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Meg Sleeper's WEG Diary || Becky Pearman's Notes || Heather Reynolds' Recap


From the 2014 WEG Diary of USA Team member Meg Sleeper and Syrocco Reveille

August 29 2014

Thank you again for all your messages. If you are not familiar with endurance, I know it is a little confusing! Basically, all 6 of our horses were examined by the event veterinarians and passed the examination, but only 5 could start. Our (the US) coach and vet then must decide which horse/rider teams are the strongest 5 to ride in their opinions. It is not an easy decision for anyone to make and we may not all agree with their choice, but they do the best they can.

The two main reasons horses are eliminated in endurance are lameness (a gait abnormality) or a metabolic (physiologic abnormality). Lameness doesn’t require any explanation, but a metabolic pull may be because the heart rate doesn’t recover, the horse is dehydrated, etc. Sometimes metabolic abnormalities (for example, an elevated heart rate) occur because of lameness and the discomfort is what elevates the heart rate and sometimes a muscle abnormality (a metabolic abnormality) will cause a gait abnormality, so the line can be a bit fuzzy.

There has been a lot of discussion by about various aspects of this event. In particular, some are saying the trail was too difficult. Warning, this is now entirely opinion!! I personally believe (and one of the aspects I love about endurance) is that the challenge of the event is to cover the given course as quickly, but as safely, as possible. That does not necessarily mean racing along at 20 kph over all terrain. If the day is very hot or humid, if the trail is muddy or slippery, it the terrain is mountainous, etc. it may be that the pace will be much slower than it would be if the trail were flat. I would personally prefer if trails such as the Old Dominion or Tevis (two of the more technical US trails) were FEI or international level events. FEI events should not be only the flat, fast courses or we will continue to see what happened at this event. Part of a championship event should be to assess whether the rider is able to negotiate the given challenges on the trail. There are times when trails may truly be unsafe and safety should absolutely be a priority, but natural challenges should be part of the sport in my opinion. Endurance should be more than an extended flat race.

Today was spent negotiating getting the horses out of the venue (and the mud required that many vehicles had to be pulled out with a tractor), so that took most of the morning and packing took the remainder of it. There was so much congestion getting in and out of the venue that many people were parking on the road. One of the home owners nearby offered to allow us to use his driveway to park when he saw us waiting in the traffic jam (it could fit about 10 cars, so nearly all our vehicles). We offered to pay him, but he refused basically saying it was because of the Normandy invasion. We gave him USA hats and shirts. It is so overwhelming and heart warming to hear these stories and see the many statues in the region with plaques to commemorate the 50 year anniversary of WWII. It has been absolutely amazing being so close to this historical region, but we have been so focused there hasn’t been much time to really delve into it.

Tonight we all had dinner together and the owner of the restaurant got up to say his mother survived because of the US invasion. Once again, a push to explore the history in this region before heading home and hopefully we will have the chance to do that. The dinner together with the various people who have helped us while in Normandy once again illuminated what I love about international endurance. I have met so many fabulous people from Elodie, the waitress in the local café we have been visiting in Genet, to Antoine, the owner of the stable where we have been keeping the horses. There are so many wonderful people around the world and endurance has allowed me the opportunity to meet many, many people… the difficult part is staying in touch with them!

August 28 2014

I cannot tell you how much your emails and FB posts have meant to me (although they are sometimes difficult to read). I apologize for not responding to them all. Do not worry about Reveille!! She is absolutely fine and not lame. It was simply a bad trot that forced a decision in the best interest of the team. In any case, on to the update for today. For this bit, I am just going to describe the facts as I know them and withhold any commentary….

Anyone that followed the race will know that the USA did not fare well. However, I will go into that later. More importantly and very sadly, there were some injuries including a Costa Rican horse and rider who were badly hurt. In actuality, the horse died immediately and last I knew for certain the rider had been in surgery for 6 hours and was still in critical condition. It is unclear exactly what happened, but they hit a tree head on during the first loop. This kind of news certainly pulls you up and puts many things in perspective.

As far as the US team, sadly we only had 1 completion (Jeremy and Shade). Jeremy and Dust were eliminated at the first vet check for failure to recover (Dust’s heart rate remained too high), Ellen and Des were eliminated at the second check, also for an elevated heart rate. Heather and Chanses were eliminated at the third check for metabolic reasons and Kelsey and Irish were eliminated at the third check as well for lameness. The trail was tough as expected with a lot of sloppy going because of all the recent rain. The attrition was very high- when the front-runners came in at a speed of 20 kph off the first loop, it was pretty clear it would be (and out of the 165 starters we think about 30 finished). The day started out with a misty drizzle but cleared by the first check and we were actually very lucky with partly sunny conditions with a high of 72 degrees. The clouds rolled back in late in the afternoon and there was off and on drizzle for the tail end of the ride. More tomorrow.

