The Pak is across the pond and the action is officially underway in London. In this blog series, SmartPakers Sarah and Colby will be sharing stories about the people they meet while watching the action live in the stands (and on the XC course) in Greenwich.
Today we got a fresh perspective, enjoying the action on the exact opposite side of the dressage ring from where we sat yesterday. And that can only mean one thing – new seat mates!
In between (and a good bit during) the passing rain storms, I caught up with Kirstin and Karen, two “locals” here enjoying the games. I say locals in quotes because they’re actually from Newmarket, which is about an hour and twenty minutes from Greenwich, where the games are being held. Kirstin and Karen informed me that they’re at the games on tickets from their boss, Sue Dyson. That’s right – I happened to plop down next to two Animal Health Trust employees! For those not familiar, Dr. Dyson is a world-renowned expert in the field of equine orthopedics, with a particular interest in lameness and poor performance in sports horses. I studied much of her work during my time in college, and still keep my copy of “Diagnosis and Management of Lameness in the Horse” on the bookshelf in my living room (science nerd alert!).
Kirstin is a former rider, and is currently spending most of her time focused on work (boy can I relate to that!). Karen owns a Warmblood/Thoroughbred named Big Red (or Eric) whom she used to event, but now mostly rides dressage.
When I asked the girls to describe the experience of the Olympics taking over London for the last 2+ years, they said at first many Londoners were getting quite sick of it, especially as the media attention and hype around it started to explode at the beginning of this year (as did the traffic and congestion that came with the massive construction efforts). But they both quickly noted that now that the games are here and the history and the magnitude of the experience is hitting homes, it really feels quite special to be a part of it, and they’ve heard many people kicking themselves for not getting tickets when they had the chance.
As the clouds rolled in, I remarked on Kirstin’s shoes, noting that she must be freezing in sandals (the temperature had plummeted to the high 50′s at one point). She sheepishly laughed and informed me that earlier that week at work, a horse had “trod on her toe” while being examined. Naturally, Karen had drawn a smiley face on the bandage. (How’s that for an experience we can all relate to?!)
Just before the rain clouds positively erupted on us, I asked Kirstin and Karen to tell me, in one word, what riding meant to them. They both pondered the question for a good while, trying to get it just right. Karen spoke first, offering “Adrenaline – it really is a rush.” “Not a surprising response, coming from a former eventer,” I grinned. Kirstin thought a bit more and then said, “Uplifting. It’s a buzz you can’t find anywhere else.”
Instantly, I loved how both women had approached the thought from two different avenues, but arrived at the same conclusion – riding is transformative. It has the ability to excite and inspire. It can make you believe in yourself, when you’re dropping off a cross country bank into the water, and it can fill you with a sense of accomplishment and a belief that anything’s possible, when you nail that dressage test just right, even though no one was watching. Tell me, SmartPak fans – what excites you and lifts you up, as a rider?
Remember how I mentioned the eruption of the rain clouds? It was no joke. Colby was kind enough to put together a recap of the view from *under* the stands:
Let’s just say that the London weather continues to surprise, but not always delight. After a warm morning, dark & stormy weather descended on day 2 of eventing dressage (makes for a good drink, but not such a good afternoon). The worst hit just as Tina Cook and Miner’s Frolic made the turn down the centerline and all but the most dedicated spectators were sent scurrying for cover. We’re pretty dedicated, but the loud “crack” of lightning was enough to send us into the bowels of the bleachers along with a couple thousand of our closest friends. Well, maybe not ALL friends. Once the torrential rain started to come through the structure one woman was intent on occupying the exact spot I was standing and I was happy to have a number of years of competitive ice hockey experience as I tried to defend my space!
Sarah and I did meet a lovely woman from Washington State and her young daughter, who recently got into riding. They had lots of questions about eventing and dressage, which we happily answered (the only thing better than riding is talking about riding). Apparently the whole family uprooted for a few weeks and decided to come to the Olympics, and each family member got to pick a sport to go watch. Naturally, her daughter chose equestrian…how cool is that?! They are also going to see platform diving and women’s soccer while they are here. This led Sarah and I to a discussion of how different it is experiencing the Olympics from the Olympics…the local stations cover the British teams primarily and we are very much “out of the loop” as the US Team story lines unfold (aside from equestrian of course).
Alright, all you smart riders, that’s today’s view. Keep an eye out for our Pak Across the Pond – Day 3 wrap-up later on tonight, and then stay tuned for tons of cross country coverage tomorrow. We’ll do our best to stay dry!