We are getting near 2 weeks into our adventure already and time is flying. Mask has settled in like the professional he is, and after a good afternoon and night’s sleep he was bright and cheerful. Straight into eating and drinking although was a bit fussy to start with.
We have been taking it quietly and have had some great rides, coach Mary is happy with how things are progressing and we are getting plenty of practise at distractions as we have all sorts happening here each day.
The main yard where Mask is living has been very quiet until today when 4 horses arrived from Canada and their entourage of grooms and support people – riders haven’t arrived yet so I imagine it will be a fairly big group by the time they are all here!
We also have had more rugby players (16-19yr Leicester Tigers Academy and junior players) and a pony club camp arrive, to go alongside the usual farm team (the college has full a dairy farm and piggery unit, alongside the sports facilities, gym, equine unit, forensics, and construction!). The pony clubbers have been great providing lots of distractions for Mask which has been great for us to prepare for London.
Jen and I were very lucky to get tickets for both days of the Olympic Grand Prix Dressage at the gorgeous Greenwich Park in London. It was a marathon to get there with 3 hours on the train from Hull, then onto the tube, then onto another train before a 20 minute walk through Greenwich to the park.
The perk of being in a wheelchair is that we had a smooth run through security, and prime seating, no queue for the toilet (except when it poured down as it was the driest spot!) and we ended up in the Olympic family seating and it was quite unnerving when all the paparazzi cameras seemed to be pointing straight at us. But it wasn’t us they were shooting at but Ann Romney – wife of USA presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who is part owner of one of the American team horses and was there to support it.
The arena at Greenwich was not as big as it appeared on the TV but still very impressive and certainly like nothing we have ever seen in NZ. It was excellent to see how it all works there and what to expect, and now we can prepare accordingly!
The Grand Prix competition was very good, we were proud to be supporting Kiwi rider Louisa Hill who had a lovely ride with a couple of unfortunate mistakes, saw the best dressage horses and riders from all over the world, and witnessed an Olympic record from one of the hot favourites for an individual gold, Charlotte Dujardin and the stunning Valegro for Great Britian.
The only downside was the weather; we went from blazing sun to pouring rain in minutes and then back to blazing sun! We were pleased to have packed the wet weather gear, although the lovely Helen Christie (NZ equestrian official) very kindly got us some plastic ponchos which were excellent for keeping dry and some snacks as the queues for food were a mile long.
Our hotel was right in the thick of things with many of the riders staying out of the village at local hotels for the competition days to save having to travel in and out. So we were star spotting (equestrian stars at least!) while we ate dinner and breakfast. It was also a great opportunity to catch up with two of my close friends who live here in London, although I think they thought we were mad pointing out all the dressage legends!
It’s been a great trip so far, things are all under control, I have got a plan set out for the gym so will be fitter than ever by the time we get to London. Mask’s summer coat is starting to come through thanks to the long warm days and he has gained all the condition he lost in the trip already.
Better get off to bed as another busy day tomorrow!
Anthea & Mask
Training with Mary
Having had fun rolling in his stable full of shavings – he is such a toad!
At Greenwich Park for the Dressage – with Jen Affleck (L) and Helen Christie(R)