and to please keep writing since it was such great entertainment. Its timeliness was important because occasionally I do silly things like read stuff on the internet. Amazing what experts we humans can consider ourselves to be at times, especially when we write things that we may feel have no consequence, at least to ourselves. I love discourse and the ability to share thoughts and feelings, god knows I am a “shades of gray” (sorry big brother) sort of person after all, but some stuff just…

Anyways, I am always humbled by friends, family and folks I have never met before who go out of their way to help, be nice, send a kind word of support, etc. So thank you, I love the emails and the comments left on the blog, I find them most cheering. Besides, as I am waiting for this darn dryer to actually dry, what else am I going to do, watch British television?

Sitting here typing away on a British keyboard is a bit like driving on the roads, just a little odd, not to mention centimeter markings on the screen. I will close for the night and send this off for Sam to post. I will let you know how the big send off for the horses goes tomorrow. Take care.

- Greg

P.S. By the way, the horses going to Hong Kong are Connaught (Phillip Dutton), Courageous Comet (Becky Holder), McKinlaugh (Gina Miles), Mandiba (Karen O'Connor) and Pogi.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Bunny Rabbits with Big Vicious Teeth

It is Thursday the 24th of July. So I get two things in England now. First I know why it is the land of Watership Down, Hobbits, The Butterfly Ball, and the Grasshopper Feast (and a myriad of other stories) because it is amazing how easy it is to drift off when sitting on a hill side overlooking a valley with sheep and other livestock meandering through their daily lives. Second, I finally get why Monty Python picked the bunny rabbit as the evil monster in the Holy Grail movie. (Pictured: idlyllic life driveway to Aston Farm)

So, here I am walking across the old RAF field when up stands this rabbit (okay, to be proper “Hare”) on its hind legs looking me in the eyes and scaring the bejesus out of me. This thing stands four feet off the ground. Thankfully it was a lot faster than I was and took off galloping so I didn’t have to embarrass myself by running the other way. I have seen smaller Labradors than this thing.

I guess there is a third thing I get. Don’t start a blog if you are not prepared to continue writing the thing, because people may actually read it and get a bit perturbed if it doesn’t show up in timely fashion! Most of the challenge is that I am having some difficulty downloading the pictures to send to Sam, who is uploading all this onto the blog site for me, as well as she has a minor issue—like having a life of her own, but that is of minor consequence I am sure… (Pictured: Farrier, Capt Phillips, husband)

The other humorous challenge is the pheasants. They have been recently released out into the fields in order to grow up to be shot. While I am not a particularly gung-ho individual when it comes to hunting, there does arise in one a certain reaction to the noteworthy stupidity of these birds. I guess if you put on a hunt you wouldn’t want the birds smarter than the hunters, where would the sport be in that? They have no fear of cars or a general concept that getting run over probably would hurt. The hunting dogs go nuts because the things are easy to catch, yet they get in trouble for doing that (the game wardens are a bit cranky about their birds being collected prior to the appointed shooting date!)

I find it interesting that if a horse had a minor problem the riders and grooms would be on top of it in about 30 seconds with all sorts of very practical treatments. Now if one of them (rider or groom) did something to themselves they would hobble through it, and ask should I do anything about it? (Pictured: Pogi's groom Allyson and Dr. Gold the vet)

The weather has turned summer here: mid 80’s, fluffy clouds in the sky, generally very nice. Watching CNN and seeing the weather in Hong Kong is a bit daunting. To reduce the impact of the weather, as noted earlier, the girls have been working out: swimming, yoga, forced marches, etc. Being at the quarantine seemed a safe place to be, until I went for another walk with Amy. It is always a bad sign when you have to lift your head and look up to see the top of the hill. I always make the goofy mistake of thinking that once up the hill is enough, silly me. After the third trip up even the bunny rabbits stood around watching us, clearly we were gasping so hard that we couldn’t be considered a threat in any sense of the word.

