Two very moving observations while at the 2006 World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany.
When it came time for the riders and their horses to jump for the gold the stadium was in a fever. It was supposed to start at 3 pm in the afternoon. At 9 am when the gates opened people had literally camped out to save space in the cheap seats which is standing room on the floor of the stadium…. when the riders came in and jumped the course it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop, not a noise. Everyone in the stands was so respectful of the competitor. When a course is completed there are big cheers that shake the ground. It is the same for dressage…the silence tells you more than the cheering. I was impressed, but what set me back was that after the gold, silver and bronze had been won the riders came out to the area we were in. The gold winner from Belgium came out handed his horse off to his groom and was instantly covered in media. I mean he looked like a piece of barb b q chicken covered by bees. The second place, the US got nothing, zip. Not one camera, oh there was one but it was the US camera. I watched this in amazement. A Silver in this competition is so serious and such an achievement and all the press cared about was the gold. No matter how much you dress up competition it is still about 1st place. Can I tell you either one’s names, no. I do remember what they looked like but I can tell you that I did know how they felt and what it takes to get there. I had so much respect and admiration for them. First or second it takes the same amount of courage and work. These are amazing people and horses.
The second was at the Horse Lay Over in Amsterdam. The place was full of horses from the WEG going home to one country or another. The US reining team was there. There were 3 horses and for each horse their was one groom. The team not only had 3 grooms but they had ultra sound machines, digital x-ray equipment, blankets with magnets and magnets with machines. Buckets of ulcer guard. They were a traveling vet clinic. I was impressed. As I walked through the barn I saw a stunning big warmblood of some kind. It was fit and had a coat that was like satin. Beautiful horse. I also saw one lone Mexican in a corner, on the stall door the card said “Mexico.” Meaning the horse was going home to Mexico. The Mexican was sitting on the plastic tack boxes, quietly. I watched him watch these girls and all their endless equipment. I was standing by the Mexican Horse and he came over to check the water… I asked him if that was his horse. He said yes, I told him how beautiful it was and then I recognized him, he was the rider at the WEG. He had done a nice job and I remembered his horse and his ride. He was there alone. He was a world class competitor and the groom. The US grooms left for their comfortable hotel but the Mexican slept there with his horse. I watched him pick out his stall and feed him. The US team had to hurry home and I understand that, places to go and things to do. We get caught in that too but I loved seeing good horsemanship in it’s purest form….the partnership starts with taking the responsibility. He rode him, he made sure he drank, he ate and that his stall was clean at all times. He stayed with the horse, never leaving him. The devotion was evident. He did not win a bronze, silver or gold but he was the biggest winner to me. I just smiled thinking that in this world that there is still that kind of devotion to these noble creatures.
I do ramble on at times but I do love to share my impressions. Although I feel Eitan and I have created a successful life for ourselves I still have the heart and remembered dreams of a young girl with very little but her dreams. That is something Eitan and I have in common. I identify with the Mexican more than the grooms. There is a bigger story there than with the winners.