August 27 2014

I am not exactly sure where to start tonight except to come right out and say that Reveille and I will not be competing tomorrow. She passed her veterinary inspection this afternoon, but she showed a lameness for part of the trot and the decision was made to replace her with the alternate (Jeremy Olsen and Shade). I am not exactly sure of the cause…she has been looking absolutely fabulous and I truly believe if given the chance, we would have done better than her last world championships in London 2 years ago where she finished 11th. She has had more “attitude” than ever before and she was ready. However, I know the decision was not easy for anyone. I have been on both sides before…a nearly identical situation in my first world championships in 2005 with Troy and in London I was the alternate that replaced another rider. It is never easy for anyone and, particularly in this situation, one begins to wonder if it is worth all the money, blood and tears that go into it for the few years it takes to prepare. I have thought about it the last couple hours though and I think a good analogy is having pets (although clearly losing a pet is exponentially worse than having a bad day in a sport you love to do!!). There are times that are difficult and painful, but the good times far outweigh the bad ones. I will be crewing tomorrow and will send an update tomorrow, but it may be late because there doesn’t appear to be any wifi at the venue...

August 26 2014

We got some great news this morning!! The horses don’t need to move to the venue until tomorrow morning. This will give them one more day in the digs where they are comfortable… a huge benefit for them. We will be moving in by 10 am and our vet check should be between 3 or 4 pm, so it will be a very busy day, but it will be much better for the horses. Unfortunately, we got so much rain yesterday that the track would be better for snorkeling than riding. We all rode some along the road and now that we will be here longer I plan on putting Reveille on the walker this afternoon (although the rain is supposed to start again and continue into the night and tomorrow). Fortunately the walker is covered! Our host has been absolutely terrific and I must say the people where we are staying at the camp ground are really fabulous too.

Yesterday, I got my laundry started and figured I would grab it on my way back to our gite from the café/bar where we have internet service on my way back to bed. It turns out they lock the laundry room and I wasn’t able to pick it up, but they actually folded it and brought it to me. The one we speak with the most is a young woman named Heidi from the UK. In addition to going above and beyond by finishing my laundry, she gave us (the US team) a good luck sign and a hedgehog (see image) she made so we could have a mascot. She and her daughter will be coming to watch the race.

The rain was pretty steady yesterday, but intermittent today. We walked into Genet (the small town where we are staying) yesterday evening to run a couple errands, and I noticed several snails on the road along the way. They were heading out onto the macadam, I assume to get out of the wet ground like worms will do when the ground is saturated. I don’t usually move earthworms I see committing similar suicide because I am not sure putting them back in the dirt is at all helpful for them, but did move one of the snails that was heading across the road. I always move box turtles that are heading toward their probable demise, but Emilio and Farzad definitely didn’t see the rationality in moving a snail. I didn’t have my phone, but will try to get a picture if I see anymore. They are quite large…probably three inches in length (Farzad said they looked tasty..).

All the rain is clearly going to be a factor in the race, but I was surprised when I went out today to check some of the trail sections that some areas still have very good footing (unfortunately, other sections were really soupy, but it was less than I expected). I think this trail will be technical enough to play into our strengths since the US riders are all experienced at riding challenging trails. A more technical trail will also be to the benefit of the other teams that ride often ride technical trails (France, Germany, Italy and Spain) and it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. The basic weather conditions should also be to our advantage. We have been experiencing high temperatures of about 70 degrees and most of our horses are used to hotter weather conditions. They were calling for rain the morning of the ride, but now some weather forecasters are saying it will be clear… I have come to learn it is impossible to predict here!! I will attach a couple of images of the trail that I took today (and one of a typical Normandy sky although it doesn’t do the real thing justice. This is the place that must have started the saying, “if you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes and it will change”) and will hopefully have a chance to send a brief update tomorrow after vet in. I believe the US endurance athlete association website (http://usequineendurance.org) will post updates to their website as well as on facebook during the race. Thanks to everyone for your direct emails as well as your comments on FB. It has gotten too hectic to respond to all of them, but they mean a great deal to me and the entire team!!

August 25 2014

Thank you everyone for your well wishes. It means very, very much as the big day is approaching! Now things are truly getting hectic and will stay that way through the next few days. Our day starts when we arrive at the barn at 7 am to feed Rev and go through her daily morning ritual (each horse stays in their stall until he or she is trotted to evaluate their gait at 8am followed by a meeting at 8:30). For Rev that means I feed her at 7, remove standing wraps and her blanket (thank you Mary!!), administer her supplements and laser her. It just turned out to be simpler to get all these things done in the morning because they need to get done daily and sometimes we run out of time. Since the championship race in London we have used the MR4ACTIVet laser (thank you Multi Radiance Medical and Mark Strong!!) when heading into big events for daily maintenance, but it has been particularly interesting here because I have also been using it to treat scratches. This is a term for a fungal/bacterial skin lesion that often affects horses with pink skin on their pasterns (lower legs). It can be very difficult to control in wet conditions and can be irritating enough to cause lameness. Rev has a tendency to develop scratches in one leg particularly and it is easy to control with a skin ointment containing antibiotics and steroids, but of course, no medications are allowed the last week heading into a race. So for the last 10 days I have been lasering the area twice a day with blue light and it is staying very well controlled in spite of no medication. One of the things I love about this sport is that you learn something new ALL the time!!!