You’d think after all this time I’d get it that Amy is an Olympic athlete. We think of bike riders, canoeists, and other athletes with mobile sports equipment as athletes, where as horse riders, well obviously it is the horse doing the work, right? Considering that the other athletes’ energy is moved directly from their bodies to causing them to propel forward, i.e. you go as fast as you can pedal yourself. With the equestrians they have to manage the energy of the horse, direct it, maintain it, and impel it forward despite any contrary thoughts of the horse, and at over a thousand pounds, there can be a lot of contrary thoughts! (Pictured: tough crowd watching Amy and Poggio)

We had a very nice dinner with the owner of the property of the quarantine site. I am not sure that the word “property” conveys the impact of 2,000 acres. He has 190 race horses in training at the site. Watching them train the horses is an amazing story in and of itself. My joke is that I can identify that it is a horse, 9 times out of 10; yet the head trainer here has 190 horses that he has to manage their daily work out based on how each horse is doing. They haven’t named each horse as of yet, but he can tell you the sire of each just by watching the horse gallop. (Pictured: Amy's groom, Katrine, at a BBQ)

I thought that the blog was in jeopardy, the adventures seemed to have been reduced to interactions with Monty Python-esque rabbits, but never fear it is England after all. So, we have returned back to the Farm, where a guest of the Team Coach has asked us for assistance, apparently the 400 year house is locked. Well after talking to the admin assistant who lives someplace else and getting help from the East European nanny, we found a skeleton key to access a door in the back of this stone building. But, of course, they kept the other key still in the lock, just slightly turned. It is amazing what a pair of small scissors can do in really old locks. Mind you, sitting in the dark trying to break in to a building that is several hundreds of years old causes one to imagine all sorts of ghosts and goblins. (Pictured: Aston Farm)

It is Saturday the 26th of July. The riders had their Olympic dressage rides scored, or more precisely, picked apart today by Sandy Phillips. Sandy is Captain Phillips’ wife and dressage coach for the Irish Event Team. (And she is very, very German despite being born in the US!) Amy has found it very instructive to take lessons from her. She still doesn’t understand all of the instruction she is receiving from Sandy, i.e. “I know I am supposed to do that, but how do I do that?” The benefit has been to understand how a dressage judge thinks while scoring a test, again what it is they are actually looking at during the test. Amy has remarked that it has been eye opening because she is learning where to give the horse a break, so as to get the most out of the next movement. (Pictured: Amy, Poggio and Sandy)

Amy and Karen (O’Connor) have ridden some of Sandy’s Grand Prix Dressage horses (basically the top level of the dressage sport), and both of them felt completely inadequate trying to get these big brutes of horse to move like they are supposed to. Captain Phillips has had great fun commenting that it is like watching a pony club lesson. The two did come away with a new appreciation for the skill and capability of the DQs. You all can ask me what DQ stands for later if you do not know… (Pictured: Poggio and Amy, oooh so fancy)

Okay I’ll end this for now and write more tomorrow and tell you all about the really hard ground that the team is practicing on…

- Greg

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Quarantine & Training with Laura Kraut

It is Tuesday the 22nd of July. The entire Team came together in quarantine for the first time yesterday. They are expecting a visit by the Chinese delegation today to determine whether the conditions meet their requirements for limiting the spread of disease. The quarantine site is near Marlborough, England.

The riders, grooms, and visitors must have separate changes of clothes for the site and traveling away from the site. In the pictures you will notice the chain link fence around the compound. It is a bit like a POW camp in the middle of this secluded British valley. I half expect guard towers, or snipers at the least, watching all the movements. No cell service; however there is Internet, go figure.
Yesterday I played gofer for the Team. I had to drive into London, about an hour and a half east of here, to pick up Laura Kraut. She is one of the World’s best show jumpers and is helping the US Team prepare for the games. She flew into Heathrow from Italy (it’s good to be a show jumper; they apparently have money in their sport!). She is busy helping the Eventers while she gets her own horse prepared for the Olympics. She has something like 15 horses in Europe at this time. (I think I'm just fine at the 3 or so that seem to inhabit my world on a consistent basis.)

