Pak Across the Pond – Day 2

We truly could not have asked for more perfect weather to start off the games. A brilliantly sunny day with enough breeze to keep us comfy, even in the packed stadium seating.

I knew that watching Olympic competition live was going to be an incredible experience, but I had no idea what I was in for. The feel of the place is almost indescribable, but I’ll do my best. When Boyd stepped into the ring to kick the day off, there was a hushed anticipation among the crowd of thousands – you could practically hear a pin drop into the soft arena footing. We all knew we were about to witness history. And for the next seven hours, we did just that.

I was impressed at how respectful the crowd was. Even though many of them were not riders (I heard a few ask where the jumps were, and then heard others say that these horses were only for non-jumping activities (wait till they see XC!)), they were positively silent during the tests and then broke into massive applause for every single rider, regardless of country or creed. It was an amazing thing to be a part of.

The rings above the ring equipment.

(I’ll give you fair warning, it’s quite late here (well past 1 AM now), and I’ve had quite a day, so this next bit might get a little on the gushy side.) It’s hard to say what the most memorable part of the day was. But the overall thing that stands out for me is the emotion. I don’t tend to be an emotional gal – passionate, yes, but not really emotional (unless we’re talking about those P&G Olympic commercials – those things could make the devil tear up). That said, this was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. The way the nervous warm-ups bled into the studious and meticulous tests, all culminating into the same final three acts: halt, salute, celebrate. The fist pumps, the exuberant pats on the necks of their horses, the wave of the hat to the crowd, it was really magical. Even riders who’d had a tougher go than they’d have liked were obviously beaming with pride. As well they should, they’d achieved something very few people will ever get to experience.

That’s me, Sarah, taking it all in.

Seeing the riders come out of their tests and look up into the stands of cheering fans was really something else. It’s one thing to be proud of yourself, but to see others proud of you and celebrating your hard work, you could see it plain as day on their faces – it was like no other feeling before. I get choked up just thinking about it. These athletes and their horses really are incredible, and I was honored to watch them perform today.

Team SP rider Boyd Martin warms up Otis Barbotiere for the first ride of the day.

During the lunch break, we caught up with Team SmartPak rider Allison Springer. We didn’t, however, catch up with any real food. If you can believe it, the concession stands ran out! Of everything! The official Olympic snack stand and the free-standing vendors were all literally turning people away because they had no food to serve. If only they’d sold tickets to this event, and could estimate how many people would be there…

While we weren’t able to get our hands on a full meal, we did secure some of the last remaining cans of Pringles and some brownies. We promptly used the Pringles to bribe Allison into showing off her love for dressage:

Team SP event rider and Olympic contender Allison Springer..

I won’t go into detail on the individual rides here – if you want the most up-to-date action, follow Colby and I on Twitter at SmartPakerColby and SmartPakerSarah. We’ll be tweeting throughout the games and sharing photos and updates. You can also check out our friends at EventingNation, who, as their name indicates, will have positively exhaustive coverage of the games, particularly the eventing team. You can also get live scores and orders of go at the USEFNetwork

And now, a note from Colby:
“After a great day of watching eventing get under way, we returned back to the USEF/USET house to find that Sarah’s bedroom had been turned into mission control for the USEF Network‘s Live from London coverage of the Games- multiple laptops, webcams, data lines, you name it! This isn’t as invasive as it might sound since we’re partnering with USEF to do a daily recap of events with some color commentary and our own “stuff-riders-sayer” Sarah Paull is hosting. Very exciting! The “weather cam” out the window just happens to catch one of the water elements of the cross-country course, so this all makes perfectly good sense, really. Watch the first episode and check out the weather cam at usefnetwork.org and check-in each day during the equestrian competition for updates. Tonight we’ll be hosting a party for the event riders, owners, partners and affiliates of USEF at the house. So, you won’t want to miss our coverage and photos tomorrow! Those eventers can be a wild bunch…I know, I’m one of them. ;)”

And so ends Day 2 of our London adventure. It’s only just begun, but I can’t believe we’re already through two days of it. Home feels so very far away, and yet our departure date feels like it’s speeding towards us. I can only imagine how the athletes feel, trying to stretch out the experience, soak it all in and make it all last just a little bit longer. For now, I’m off to bed – oh my god! That reminds me! – so as Colby mentioned above, we had the team and their supporters over for a party at the USEF/USET house this evening. Shortly after the team arrived, they quartered themselves off for a quick meeting with Captain Mark Phillips and the team vet, Dr. Furlong (fun fact, I tech’d for Dr. Furlong for two years before coming to SmartPak!). Anyways, I needed to upload some photos to share with the team back home, so I went up to my bedroom, which had been occupied by USEF Network mission control, only to find that the bedroom was now occupied by the entire eventing team! The riders I’d just been cheering on from the stands where now sitting on MY BED! It was nearly impossible to resist the urge to ask Boyd to scoot over so I could sit in on the meeting, but I really like my job and don’t want to get fired for being a crazy person :-)

USA’s Eventing Team at the USEF House

Alright, speaking of crazy, if I don’t get some sleep, I’ll be positively bonkers tomorrow. I hope you all have a positively wonderful rest of your weekend over there in the states. I’ll catch up with you tomorrow!

Stay up to date on the latest London happenings by following @SmartPakerSarah and @SmartPakerColby on Twitter!

Sarah Paull

Sarah Paull is a lifelong rider and SmartPak’s Brand Manager. You may know her better as the life-size foam finger from the London Olympics, the host of USEF Network’s Live from London coverage, or “that girl from the Stuff Riders Say videos.” Prior to joining SmartPak in 2008, Sarah worked as a Veterinary Technician at B.W. Furlong & Associates in Oldwick, NJ, and obtained her degree in Equine Science from Centenary College. Sarah is the proud mom of Cody, a semi-retired, 23-year-old Quarter Horse gelding, and she’s currently looking for an eventing partner to help her get rid of all the extra time, money and energy she doesn’t actually have :-) If you're interested in her often-horsey, always-odd musings, follow @SmartPakerSarah on Twitter.

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6 comments on “Pak Across the Pond – Day 2
  1. Suzanne says:

    Great write up! You both are fantastic! And Sarah… I would be all emotional too… what an experience!

  2. cathleen hunzeker-dougherty says:

    write more…can’t get live video evenon BBC online…no TV coverage at all! Be safe, enjoy..!! c.

  3. Autumn says:

    EXCELLENT write up! Don’t worry…I would’ve been extremely tempted to just sit in on the meeting too! Oh, what a shame to come home and find the whole eventing team in your room. It must be truly awful ;)

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