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Pak Across the Pond – Day 10

I’ve missed you guys so much! It felt really weird not having anyone to chronicle every waking thought to. And after I forgot my phone during Show Jumping Day 2, so I couldn’t tweet, I thought I was going to go into withdrawal. So, long short, I’m glad to be back!

As I write this, I’m sitting in the local Starbucks, just next to the famous Cutty Sark and the beautiful Thames riverbank. It’s still early here, but the trickle of show jumping fans is quickly turning into a steady stream, and in just a few hours we’ll be positively flooded with visitors from London and beyond, coming to witness the Team Show Jumping final and medals. I have duct-taped my phone to my hand, so you can look forward to live tweets of all the action, starting at 2P local time.

This is our eleventh day across the pond and I’ve completely lost connection to anything non-Olympic related. The only time I can tell what day it is is when the local antique market is open, because it’s only open on weekends. Other than that, I only measure in “Day ten of competition” or “Day three of show jumping.”

When I’d last left you, we’d just wrapped our show jumping and dressage reception at the USEF/USET house on Friday night, and that party kicked off a pretty fantastic weekend. After Friday’s “after party,” we got to enjoy a day full of elite jumping action on Day 1 of Show Jumping Individual competition. The day was full of highs and lows, with the weather and Rich, Reed and McLain’s rides being absolute highs. The low came with Beezie and Via Volo’s entirely unexpected and utterly crushing refusals at 9B.

Up till that point, the mare had been positively jumping Beezie out of the tack. In what can only be described as “jumping like a deer,” Via Volo was clearing each rail with more than 6” to spare – she was making the fences look tiny. Once you saw how high she was flying, you couldn’t help but feel confident. She was simply not going to take down a single rail, and the mare looked super bold to all the fences, including the big and eye-catching Liverpool, so this was sure to be a good course. And then, just like that, it was over.

If you’d asked me to pick a fence on that course that would cause a stop, that would literally have been my last pick. A relatively plain fence with classic striped rails and a completely traditional build – there was nothing overly big, airy or scary about it. Via Volo had already jumped the one-stride at 3A-B beautifully, so the combination at 9 should’ve been nothing for the mare. But for whatever reason, the mare just absolutely, positively said no.

The shock and heartbreak in the stadium was palpable. Fortunately, Beezie was not out for good. For complete details on the unique Olympic format that allows Beezie to keep competing even after Day 1’s elimination, check out our catch with Team USA alternate, Charlie Jayne.

Much like the riders themselves, Day 1 of show jumping competition positively flew by, and Colby and I found ourselves done with work (hard to call watching the Olympics work, but live-tweeting, taking pictures and then shooting the USEF Network recap definitely does take a lot of time and energy) (but what a way to spend it!).

Even though this whole experience has been a non-stop effort, Colby and I (along with a bunch of the USEF team) were determined to enjoy some of London proper. Because how often do you get that opportunity?! So after wrapping the USEF Network shoot and grabbing a quick shower, we hopped the water taxi and headed up the Thames to Embankment. And that’s where the sight-seeing began.
Tower Bridge, the Union Jack and the Olympic rings:

On the way to the restaurant, we snapped shots of the London Eye, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey at sunset.

After a lovely glass of wine with the USEF crew, I headed off to meet up with my companions for the evening. At first, Colby and Jim were nervous about me heading off on my own in London, but they had to agree I couldn’t have chosen a better crew. After all, I was meeting up with the USET/USOC team doctor (the fabulous Peter Donaldson) and the USET/USOC team Diplomatic Security special agent (the so-perfectly-named-it-sounds-fake Agent Richard L. Gordon). We set off in search of good food and good fun, and we were lucky enough to find both.

We passed back by Big Ben and Westminster, and this time they were beautifully lit up against the night sky.

We stopped in a couple pubs along the way, catching the end of one of the track and field races. The race was won by a Brit and the crowd at the pub went positively mad, and it was really exciting to be there, experiencing it live with the (slightly inebriated) highly enthusiastic hometown crowd.

Our adventure then took us through Trafalgar Square, just outside which we found the most amazing Thai food I’ve ever had (though I might be biased because I was REALLY hungry at that point). Continuing on, we passed the not-at-all-as-I-pictured-it New Scotland Yard and a horse statue that I was informed I simply must pose with, because, you know, they’re horses. And I’m a rider. Get it? (Non-riders never understand that this is not necessary. But the guys meant well and the statue was pretty cool, and I was in London, baby, so pose I did.)

The final portion of our evening included a stop at Piccadilly Institute – a proper British club. With five floors, each with it’s own style of music, there was a lot of dancing to be done. And let me tell you, Dr. Donaldson can bust a move. And I’ve never felt quite so safe at a club as I did hanging out with a DS agent. I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to all that London has to offer. What a blast!

Follow @SmartPakerSarah and @SmartPakerColby for the latest updates from London, and keep cheering for Team USA!

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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Posted in SmartPak Features, Stories & Adventures, Travel

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