Driving to Heathrow is a challenging exercise. Couple one of the world’s busiest airports, with driving on the left hand side of the road (there is a reason it is not the “right” side of the road), shifting with your left hand, traffic circles, an entire population who think they are the next Formula 1 driver yet to be discovered, and you have the makings of a headache, or heart attack.

And it never gets easier driving on the roads. The last few miles back to the quarantine site are through a windy, narrow valley. I always feel like such a ninny driving on the roads, when I get run off the road by Granny doing 60 mph in an area where I think 30 mph is just fine. In the US, the song is “Grandma got run over by the reindeer on her way home”; in this country it is Grandma with the attitude.

Breaking news… I am watching the Chinese animal health delegation wandering through the compound as I write. It is a bit disconcerting to see them in their moonsuits checking the set up. Well, they left, not sure if they were satisfied or not… Okay, I realize in the scheme of things, the Chinese animal heath delegation is not much of a breaking news item, but that should give you an indication of how exciting it is here.

The interesting challenge with this group of people is that it is a strange mix of PC and brutally honest. The stress of those on the Team combined with the stress of those waiting in the wings is palpable. All those selected to the Team know that they are not actually in the Olympics until they trot down the center line in Hong Kong during their dressage test. Until that moment anything can happen. It is a challenge for them to talk to the press about the joy of being selected, when every day is a test of their strength and patience.

Those on the reserve list have all the human emotions of wanting to be on the Team, believing they should be (these are world class competitors after all), wanting to be good supporters of those on the Team, and the same desire to keep their horses happy and sound.

It is now the 23rd of July, and Amy and the horses went galloping around the quarantine site. I chose to stay back at Aston Farm and finish this blog (thank you Sam) as well as some other necessary homework. (Allyson's home sweet home in the quarantine facility pictured above.)

I appreciate all of your support and patience with our absence. Whether it is needing answers to things in a timely fashion that don’t get answered, having to take care of a pack of wild terriers, or solving our transportation woes on short notice, your help is what makes all of this possible.

Oh, and yes, those that have offered the drinks, we’re taking you up on it!

- Greg

Monday, July 21, 2008

Gallops & Trip to London

It is Sunday the 20th of July. Yesterday was a “gallop” day. In order to continue the fitness of the horses, Amy and the other riders are taking their horses galloping every 5 days. The US Riders are extremely lucky to have the use of an amazing facility called Jackdaws Castle. This horse racing training center sits on top of a ridge that over looks a beautiful Cotswold Valley near Stow. This private facility has two all weather footing “gallops” that run up a significant hill (8% grade). One is nearly a mile long and the second is probably ¾ of a mile long.

The purpose of the hill is to increase the fitness of the horse while minimizing the impact. (She uses this theory at home on a local pipeline right of way.) The beauty of this place is the footing. They have both a grass turf and Euro-footing gallop. On this gallop, Amy and her groom Katrine (on Leyland) went up the hill three times. The first time they trotted, and the second and third time they proceeded at a canter. It is always humorous to watch Pogi at the gallops. He does not like anyone ahead of him, or really anywhere near him for that matter, when he is working. The other riders have learned to let Pogi go first, and it doesn’t make their rides any easier since most of them are riding Thoroughbreds too. Thoroughbreds are a bit like Terriers or Border Collies, they may have never actually done the job they were bred for, but it is certainly in their blood and they are eager for the game (at least initially) until they get tired.

Of course the English weather has been continuing its lovely self. Just as the riders started their gallop, the skies opened up and a short two minute drenching squall struck. As they tried to trot and canter uphill, at the same time the horses were trying to do it with their furry little butts to the wind (i.e. sideways). It has been a bit of challenge to try and convince oneself that you are preparing for the Summer Games versus, perhaps, a winter bobsled event.

