Pro Groom Kerri – OLYMPICS 2016 in RIO!!!
It’s taken me awhile to get back into my routine here in the States but I finally found time to write this blog! I’ve been asked millions of questions and I can hopefully set the record straight (starting with the odds of me having Zika are pretty slim because I did not see many bugs, besides the giant ants who were stealing grain and shaking the leaves off trees but that’s a different story Holly and I are fascinated with). The team came home with a BRONZE MEDAL and many personal best rides!
The Olympic Rings!
This is what a Bronze Medal Ribbon looks like!
Rosie, ever the team player, helping with chores.
Let me take you back to August 1 when we left Belgium. The horses were loaded up in the wee hours of the morning where Eddie accompanied them to the Liege airport and they flew with their fellow competitors to Rio. Grooms, riders and staff flew together commercially and arrived before the horses, leaving us enough time to get familiar with the facility. I unloaded Rosie around 3:30am from a lorry that was shipped over from Europe (only the best for our 4 legged athletes), and in typical Rosie fashion, he made sure everyone knew he had arrived as he “danced” to his stall. Without a doubt, the horses had the best accommodations provided by the Olympics. They had extra long stalls that were nice and open. Hay, carrots, and apples were shipped from the States for the horses and they were able to graze around the warm up for the cross country course.
Hand grazing with Ali!
The facility was new and clean. The arena footing could not have been much better and was ideal for our top athletes. The water was treated so it was safe for drinking and the horses had no problem acclimating to the taste. We brought Gatorade just to be safe but did not really need it. The Grooms’ housing was a short 5 minute walk from the stabling. Our apartment was also new (it smelled of fresh drywall) and air conditioned (it worked great despite being held in with duct tape). And all of this was on a military base so I felt plenty safe (and who doesn’t like a man in uniform)!
Getting the lay of the land.
The mucking out system and the laundry were probably my 2 biggest complaints with the facility. Trash is trash in Rio and that includes manure so everything was mucked out into a trash can. We had an issue with the trash cans not being dumped frequently enough and having no where to put manure. They seemed to get a little better by the time we left but that was clearly not something that was thought through. Also, I don’t recommend trying to muck out into a trash can, not what I’d call efficient! The laundry was also a problem. They charged you to have your horse laundry washed and it sometimes took 3 days to return. Expensive and inefficient so we avoided that as much as possible. I tried to do my horse laundry in the people laundry room provided in the Grooms housing but my laundry was quickly taken away by management (like out of a running washer!) so I decided not to risk that again. And don’t worry, I was able to get it back. I ended up going super old school and actually hand washed wraps and towels.
What the frack.
The laundry “dryer”.
Also, the food was…questionable, but thank goodness for the USEF who supplied us with a keurig, microwave and panini maker and our amazing “Nanny”, Ana, who would make daily grocery store runs for us. We also ate a lot of Dominos (which I could do without for awhile).
Week one was used to stretch the horses after their long trip to Belgium and allow the jet lag to pass. We were able to walk the cross country course with the eventing grooms (hey friends!). You have to give those eventers a lot of credit! I’ll be sticking to my dressage riding, running full speed at solid objects is not in my future! We also were able to check out the women’s rugby. If you haven’t seen rugby before I suggest you watch it. It is way better than American football (yup, I just said that!).
Mad respect for the Eventers!
On August 8 the horses jogged. This is probably the Groom’s favorite thing (not!). You spend an hour getting your horse all dressed up for 2 minutes of fame. Rosie was (mostly) behaved and had no problems passing the jog, along with the rest of the team USA horses. USEF posted photos on their Facebook page. If you haven’t seen them yet, check them out (Rosie was extra handsome with his braids!).
Why is there so much white around horses and barns?
We had another day to train and Ali rode her Grand Prix on Wednesday, the first to go for the team. An almost clean test (distraction in the 2s on Ali’s part) set the rest of the team up for a high team placing going into the special. The weather was ideal this day for Rosie as it was cooler and cloudy. The best part about this was Rosie and I went back to his stall and he could roll and get hosed down without having to worry about an awards ceremony. Sometimes the show days get extra long and exhausting (as if they aren’t already) when you have to keep your hard working horse clean after a test because they placed well and all he wants to do is be a dirty horse again! The Grand Prix finished Thursday afternoon and we were sitting in a good spot for a team medal. Everyone just had to hold it together for the Special!
