A View from the Stands – Part 9

The family we met in the stands.

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.

A Rider’s Special Bond

Yesterday I had the distinct pleasure of spending some time with a family of English (like the country) riding enthusiasts who made their way into Greenwich for the last day of jumping. I liked them right away as they tapped me on the shoulder and asked which event I had competed in this week – my Team USA gear and team’s tent wristband had thrown them a bit. Though quite flattered, I explained that while I was a rider, I simply wasn’t that good. :) I told them a bit about SmartPak and a bit about how we work with USEF and what we were doing at this Games in particular.

Dad explained to me that they had gone to extreme measures to get tickets to equestrian as well as a few other Olympic events (platform diving and gymnastics, I believe). At one point, family members swapped off shifts for 3 days loading and reloading the online tickets portal trying to get-in and buy seats. They didn’t end up getting seats through that effort, but had a family friend gain access to some seats a week or so out from the start of the Games. He remarked that they had paid a fair bit to get a family of four into a number of Olympic events, but that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and that there was no way they were going to miss out. He then gestured towards the grandstand and remarked that it was such a shame that the entire equestrian venue will be gone like a phantom in a few weeks. We have heard a number of locals express extreme opposition to the use of Greenwich Park for the event, so it was interesting to hear a different perspective.

The two blonde daughters jumped right in to telling me about their ponies. The older daughter, who was probably about 16, has 2 Connemara ponies that she competes in “showing”, essentially what they call the hunters in England. The younger daughter, who looked to be about 8, was telling me all about her brave little pony that she loved to jump. Putting her hands up to just below her shoulders, she proudly exclaimed, “I’ve even jumped him THIS high”, which led to an eye roll from her sister and some giggles from her parents. Riders love nothing more than talking about and showing off their horses, so when they pulled their iPhone out I did the same and we had a spirited discussion about the particular traits and personalities of the horses in our lives.

There is a special bond between enthusiasts of most sports, but this is so much stronger for riders given the nature of the game and the fact that animals are involved. Sometimes I feel like we are all part of some crazy support network that helps us get through the highs and lows of our chosen athletic pursuit. I don’t think that there is a sport with the kind of highs and lows that we experience. But, there is also nothing quite like the sense of accomplishment of a well-ridden round or the joy in hearing a familiar nicker as you turn the corner down the barn aisle and your horse recognizes you by your footsteps. Riders are riders, and we LOVE talking about our horses…speaking of which, here’s my guy Timex who I am missing like crazy right now!

Colby and Timex.

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

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Posted in SmartPak Features, Stories & Adventures, Travel

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Apparently I've been obsessed with horses since I was born, and I used to beg for pony rides on a regular basis. I started showing in 4-H, progressed to equitation and jumpers in high school and rode on the IHSA team in college where I also discovered the joys...

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