Mark Dial arrived two nights ago. We are incredibly lucky to have him on our road crew. He drove to the majority of the crew stops yesterday with Bill Stevens and is showing Larry Kanavy the spots today. This left us at the barn without a car, but between trunk inspections at 10:30 am, getting Rev on the walker once it is available, organizing for moving to the venue tomorrow and a meeting at 4pm, I didn’t have much time to go anywhere else anyway (but it is giving me a little time during the day to type up the happenings and the big goals I am hoping to accomplish later today are seeing the crew spots myself, getting to the venue to see the lay out of the vet check area…and laundry). Since I am sort of stuck today anyway, Steve, Emilio and Lori took Lynn’s car (which needed fuel) to get some shopping done. It is raining steadily today and we need to make sure everyone has enough rain gear, so that is their main priority. While walking on the beach yesterday I saw an apple tree on the edge of a yard, with apples scattered all around on the ground. Rev loved the 2 I gave her and I am also hoping to go and pick up a couple buckets worth of apples for the for ride day (but hopefully not in the rain!!)... lots and lots of stuff to get done all of the sudden!

August 24 2014

Six am came very early this morning!! We spent most of it doing photographs of riders, riders with horses, riders, horses and teams, etc. dressed in various donated garb. It further emphasized how fabulous our supporters have been!! Thank you again and again!!! We got done around noon and went riding at the track and there was more bottle hand off practice (now with the professional photographers), so hopefully there will be some good pictures circulating from that session. For a late lunch, we stopped by our new (as of today) favorite café in Genet (it is our second time there, but the waitress is really lovely and we learned today that she and her mother run it together). Jim also joined us for lunch and somehow it came up that our waitress is also a massage therapist. When Jim, with his dry sense of humor, asked if her hands were strong enough (she probably weighs 110 pounds soaking wet), she immediately replied “Wanna find out?” :)

We took Rev for a hand walk down to the beach late this afternoon. We finally got the trail map today and it looks like the trail will again run down along this section of beach (although in the opposite direction). I wanted to get a good look at the footing in the area although it’s still not possible to know exactly where they will mark the trail. Many, many local people and tourists are out walking or biking in this region that is a big vacation area, and several stopped to talk with us as we walked along with Rev, like a big dog. One gentleman who lives locally spoke with us for some time describing the duck blinds along the beech (I hadn’t noticed the ducks were decoys although we hear shots being fired every morning and we knew it was duck hunting). He also told us that they have had a lot more rain than normal and last month the entire beech was underwater. I can only imagine the anxiety of the organizing committee knowing that nearly 200 horses would be soon coming for an event and they didn’t have trail! He also said that the locals believe that if you can clearly see the Mont and Tombelaine (the other island in the bay), bad weather is coming. It was crystal clear this evening, which fits because they are calling for rain all day tomorrow, most days this week, and the day of the ride. I expect the organizers must still be pretty anxious because we have heard they are already re-routing trail because of mud. We were also stopped by three older people, whom did not speak any English, but were curious about Rev’s fly mask. I couldn’t remember the French word for “fly”, if I ever knew it, and we were left trying to pantomime a fly and explain sunburn (it is a long mask to protect her white nose from sunburning) with the only relevant word I remembered being “soleil” for “sun”. I think it worked…at least they were very nice when we parted so I don’t think I said anything terrible.

I am going to include some images I got from the opening ceremonies as well as from our walk this afternoon to give you an idea of this section of trail (and the duck decoys). Obviously the sections along the coast are flat other than the dunes (some areas remind of grass plains and they are actually called the “salt flats”, but some sections are just like sandy beach). The sections of trail that are inland are rolling with terrain very similar to Fair Hill, MD or Lexington, KY.

August 23 2014

Tonight is opening ceremonies and we will be heading to Caen at 4:30, so it has worked out well that Rev’s schedule calls for lighter work today. Kelsey and I rode to the beach and we had a nice walk that lasted a little over an hour. There were quite a few hack horses out on the beach, as well as groups of people on tours. The word “beach” doesn’t really evoke the correct picture…it is really a long expanse of mud flat/sand that is under a little water at high tide, but wet sand sprinkled with puddles that stretch as far as you can see when the tide it out. This section of beach was on the trail last year and we believe it will be this year as well. It has some sections of very deep sand as well as some short stretches of sticky, deep mud, so the difficulty will depend on the level of the tide, the weather the next few days and where they place the trail. I will attach some images that Steve took while we were riding today (and some images that Jim took of the bottle training yesterday). Jim was absolutely wonderful and stayed back at the barn to keep an eye on the horses while the rest of us went in to opening ceremonies. It was a bummer not to have him come, but was also tough to figure out who of the crew people should stay behind.