Selfie with the Rosie!
Again, Ali and Rosie were the first of the team to ride the Special on Friday. Rosie and Ali were superstars and had a great, clean test! It was much hotter this day so Rosie was a little tired and hot walking back to his stall. He immediately rolled when I pulled his tack off and off to the wash rack we went. I got him cooled off and iced and then stared at him as I tried to figure out how to get the shavings out of his braids if we made it to the medal ceremony. I got Rosie all groomed up (as best to my ability with what I had to work with). Holly and I waited up at the stalls with our horses to see if the team had medaled. Everyone else was at the ring watching live. It came down to the last couple rides of the class so it was a serious nail bitter. We both were anxious, nauseous, and stressed waiting for the results. We waited for Laura’s score and both burst into happy, screaming tears as we realized the team had just received Bronze at the Olympics! The first team medal for US Dressage in 12 years! We had just spent our entire summer living out of a suitcase, working our butts (not so) off and the moment we had been waiting for had finally happened. Words can not truly describe this feeling.
Down to the medal ceremony we all went ecstatically! Awards ceremonies can be a bit chaotic so I loaded up on sugar cubes to keep Rosie standing quietly while the riders received their medals. Fun fact about Rosie, he likes to have his tongue pet. Yes, that sounds super weird but it’s normal in our “house”. That also kept him standing quietly while some other horses were not so quiet. He received a gold medal in my book for his behavior alone. What a guy!
Friday night the group celebrated the team medal together. I’ll let you imagine how this went down. Hint: caipirinha is the national drink of Brazil and SUPER tasty.
To add to the celebration and much to our surprise, we also realized after all this that Ali and Rosie had made the cut for individual freestyle on Monday. Fortunately Rosie had 2 days off before he would have to go again and Ali had 2 days to prepare for something she didn’t think would happen. Anything can happen people. (Team) Believe it and be prepared for it!
All of the horses had the Saturday after the Special off and the 3 going into the freestyle schooled early Sunday before it got too hot. The Grooms were also able to take a couple hours off to go see Christ the Redeemer.
Christ the Redemer
Ali was the 3rd ride on freestyle day which worked to our advantage weather wise because it was extremely hot (especially coming from Belgium where their summers are way more mild than traditional east coast summer in the States). Sticking to our usual schedule, Rosie tack walked first thing and then I braided, re-groomed, magnetized him and he had a short warm up before doing a personal best freestyle! Rosie was truly a rock star and I’m so proud of him and Ali for now being ranked 15th IN THE WORLD (I like to say it that way versus 15th in the Olympic freestyle). That’s pretty freakin cool! Rosie got a much deserved roll in the sand after this ride (his favorite!).
It’s so much fun to get all of the sand out…!
I packed up all my gear and with Ali already on her way, loaded Rosie up late Tuesday night to fly back to Belgium for a week (due to some quarantine regulations). He’s really an awesome horse so it was kind of sad sending him on his way knowing I wouldn’t be waiting for him on the other end.
SO MUCH STUFF.
Those of us flying back to the States (literally) packed into a van and left Rio late on Wednesday evening, along with the men’s swimming team (yup, I was there for that whole thing). It was a whirl wind of a traip and I’m sure I forgot some details, but this is the bulk of it. It’s is hard to believe it is over, as quickly as it seemed to start!.
The Brazilian people I met were nothing short of friendly and helpful. Despite what is being portrayed in the media, my experiences were all positive and I believe I can speak for our whole team, that we all agreed that the locals were friendly. The show management did a super job and everything ran smoothly.
I am now back in Virginia helping take care of our horses that had been home all summer. Ali has safely arrived in Florida with Rosie and Gracie where they will both have to stay in quarantine for a couple weeks. I (along with the other horses and people) will meet them down in Florida when they are finished.
What’s next? Some saddle time for me and onto the next horse show I suppose, but how do you really top the Olympics?