At the gallops today was Amy and her two horses, Pogi and Leyland, Karen O’Connor with Mandiba and Gina Miles with the really big guy, McKinlaugh. We (me and the grooms) watched from the relative comfort of the rental car to avoid the squalls. Mark Phillips arrived just in time to watch the horses go; just making sure all are on track. It is amazing to listen to these animals work. Pogi gets to the top of the hill and quits breathing hard, then turns around with the look, "Is that all?" If he had his way, I’m sure he would jog back down to the other horses, asking them, "How you doing?" and "Shall we go do it again?" I also have no doubt that the others find it highly annoying!! God bless Pogi. (Amy and Pogi galloping below.)

Then, after all that fun, was a race back to Aston Farm to take care of the horses: icing their legs, giving them baths, wrapping their legs, lazering and magnetic blanketing their bodies—their isn’t a health spa in the world that could keep up with Pogi and Leyland’s grooms.

In a direct challenge to my normal comment of only having seen the “finest barns around the world” we visited London proper. Desi Dillingham, the head of the British Horse Society (sort of the fund raising arm of all things equestrian in England), was kind enough to be our guide Saturday evening and Sunday morning in the great city of London. The grand adventure was attended by Amy, Karen, Karen’s uber-groom Max, and I.

With the horses well taken care of, we sped off to town. I say sped because I choose not to disclose the actual speeds we traveled at in case this is being monitored by some government agency (just practicing for China). We arrived in time to make the girls’ appointments for fingers, toes, and waxes, after whizzing past Kensington Palace, Hyde Park, Notting Hill, and various other places I have only seen in movies. Okay, I did have a facial.

As I was laying there enjoying the peaceful face massage by the clearly eastern European woman, I became aware of a searingly bright light from behind my closed eye lids. It is one of those intense lights where you almost feel the atoms in your body start vibrating and moving into some sort of alignment due to that brightness. The next words I heard from whom I have christened “Olga Khrushchev, the KGB Agent”, sent shivers down my spine: “prepare for the extraction.” Just think of the best Russian accent you have ever heard, and there you go…once I quit levitating off of the table, the final face massage helped calm me down again.

From there we went on a crazy cab ride through the “circuses” of London central to get to the theatre district. We had the opportunity to go see the Lion King on stage. From there, was a Thai dinner at the typical British hour of 10:30 pm. Yad, our driver, the Kurdish refugee, returned us safely to Desi’s lovely London flat and her gigantic house cat, Soxs, around the hour of midnight. We finished the wonderful time away with a simple breakfast sitting over a canal in “Little Venice.” From there, a quick jaunt over to Paddington Station for a train ride back to the Farm. We arrived to find two happy horses with the look of “you were gone; really…did you have to come back?”

The rest of Sunday back at the Farm was relegated to preparing for sending the horses into quarantine on Monday afternoon. The rules of which, once we all figure it out, I will pass on to you.

Oh yeah, there was one more Bataan march to do this evening as well…

- Greg

Friday, July 18, 2008

Arriving in England

It is Friday the 18th of July. Allyson Green (Pogi’s Groom who is recovering from an emergency appendicitis surgery 3 weeks ago) and I arrived on Wednesday at London Heathrow. We had the necessary adventures in traveling: flying… enough said about that, finding the correct train, running to catch the said correct train, asking the passengers multiple times if this was in fact the correct train. It is amazing how disconcerting it is to not be able to understand the Train Conductor’s accent on the loudspeaker as to determine where in the blazes we are going. Somewhere, there is a Visa commercial waiting to be filmed: two baguette sandwiches - 10 pounds, 2 tickets to Kemble – 30 pounds; watching the Americans get off the train, find out their at the wrong station and quickly throw their four bags back on the train as it leaves – PRICELESS!

There is a famous quote (at least in the NW) about the worst winter I ever spent was the summer in Seattle, apparently the guy never went to England. Whilst better than hot weather, it is a bit challenging to think how we are preparing for hot, humid Hong Kong while being in the 62 degree drizzle of England. I do have to say though that the Brits are probably the only other people to understand that the word “drizzle” does in fact describe a weather event and not a food topping procedure.