The ceremonies were great. It is always wonderful to see old friends, although some good friends still haven’t arrived and I look forward to seeing them as the race gets closer. It is also overwhelming to march at such a large event and see the number of people who are there to support all of us. The stadium was packed and they announced that 1113 horses have come to Normandy for this WEG. Apparently, jumping and endurance are the 2 largest disciplines participating. Lorenzo the flying Frenchman performed the most amazing act of the opening ceremonies. At the Malaysia world championships he also performed a fabulous act and it was neat to see him again. They sent approximately 8-10 of his white horses free into the arena and after a few minutes he entered standing on the backs of two white horses (one foot on each horse’s back) and cantered across the arena toward the free horses. After a few minutes all the horses lined up abreast and he rode around the ring standing on the two in the middle with @ 10 horses abreast. I didn’t realize there wasn’t a scrap of tack on any of them until they went by us on the way out of the arena…not even a bridle on the two he was standing on. Amazing!! However, the night was also very, very cold and our marching uniform is not particularly warm so we were freezing through the entire thing!! Walking to where the bus was supposed to pick us up helped, but it got really cold waiting for the bus. We ended up huddled in a group trying to keep warm. Farzad was a saint and gave me his jacket when he realized I couldn’t stop shivering. Once the bus arrived we piled in and bundled up in our real coats. When I told him it was too cold for him to be in a T-shirt and he said, “No, I am biting my lip, but I will be a hero!!”J We are currently driving on the bus heading back toward to the barn, but traffic is really bad due to the ceremonies and we don’t think we will be back until 2 or 3 am. Will need to catch up the next few days…

August 22 2014

We are back to having very sporadic wifi. Hopefully this will change, but while I was sitting in the café at the campground this morning (waiting for the track to open so I could ride, I downloaded emails… and it is very, very slow!!!!), so I googled almond croissant recipes since I got a couple requests. Most of the images I found online don’t look anything like the real thing (or at least what I was trying to describe), but the description on this blogger’s site (chocolateandzucchini.com) sounds very accurate and I am attaching her (or his recipe) for anyone interested. Here is the description from the website:

“… croissants aux amandes are, obviously, very rich. Very delicious, but very rich. They’re a good breakfast option if you’re a coal miner, for example. But if your job is to sit at a computer and read food blogs, or if you are having them as part of a larger brunch spread, you might consider splitting one, or perhaps using mini-croissants. Although the simple and traditional version (as outlined in the recipe below) is just fine as it is,...I will even make chocolate croissants aux amandes, adding a bit of melted chocolate to the filling, and dusting the croissants with cocoa powder instead of confectioner’s sugar. Indulgence, I call thy name.”

Sounds about right to me, so for anyone that wants to try, I will attach the recipeJ The coal miner analogy made me nervous about indulging too frequently, so today’s breakfast was yogurt!!

We rode 6-7 miles today with 3 miles of canter and we practiced water bottle hand offs. For those not very familiar with endurance, there will be two or three “crew stops” on each loop of the trail where our crew can meet us. The first four loops are all over 30 km (18.75 miles) and the primary goal at these stops is to keep the horses cool during the event. Since it is timed, and the first horse crossing the finish line that is fit to continue is the winner, the crews will us hand water bottles as we ride by so that we can dump the water on the horses without slowing. Rev has always been pretty good at doing this at the canter, but a refresher course is always good since it is not something we do during rides in the US. Also, they are now estimating 176 horses in this event, so you can imagine how hectic it can get at these “fly bys”!

We stopped at a tack shop this afternoon because Emilio and Steve are unhappy with my mane brush. I tend to bring equipment that is near its end of life so if it further deteriorates, I can just ditch it and not worry about bringing it home. I would have stuck with my old stand by for the rest of the month…but its always fun to go to tack shops and I figured it was worth bucking up and getting the mane comb since they are also teasing me about my 2 old chairs (that have probably been coming with us to world championships since Germany) and the towels I brought for the gite---towels and bedding are not included with the rental fee. Actually speaking of rental fees, Emilio asked the price of renting a paella pan for the meal he is hoping to cook and it is 50 Euros (!!!?!?!). What the heck!!! How much would a new one cost if renting one for a few hours is that much!?? The people at this camp ground are really, really nice, but they definitely are not missing any opportunity to make money on us! So far, it is not looking like the paella is going to happen.

Someone asked about what muscle issue I worry about after travel and it is a problem in horses called by many names, but probably most commonly: “tying up”. I suppose a way to describe it to someone unfamiliar with horses would be a charley horse (no pun intended…) in all your muscles. Horses, particularly endurance horses, seem to be at risk when returning to exercise after long periods of rest. Imagine freely roaming around outside in a large pasture 24 hours a day under normal circumstances and then being transported to a holding area where you are kept in a stall for 2 days (Gladstone), flown on a plane in a small box (the flight might only be 7-8 hours, but with loading and unloading you might be fairly restricted in motion for 10 or more hours, resting in another stall overnight before shipping 10 hours from Belgium to France and then living entirely in a stall or 30’X30’ paddock for the next 2 or 3 weeks before competing in a 100 mile race. We do everything we can to keep things as “normal” as possible for the horses, but the reality is that they are experiencing significant changes in their routines and some horses have trouble adjusting. Fortunately, all of ours have settled in really well and are back in full work.

August 21 2014

Rev is always waiting expectantly for her breakfast in the morning when I arrive (see image below) and very happy to get out to the paddock, but today there was a small change in plans. Jim worked on her this morning before we turned her out in the paddock and she was actually fairly patient about it. Then we were basically killing time until leaving for uniforms, the horse feed and USEF blankets from the large USEF container in Caen (our appointment was set for 2pm, so we left at noon). Lori, Steve and Emilio stayed behind and put Reveille on the walker and did some shopping and laundry during the day. The drive to Caen was very pretty…the French countryside is absolutely lovely, but it takes about 1.5 hours to get there and between the drive, trying on the uniforms, getting uniforms for our crews and photographs, we didn’t get back until after 5pm. I had planned Rev’s feed just about right, I didn’t have enough of her fat supplement for dinner, but since we were able to pick up the shipped food today…it worked out perfectly! I will attach a few images from Caen. We didn’t really spend any time seeing the city, other than driving by the castle and cathedral on our way out of the city, so we could get back to the horses. But the parking area was in the center of the city near what I assume was the river Orne, with lots of yachts moored along the wall. We also saw a horse drawn wagon collecting garbage in town…very cool! A few pictures are included below.

