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


Kerry said...

Greg I think you've found your new calling--a travel writer for wayward equestrians. I love this blog!
I too have first hand experience with the killer "hares" of Great Britain.
Please tell Amy we are excited to see her training (and oh so proud!). We will be cheering loudly from Seattle.
And tell Ally Olive misses her!


The Gingerbread Kat said...

Thank you so much, Greg, for this BLOG! I've always felt Amy was representing 'me'; through "Team Tryon". Now I feel, even more so, it is true.

This BLOG is fantastic and I can't thank you enough!
~Kathleen of-BigRock-Road