On the plane trip over, I had the opportunity to watch the movie “The Other Boleyn Girl”. This pretty much gets you in the mood to spend time in England: Kings, Queens, court intrigue, beheadings and the ever present stone buildings that are either too cold or too warm. Amy is staying at Aston Farm, the home of Captain Mark Phillips, the US Team Coach. The farm is several hundreds of years old, with apparently some of the structures dating to the 1200s. It is an active farm with nearly a thousand acres in and around here being farmed to provide income. The farm lies next to an old decommissioned RAF air field. So whether you are in the mood for Band of Brothers and the white Cliffs of Dover or the Magna Carta, this is the place for your history fix. She is staying in a lovely little flat converted from a really old cow shed. It was renovated by Desi Dillingham, the former head of British Dressage and the current head of the British Horse Society. Desi has graciously allowed us the use of her flat while she is in London. The ability to stay close to the horses and training and not have the expense of having to eat out everyday because we are staying in a B&B is most helpful to the ongoing stability of Amy’s sanity, and consequently, mine.

Pogi has been here enough times that when you arrive at the Farm and drop the ramp to the horse lorry (sort of a truck and trailer wrapped into one unit) he just starts wandering over to the horse barn. Pogi is the old hand in the barn. He is joined by his ADHD brother, Leyland; Karen O’Connor’s horse, Mandiba; Gina Miles’ giant of a horse, McKinlagh; and several of Clark Montgomery’s nice horses. As most know, Amy and Gina have been named to the US Team, with Karen named as an alternate. The rest of the gang arrived really early this morning into London and will be shipping directly to Barbury Castle where the US Team will be quarantined starting on Tuesday the 22nd prior to their trip to Hong Kong on the 30th of July.

Amy has been telling me how hard she and Karen have been working out since they have been here. To prove their point, the morning after I arrived, they asked if wanted to go for a walk with them. Along the way of this trek, whilst pondering the likes of the Bataan Death March and just how a country so flat can have such steep hills, I kept expecting Robin Hood and his Merry Band of Thieves to jump out of the forest. No, we are not near Sherwood Forest, but the sensation is eerie nonetheless. And I do not know if I was expecting the Kevin Costner version or the Men in tights version of Robin Hood…

While I may not be a fan of the eating habits of the British, especially their lack of ice and general desire to eat dinner at 9 o’clock at night, I have to admit I miss their cheese and bread. It is usually a daily trip to the local Tesco, a quasi-grocery store slash Target, braving the roads. And if you envision a proper roadway you are sadly mistaken. I am referring to a system of interconnecting goat trails. If you mix that, with the fact that your body dearly believes that it is inherently wrong to be sitting on the right side of the car and steering, with the overriding realization that the oncoming truck clearly believes that the law of gross tonnage is in his favor, you truly ponder the amazing fact that the British Empire once reigned supreme at all.

We have our constant gripe about the guy who thought that you can have an effective washer and dryer, all in one! Nonetheless, it is a grand adventure, and as people remind me how lucky I have been to travel all around the world, I note that they are correct, “I have in fact seen the finest barns in all sorts of countries…”

Our best wishes to you all. Please keep those letters (and checks) coming, your support means everything! But seriously, I will attempt to provide updates so all can feel attached to this process that you have helped to create.

- Greg

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Amy & Poggio selected for the 2008 Olympic Eventing Team!

We are so excited here in WA about Amy and Poggio being selected for their second Olympic Games. We feel so lucky to be a part of this incredible team and we wish we could be in Hong Kong to watch the games unfold!

Although we can't all be there to report on the excitement...Greg, Amy's husband, is there and he's going to send us some updates of how things are going (and hopefully take some pics for us too!). So, check back soon for his posts. Thanks Greg!!

Sending vibes of good luck, strength, and good health Amy & Poggio's way. Thinking of you guys daily!

- Mapleleaf Eventing crew