Going to the Pan Ams - Groom style!
The following is a great account of how our friend, Dana Cooke, travelled to the Pan Am Games this year. It's a bit of "behind the scenes" before a big, international competition. Thanks, Dana, for sharing with us!
"Anyhow sorry for the long delay in my blog, but this is the first time that I have been on a computer with internet since I went to training camp a week ago! This will probably be a bit of a long one to catch you up on all that has happened. So anyhow I arrived at training camp in Florida last Sunday and settled right in to the daily routine. We had two horses down there Roquefort (Rocky) and Riddle Master (Rupert). Rocky is Rebecca's mount for the Pan Am Games (PAG) and Rupert came down to hang out an stay in work. Each day we had team jog between 7:30 and 8:00 am, followed by lessons, team building and figuring out how to get all of Rebecca and Rocky's stuff into 3 trunks. It was kinda like playing a game of Tetris!
On Friday we took the horses all over to a quarantine farm 20 min away for the night. 13 horses went into quarantine (6 Canadian, 6 American and 1 Argentinian) only 11 horses would fly, however the alternate horses had to go to quarantine just in case something went wrong before takeoff! Friday evening we had a Canadian/American party with an awesome Mexican dinner made by the American???'s Shannon Lilley. All of the grooms and our vet Dr. Ober arrived at the quarantine barn early Saturday morning to meet up with the horses and the USDA vet before our flight. On the way to the airport horses, grooms and Dr. O all road together in the back of the shipping trailers. For the most part, the loading of our airplane went perfectly, except for the minor glitch with loading ramp. Unfortunately the loading ramp was dead and all of the guys that were there had to push the ramp up to the airplane (check out the video on my facebook)! This was a chartered flight, so the horses were loaded one at a time and then their stalls were built up around them on the plane.
All of the horses flew very well!!!! We sat in at the back of the plane in a small sitting area. It was a very casual flight..... Our pilot came back to give us our "safety talk." This involved him pointing to the back and saying "there is a lever over there and if you pull it, a door will open, but then you have to pull another lever and the stairs will open, you will figure it out when you see it! And if you don't know how to work your oxygen mask look at someone else!" We all kinda chuckled at this and settled down in our seats for take off! We were not allowed to be up with the horses during takeoff however as soon as we were in the air we were free to roam around the plan as we liked and check on the ponies!
We were a little nervous about landing in Mexico and what would take place. We were told it would be about 3 hours from the time we landed to the time we left the airport. Once we had the horses off loaded we had to go through a security check with our bags. Then you had to press a button that would light up either green or red. If it was green you were good to go. However if you pressed the button and it was red you had to get a secondary check. So you had a 50/50 chance.... And yes I got a red light. Fortunately this secondary only took a few moments and then I was on my way again. Our trip through customs went fairly quickly with very few problems and within 2 1/2 hrs we were driving down the road with our federale (police) escort! Our escort did not just drive your average cop car... no it was a truck with 3 federales armed with machine guns in the back! It was comforting knowing that we had such armed escorts, but then again it was not so comforting to know that we actually needed this! These same armed federales constantly roam the streets and are stationed all over the city, at our hotel and the event sites!
We arrived at the site without any problems and immediately unloaded the horses and all equipment. The barns here are new and are beautiful! Both horses and people must walked over a disinfectant foam pad every time that they enter or exit the stable area. The first time some horses jumped and scrambled over it nearly falling on the other side, but Rocky handled it like a pro! Once we got everything organized and the horses settle in for the night we went to our hotel the Quinta Magna. Apparently the Quinta Magna did not have all of the rooms that we had booked available..... But at least we had 2 rooms, for the 5 of us. Later that evening we met a young girl on the Puerto Rico team in the lobby having the same trouble as we had. Except they had absolutely no room for her and were going to call her a cab and send her to another hotel. Which we all decided was a horrible idea!!!! so she stayed with us too for the night!!
So the trip down here went relatively smoothly and yesterday we spent the day just establishing some sort of routine. The only other sport going on at our venue was the pentathlon (running, swimming, fencing, shooting and riding). In the indoor arena they had set up a swimming pool and a platform for fencing. The running track took place in a field on the other side of the jumping ring where they looped back and forth for 3 km. We were able to sit and watch the riding portion which was a 3'9" show jump round. The riders drew out of a hat for their horse, most of which were not the soundest things, but seemed to have a ton of heart! I must say the riding portion was slightly entertaining to say the least!
Anyways the facility is nice, a bit small (it took me a grand total of 5 min to run around the entire facility), but the horses seem to have settled in nicely. The food situation is a bit less then ideal, but thankfully Graeme, Deb and Fleur keep our tack room well stocked with an assorted amount of drinks and snacks. And I am starting to learn a few more Spanish words and phrases to help with the language barrier.
I will do my best to keep my blog up to date on what is happening as we get nearer to competition.
You can read more of Dana's Blog on her website, http://www.danacooke.ca.