More people have been arriving the last few days. Lucy Hess, Scott Hie and Bill Stevens are now here and the group will grow a lot over the next few days as the rest of us arrive. Emilio, Steve and Lori cooked dinner again tonight. They are spoiling me!! I haven’t cleaned Rev’s stall since they got here and they cook nearly every night for the entire group at this camp ground so I guess I should say they are spoiling all of us. After dinner we went to a party hosted by the camp-ground. It was a lot of fun and normally I adore dancing, but by the time 11pm came around, I actually ducked out to head home. I was just feeling absolutely bone weary and exhausted. I think it is just too many nights staying awake past midnight and waking up between 5 and 6am. I am used to getting up early, but usually I go to sleep early too!

August 20 2014

Today Dwight and Jim are going over all the horses with a fine tooth comb now that they are all totally settled in. The exam times are spread throughout the day and since we also have pasture guard duty, morning meetings, etc. we are hanging at the stable all day. I did our “big” ride today…actually only 10 miles which doesn’t sound like much compared to the 100 miles we will do in 8 days, but conditioning for the ride is over. I just want to make sure her muscles have recovered 100% from travel and she is ready to go. So, we did 2 miles of walk, 3 miles of trot and 5 miles of canter on the track. Tomorrow will be an easy day for her, both because she had a strong work today and because we are driving to Caen to get our uniforms tomorrow. Steve got some more pictures of us riding since we were never able to figure out how to freeze a still image from the videos Lori took. They aren’t great because we don’t have Becky here yet, but at least it’s a start...

So, in general a quiet and rather boring day, but I did get my laundry done (which is huge). I was down to my last pair of underwear, so was getting pretty desperate! The big thing I learned today is whenever given the opportunity, eat an almond chocolate croissant. I had one today, and I think I could be very happy eating sushi and almond/chocolate croissants for the rest of my life!! Pretty much they are just a buttery little bit of heaven!! We had dinner tonight with the Olsens, our neighbors in the campground, and Jim Masterson and it was a pretty spectacular evening with friends. Sorry, not such an exciting day to describe, but a good day :)


August 19, 2014

Thank you to everyone sending well wishes and suggestions. I feel like a heel because I realized today I missed at least one company I should have thanked in that previous email. Animal Health Options has supplied us with Promotion eq for several years now and I can’t believe I forgot them!! They have been super supportive and I love their product. I realized my forgetfulness as I was measuring out this morning’s scoop. Hopefully there aren’t many others I forgot!!

The day started out absolutely beautiful but by 11am a new front had come in and the off and on rain settled in again. I had planned on riding on the beach, but was only going to walk anyway, so I decided to change my plan and put Reveille on the walker for a few hours instead. Caroline, the woman we had visited who lives on the trail near the start, stopped by to tell us her friend (who also lives on the trail) was visited by the Spanish team evaluating the trail, and they had a map (argh!!?!). Not to be outdone, we also went to look at that small section of the trail. Her friend told us the organizing committee was redirecting some of the planned WEG trail because conditions were so wet and muddy. Bad trail conditions will make the trail trickier, but hopefully that will be to our advantage.

This afternoon we went to Mont St. Michel. It was a quick trip because there is only so much time I feel comfortable leaving Rev, however it was absolutely amazing. It may have been a short trip, but we saw a lot of the parts of the island because our tour guide was Emilio, the Paraguayan masochist. He is amazingly adept at navigating his way through crowds, so the rest of us were left trotting to keep up and after power walking up to the top and realizing the wait for the Abbey tour would require at least 45 minutes…he hiked us right back down and then started up again by another route. We finally convinced him a more leisurely trek back down to the exit, with some exploration along the way, would be better :). There are 41 monks that currently live on the island. The pictures really don’t do it justice.

Dinner was Indian food cooked by Mustafa for the entire group and it was absolutely delicious. It was also great spend some time visiting with the entire group…now that the group is getting bigger, that just is difficult. We are hoping to do some more nights like this with Lynn cooking one night and perhaps Emilio cooking another night. They know better than to ask me to cook :). Jim Masterson arrived today, which is a big bonus for all our horses. He will be doing body work daily to keep them loose and ready to go.

August 18, 2014

Today started out rainy and grey but by the time the track was open for us to ride, it had cleared and was gorgeous! Today we did a longer stretch of trot and canter (3 miles each direction) with a little bit of walk warm up and between directions. It is hard to know for certain when you are past the risk of muscle injury, but I think we are there. She has had a good sweat every day I’ve ridden her and she is staying relaxed and comfortable.  However, she is getting bored with working on the track…every time we go by the entrance she asks if we can leave, but there really aren’t any other good options. The road has lovely scenery, but the portion that is safe (as far as traffic) is paved, so we are limited to walking and it’s only a mile long. We can walk to the beach, but they have said the footing is deep and muddy. I may try that for a change tomorrow. Lori came out with me to the track and took some pictures.

