The Road to Rio – Pro Groom Kerri’s “Down” Time – Part 5



Things have still been low key since my last blog and we have another week before we leave for Rotterdam. My days are pretty much the same as I spend majority of my day at the barn. When I’m not at the barn I’m either eating or sleeping. Eddie showed us a local ice cream shop that is near the barn and we make a point to visit it a couple days a week. We’re lucky to find a soul walking down the street or an open restaurant to get food at in Retie. The town is eerily quiet which is odd to all of us as it’s just a very different culture than we are used to.


ice cream and cookie in a tray

I had to take a bite to make sure it was picture worthy



horse turned out in a lush field in europe

Gracie in her turn out. It’s finally warm enough for fly gear!


Since I only have 2 horses to care for and all day to care for them, I never feel very rushed. This goes for everyone in the barn. We tend to have lots of down time and try to find ways to fill it. One thing we try to do is keep up with the news stories around the world. Just this morning I was filming Ali’s ride on Rosie and she was just warming up so Laura and I started to discuss the break up between T Swift and Calvin Harris (and what her new album will be like). Ali has started to get in the habit of watching her rides right after she gets off (because this is one of Guenter’s tips to becoming an Olympian) and of course she got to listen to all the celebrity gossip Laura and I were talking about. Naturally Ali was “thrilled” to hear all about our celebrity gossip. We have done some group activities in the evenings to stay busier. We all went bowling in a neighboring town one night where we were the only ones in the entire place. FYI Guenter is an expert bowler. The rest of us, not so much!


horse and can bag

Rosie has a sweet tooth like me


We also had some trouble with the hotel that was a mile from the barn. Last week (while half of the group was at Rosendaal), the Grooms made a move to a hotel that is 20 minutes away in Turnhout. It is a nicer hotel and in a more exciting town so that is positive. It does however mean night check takes longer because of the drive to and from and we have to get up earlier in the mornings. Sometimes you have to weigh the pros and cons and in this situation, the move was the best decision.



grooms in a car packed with luggage

Holly, Mook and myself stuffed into the Volvo with all our luggage so we could move hotels. Talk about expert packers!


As Grooms, we need to be multitalented and adaptable. We are nutritionist and chefs, housekeepers, morning people and late night people, hair dressers, seamstresses, vet techs, farriers, horse trainers, handymen, and the list goes on. I decided I needed to add “ability to drive manual” to my resume and who better to teach me than Michael Barisone! Fun fact about Michael, he could take a car apart and put it all back together successfully. My first lesson with him consisted of learning to just get into first gear. In typical horseman fashion, he compared the car not moving to being halted on a horse. If you add too much leg to go, the horse shoots out in front of you (and you stall) and if you half halt too firmly to stop, the transition to halt is too abrupt (and you get whiplash). Fortunately I am also a rider and this all made sense to me. Lessons are still in progress but maybe one day I will be turned loose (forewarning to watch out) but until then, Michael is only allowing me to drive on the back roads of Belgium were there are only trees to hit and ditches to get stuck in.



grooms relaxing at the barn courtyard

Groom’s Meeting. Very serious stuff happens here.


Since things have been quiet, I had time to snap some photos so I could share my braiding technique. I’m going to do my best to explain this without actually being able to show you in person. Rosie has an extremely thick mane which requires a lot of pulling before he can be braided. I also make my braiding sections smaller than most. You will have to play around and see what length mane and what amount of hair works for your horse. I also use rubber bands to secure the braid and string to tie it up.



long thick braid for dressage knots

To start I like to spray the section I’m going to braid with a hair gel although I’ve seen people just use water. I braid down as tight as I can and as far and loop the end of the braid with a rubber band.


step 2 of making dressage knots

I then take my string and run it through the needle and knot it together at the end like you would if you were sewing something. I run the needle and string through the center of the end of the braid just above the rubber band.



step 3 of making dressage knots

I then run the needle through the center of the top of the braid at his crest.


step 4 of making dressage knots

You then do your best to run the needle straight down through the now folded up braid trying to catch both sides and coming out the center again.


dressage knot finished

Run the needle back up through the center of the braid and you now have a ball. Keep in mind you want the braid laying flat on their neck so that is what it should look like. Run the needle through the center of the balled up braid again and repeat 2-3 times just going up and down through the center and keeping the string tight. After you’ve done this you just cut the end of the string as close to the braid as possible. No tying off necessary! And you have a beautiful, easy braid that lays flat on your horses neck.



We leave for Rotterdam so we will be gearing back up for that and packing for another competition. Ali and Rosie will be competing in the 3*.


Go Team USA!