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

1 comment:

Kim Ristedt (Ball) said...

Amy.... I knew you as a young girl growing up as neighbors at Red Gate Farm. We are so very proud of you and are cheering you on from home. I still live in the area and drove by our old house the other day and yours still looks the same.... amazing they have not changed it. You are a true inspiration to all! My brother Pete is a Paramedic/firefighter in Ohio....
Kim Ball