This afternoon we visited a farm neighboring the venue so we could get an idea of the start. I am really looking forward to getting the trail map, but they may not be available until the 24th. Someone asked about the horse ages and I have taken this information from the USEAA website (other than Reveille). Rev is a 14 year old Arabian mare; Chanses (Heather Reynolds) - 9 year old Arabian gelding; Hot Desert Knight (Ellen Olsen) - 14 year old Arabian gelding; RR Gold Dust Rising (Jeremy Reynolds) - 8 year old Arabian gelding; My Wild Irish Gold (Kelsey Russell) - 11 year old ½ Arabian mare; Wallace Hill Shade (Jeremy Olsen) - 12 year old Arabian gelding. They are all brown…the Arabian breed is dominated by greys, but this year the US team is all bay with 1 chestnut.

For dinner Emilio BBQed at our gite and the Olsens and Mustafa joined us. It was absolutely delicious and wonderful to spend some time with good friends, but perhaps the best part was when several of the people that work at this facility (its basically a campground) came to visit and shared some wine and the evening with us. We are all here for one purpose, to do our absolute best on the 28th. However, one of the truly special things about being a part of these events is meeting new friends and recognizing how similar we all are…wherever we come from. I will say we are very similar, but there are definitely some language barriers. Apparently when Mustafa went searching for 2 lemons to cook for dinner at the café (deux citrons), he caused quite a stir because it is slang for (I will be polite) “two breasts”. Then we learned when Steve suggested the woman from the front office with a broken ankle sit and raise her leg, the phrase is slang for something rather obscene. I am not 100% certain they were totally serious. Perhaps they were just teasing us, but it did remind me of studying in the UK for undergrad and being told to not be alarmed if someone said they were going to “knock us up in the morning”, they just mean they would knock on the door to wake us. I think the saying is that Britain and America are two countries separated by a common language…perhaps France is separated just a little bit more :)

August 17, 2014

It is interesting how differently the riders put our horses back in work after traveling. I appear to be one of the slower, more conservative people (at least with this aspect of my life;-). The last 2 days I rode 7-8 miles with a gradually increasing amount of trot or canter and less walking (the very first day was entirely walking). Today I only rode about 7 miles, but I did two, 2.5 mile stretches of trotting and canter and she is feeling really great. She spent the rest of the day out in the paddock in her rain sheet because it drizzled off and on all day.

 We moved into the gite yesterday and it is very small, but its not like there is much time to be in there anyway and at least we now have a small kitchen so we can cook meals rather than going out three times a day. We didn’t have time to go shopping yesterday so we went out for dinner again last night. The food was fabulous, but it took a long time to get served and the newly arrived people were exhausted by the time we were done. Ellen went to the bar to order 2 glasses of red and 1 glass of white wine before dinner and the waitress came out with 3 bottles rather than glasses. The dinner took long enough that at least we drank it all, though!!

Other than riding, today was mostly spent trying to shop for the gite, but we couldn’t find any stores open (on Sunday). While we were looking, we drove around Avranche so a little bit of getting our bearings and seeing what’s in town, I guess, but unfortunately a lot of wasted time until we finally found a small convenience store (sort of a WaWa or 7-11 type store) that was open.

 I have gotten a question by email about some of the team rider statistics and this is probably one of the youngest teams we have ever fielded. Sadly, I think I have moved from being the youngest or nearly the youngest rider, to the oldest (yikes!!!). Kelsey is one of the youngest riders ever to compete at the world level (Joey Mattingly was the youngest) at 19 years of age (soon to be 20). The rest of us are in our 30s and 40s, but I don’t know the specific ages. There are 4 women on the team and one man (Jeremy Reynolds). Jeremy Olsen is the alternate, so if he rides there will be three women and one man. I will check out the horse bio data to give their ages.


