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A View From the Stands – Part 5

My First Non-Riders

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.

In between the rides and the massive bouts of rain today, I managed to have a lovely chat with the family sitting in front of us. When I started off with my usual question, “Are any of you riders?” mom and dad instantly laughed. Hard. Mom then offered up, “We’ve ridden before, but we’re certainly not what you’d call ‘riders,’ no.” Hurray! My first batch of non-riders! What brought them to watch dressage, I wondered, so I said, “What brought you to watch dressage?” (I have a habit of saying exactly what I’m thinking. Sometimes it’s not a good thing, but in this case it was obviously fine.)

Dad explained that they lived just two miles away, which I found instantly suspicious because he said “two miles,” not “three and a half kilometers” or “ten stone” or some other unit of measurement that I don’t understand. But they did have right proper British accents, so I figured they were just being kind to my tiny American brain and not making me wonder how close or far 3.5k is.

Mom then went on the explain that as of Tuesday night, they had been completely unable to get tickets to any of the Olympic events. And while they’re not riders, they really wanted to experience an Olympic event in their hometown park. They finally managed to find someone selling tickets locally, so they snatched them up and here they were!

Dad said that even as a non-rider, he really enjoyed being a part of the whole experience. Mom agreed, noting that watching people do anything at a high level is exhilarating. You get to watch someone who you know is the very best at what they do, and you know how hard they’ve worked to get there, and you get to witness their brilliance. What a fabulous way of thinking, I thought, so I said, “What a fabulous way to think about it. I like that a lot.”

Dad then noted that he rather enjoyed watching a sport that he knew nothing about, in terms of the criteria for judgement. Mom chimed in, too, noting that after the first dozen or so horses, she noticed that she was able to tell which ones would have higher scores, not because she knew the movements were better or more precise, but simply because you could just see a little bit of an edge in those horse and rider combinations that truly were special, even amidst this highly specialized field.

Finally, it was young Hannah’s turn to talk. She was a very sweet and thoughtful little girl, and while she didn’t say much, I found what she did share to be quite charming. Hannah had done the most riding in the group, having ridden in a camp in Italy, and also taken lessons back home. She couldn’t remember the horse’s name in Italy – mom swore it was something Italian, but Hannah shot that suggestion down with the patented 11-year-old girl “you’ve got to be kidding me” look. Hannah did, however, very distinctly remember the horses she and her friend lessoned on. Hannah’s horse was named Lilly and she was white (I suspect gray, but didn’t push it) and she was “quite big” but “very slow.” Lilly reminded me of many lesson horses I’ve known in my life, and I found myself hoping that someone, somewhere was giving her a carrot at that very moment. No doubt she deserves it. Hannah’s friend rode a horse named Blue, and when I asked for more information on him, Hannah replied, “I don’t know, maybe he was brown. Not like Lilly. She was white…” which I absolutely loved. Even those young girls who don’t fall head over heels for riding in general, there is always a special place in their hearts for the horse they’ll never forget.

Who was the first horse you will never forget? What do you remember most about them? Tell me in the comments or share photos on our wall at!

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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3 comments on “A View From the Stands – Part 5
  1. Savannah says:

    Love it! Thanks so much for these reports–almost as good as being there.

    P.S. The reason they quoted the distance in miles instead of km is that we don’t use km in the UK. Some signs have both in deference to our neighbors across the Channel, but Brits use miles.

    We do use meters, though, so we’re not exactly consistent. 🙂

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Thanks so much for clearing that up Savannah! That makes total sense and we’re thrilled you are following all of our coverage!

  2. Nels says:

    Totally love the mother’s explanation as to why she wanted to witness an Olympic event in person. As a sports fan, I’ve been looking for a way to explain to my wife why I can watch most any sporting event on TV (aside from the obvious) that would explain my fascination with athletics in general. Thanks British-Mom-in-the-Stands-Watching-Dressage!

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