August 16, 2014

In addition to thanking everyone who has helped support us financially (and thank you again…I had underestimated the cost of living in France, so your help will end up being really crucial!), I need to thank lots of people and companies whom have supported us with equipment, products, etc. I always worry about starting this list because there are so many and I worry about forgetting someone. If I do, please forgive me…it’s not that I and we don’t appreciate you, but that we are overwhelmed with everyone’s generosity!! Lutipold (Adequan) and Merial (Ulcergard and Gastrogard) generously give their products to the entire US team…not just the endurance team. That is a lot of horses!! All sport horses are under significant stress as their training peaks heading into a big event and shipping just multiplies it. Thanks to these great companies for their generous long-term support!! I also need to thank Omegaalpha. I use many of their products and cannot say enough good things about them---in fact their supplements were a significant portion of the weight in the horse equipment I shipped! Another portion of that weight was horse feed because I didn’t want to make any changes in Rev’s feed right before such a crucial event, and the large container of feed sent for all the US horses at WEG by USEF doesn’t arrive for another 5 days…over a week from the endurance horses’ arrival. Southern States Feed generously special shipped a bag of their Triple Crown complete feed directly to our stable in France, so I only needed to pack a small amount of their balancer products in the horse equipment. It was a big relief knowing her feed wouldn’t have to change! The Multi Radiance Medical Activet laser has been a big help in maximizing healing from various injuries that have occurred over the last few years since we obtained one (in particular I think it sped healing of the laceration Rev sustained last month). I also believe it helps a lot for maintenance when horses are in a tough training protocol. FITS riding pants (Fun in the Saddle) are comfortable beyond words and hold up great over the miles (and they look great!!). Also a huge thank you to EasyCare for going above and beyond while we tested their shoes on Reveille. Unfortunately, she appears to be one of the rare horses that simply doesn’t like them, but I sure would have loved to have used them after riding with them on Cadie in the Vermont 100. They were awesome!! Other companies that have also supported the entire endurance team include Toklat (saddle pads and riding pants), Zilco (bridle and breast collar), GPA (helmets), Polar (heart rate monitor belts), The Andrew Cader Foundation in honor of Deborah Reich (1/2 chaps and race day shirts), Equicooldown (cooling sheets), Mountain horse (rain coats), Jeffers (rain sheets and halters), Another Bright Idea and Lynn Kenelly (name plates for Halters and buffs), Running Bear (SSG gloves), Noslo Endurance team (back packs), Choice of Champions (supplements), and KS Rubin.com (ball caps). I believe Ariat sponsors clothing for the entire US team (not just endurance), and I still use and love the boots they gave us at the world championships in London. Bayer is supplying legend that will be administered as we get closer to the ride for joint support in addition to adequan; and Absorbine is sponsoring Jim Masterson’s trip to WEG. Jim has done body work on the endurance US squad horses at every world championship since the 2006 WEG in Aachen (where we met) and he has become a pillar of the team. Likewise, Roflex USA is sponsoring Lori’s flight, which has allowed her to be part of our crew, so we are very fortunate with that too. AERC and AERC-I have donated wood shavings for stall bedding and hay while we are here. Whew the list is amazingly long and further proof that our successes are in large part because of help from many, many people and companies!! Thank you everyone!!

 I am writing this as I guard the horses in their paddocks this afternoon and wait for the arrival of Steve, Emilio and Lori, my three principal grooms (perhaps why it is lengthier than when I type at night!!:-). Hopefully their travel has been uneventful. It will be great to see them, move into our housing for the next 2 weeks (a “gite” which is in a campground with a large giraffe jump room for kids) and organize a bit more specifically as the race is getting closer. However, it will be really strange not having my husband Dave here. I think a part of my subconscious was just figuring he would come later with the rest of the crew as in past years. To be successful at these events everyone needs to be at the top of their game, but it will be particularly true without Dave here. His absence will make it a real challenge.

I heard last night that 47 countries will be represented in the endurance championship and 33 of them will field teams (at least three riders from a country make a team; the maximum per country is 5). We won’t know the number of definite starters for a while, but they are estimating it will be around 160, a large number of people to be starting at once and funneling down into a narrow trail!! For those of you that don’t know and are interested, the United States Endurance Athlete Association will have real time photos and updates on Face Book and Twitter. If you do not do Face Book or Twitter you can follow by going to the website http://usequineendurance.org/.

August 15, 2014

Once again Rev had eaten every scrap in her stall. There was still hay in her hay bag hanging outside the stall, so she wasn’t actually out of available food. It is funny how your perspective totally changes at one of these big events. At home there is definitely a tendency to say “if they get hungry enough, they will eat the hay in the hay feeder” (or whatever). Here I give her a pile of hay and a bucket of chopped hay in her stall, and a full hay bag outside her door. Now I will give her more hay in her stall. In her grain she gets her supplements very meticulously measured out, I laser her once a day and at night she gets tucked in with Stanley’s ‘back on track’ magnetic stable sheet and standing leg wraps. At home she lives outside 24 hours a day and she’s used to roughing it, but here she is treated like a princess. I guess it’s the least we can do since we ship them practically across the world and ask them to race 160 km in less than 8 hours!!

 We tried to go to the venue today to see how the vet gate will be organized, but we found out it is not open for people to visit until the 24th. Actually, the guard had to get another person who spoke English to relay that information. My French is very spotty and understanding (or recognizing) one word out of 5 makes it tricky to understand! It is funny that human nature is the same whatever our nationality. If someone doesn’t understand what we say the desire is to talk louder and slower as though the listener is hard of hearing rather than simply uncomprehending of the language :)

This morning (now that we have wifi at the B and B…thanks Mustafa :) I received the link to a video from Mel and Jeff Blittersdorf on facebook. I hadn’t heard of it before, but apparently she was challenging us (the team) to the “ice bucket challenge for ALS”. It took me most of the day to convince the others (at least we are all in the video if not all getting wet), but I was not about to let a dare go unrecognized (especially if it is fairly low risk as far as personal harm). Even more important to me was the fact that one of my first mentors, Dr. Rick Doran (equine surgeon extraordinaire), passed away due to ALS last year. None of us had anyone in particular in mind to pass the challenge on to, so I named Midatlantic Equine Medical Center in general. [Personally, I think you guys should do the challenge as a group, but I will leave that up to you.] Here is the link if you would like to see it. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10204261248350357 The only other tidbit of interest today is that after a great ride for all of us this afternoon, we went to dinner and the mussels were so good that Lynn actually used a straw to finish the sauce! I don’t think I am going to need to carry my weighted saddle pad to make weight anymore!!

August 14, 2014

Rev had eaten every scrap of digestible matter in her stall when I got here this morning, and had finished her 5 gallon bucket of water. It pours rain periodically, but clears quickly in between showers, which has made the ground pretty soggy. Fortunately today is a slow day as far as work as she recovers from 2 days of travel. I gave her breakfast and we all put up the pens in the paddock that is available for us so the horses can be out most of the day with someone guarding them (at first we thought a full time guard might be overkill but a tractor with a chain saw attachment came by and trimmed the hedge along the road while we were talking and it was very fortunate we were there to grab horses before they took off for the hills).

I planned on hand walking a few miles this morning, but she was more concerned with grazing than walking so I ended up just putting her in the paddock while I cleaned her stall and organized a bit more. She tends to hide her manure piles in the bedding so she is not the easiest horse to keep in a stall. The afternoon was a continuous, drizzly rain, but she went on the walker for an hour (fortunately its covered) and then outside in a rain sheet for a couple more hours before I took her out for a ride in the early evening. We ended up doing about 50 minutes of mostly walk with a little trot.

It was really rainy so I was bundled up in rain gear and she was not impressed with my trying to play photographer while riding, but we passed some lovely homes (they are everywhere actually) and I will include some pictures. We got the wifi figured out at our B and B late tonight (thank goodness for Mustafa Tehrani), which will hopefully make it a little easier to send updates. Thank you everyone for your well wishes!! I firmly believe in karma!

August 13, 2014

When we got to the terminal in JFK and realized we had 7 hours to wait, we decided to splurge and get a day’s membership in the admiral club so we could hang out there. The main draw was they had showers available and since we had been up since 2am, worked with the horses before the drive to JFK and still had another 24 hours or so before we would be able settled in France….we decided a shower was pretty priceless. It ended up being a really great few hours catching up with Heather and Ellen. In fact, Heather (thank goodness) looked at her watch at 4:45 pm and said “isn’t it boarding time?” and we managed to walk over to the gate and directly onto the plane. The flight was uneventful and I managed to sleep for a few hours after they served dinner. It’s funny how all the little food compartments on airline food trays always remind me of TV dinners growing up. We are now all together resting at the B and B, where we will be staying for the first couple nights, waiting for the horses to arrive. We had expected them between 5 and 6 pm, but the updated arrival time is now between 10 and 11pm. We have heard all the horses are fine, so not sure why there has been a delay, but there was a lot of equipment that went with them, so loading that could certainly explain it! Driving around looking for the stable was absolutely lovely (as are the B and B’s). The gardens are gorgeous and although I always love seeing new places, it emphasizes that Dave won’t be coming on this trip and makes me sad.

 Horses arrived around 8 pm and the only reason for the delay was their overnight stay after arriving was a little farther out of Liege than expected so the drive today took longer. They all looked good when we offloaded them and after a few minutes to offer water we put them on the exerciser (a horse walker) at the facility so we could unpack our gear, put buckets of water in the stalls and organize our equipment enough to find their food, etc. After 20 minutes we put them in stalls and settled them for the night. Reveille was not happy with the stall situation. She likes to be able to see her neighbors and these stalls are solid walls so the only way she can look out is to stretch her neck over the front grate. She had a bit of a hissy fit, but she began to relax while I sat in the stall with her and she did dig into dinner so I am hopeful she will gradually accept the situation. She has pretty strong opinions and she made it clear she thought this set up was pretty stupid.

However, I have to say (Rev’s opinion excepted) the facility is very nice and we are lucky to have it.


August 12, 2014

We loaded the horses to ship to JFK at 3:30 am this morning. It took less time to get to the Vetport at JFK (where we were picking up two more horses) than expected, so now we are in a holding pattern waiting. The horses look relaxed in the trailer and fortunately it isn’t hot today. Before I go any farther I need to send a big thank you to everyone who has been so incredibly supportive and helped make this trip possible.

As many know, the USEF endurance budget was slashed this year and expenses other than horse shipping costs are being shouldered by the individual athletes. It is very difficult to ask for financial assistance, especially considering how much I love competing---it just doesn’t seem right. However, many jumped in to help, including spreading the word about the situation this year, and I cannot thank you all enough!!!

The horses got loaded uneventfully in the plane and we watched it back up to leave before heading to the terminal ourselves. Ellen, Heather and I fly over on the same flight tonight. We will meet up with the horses and people that flew with them tomorrow at the stable in Normandy where we will be staying.

First Installment August 11, 2014

Reveille and I leave tomorrow for the World Equestrian Games in France. The race is the 28th. I apologize that I haven’t been more communicative about the preparation. The last few weeks have been very challenging because Reveille sliced open her lower leg after a deer nearly ran into her while riding. The laceration didn’t look that bad, but she ended up blistering from an ointment I used (a very bad skin reaction) and it has been a particularly stressful few weeks with the proximity to final selection for the WEG. Fortunately the wound has healed and she is looking great now.