Pro Groom Kerri - The Road to Rio - The Whole Story
It's been a couple weeks since I wrote my last blog and for this one, I decided to ask my friends what they want to know about my summer and our trip to RIO! I am going to do my best to answer these questions and be very honest! This could be a long one so maybe grab yourself a glass of wine to get yourself through it. I will not be writing while we are in Rio but I will most definitely be writing about my experiences at the 2016 Olympic Games following our trip! If there is anything you want to know while I'm there, ask away!
Ali, Rosie and I came to Europe with the intention of going to the Olympics at the end of our trip, but hearing the news that they officially made the team was a little unreal for me and I'm not sure if it's even sunk in yet. If you asked me at the beginning of 2015 if I'd be grooming at the top of the sport for one of the best horse/rider combinations in the world, I probably would have laughed at you. In all honesty, this industry has a way of burning you out sometimes, and winter of 2014 was that time for me. My life had forced me to somewhat "start over" and I felt all my years of hard work with horses wasn't getting me where I wanted to go, so I was getting ready to turn my job back into a hobby and get an "adult" job (lame, I know). I have made a vow to myself to try to be more positive despite every situation I am in and that's been extremely important over the past year! I am unbelievably grateful for the opportunity Ali has given me this year (as I write this with tears in my eyes) and the amount of knowledge I have gained from her and everyone I am now surrounded with in just a year is exactly what I needed to make me feel like I'm finally going somewhere again. Ali has a huge heart and has made a huge impact on me as a rider and human being so far (and this is just the beginning!) but so has Rosie. Anyone who has spent time with animals knows the affect they can have on you and Rosie is one who likes to leave a positive mark everywhere he goes (he touches my soul, if you will). I am SO lucky to be working with such a hard working, fun, happy, talented, handsome guy everyday! No matter how tired or hot (there is no AC in our hotel) the bellow he makes when he sees me for breakfast always brightens my day! Gracie is just a little love bug in her own right and has definitely earned her title of Ms. Congeniality in the barn.
Group turnout with photoshop fun
I have been living in Belgium for nearly 3 months now and have about another month to go before I return to the States. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't ready to be back home (and by home I mean sipping a margarita on the beach) but this experience has taught me not only about horses and competing at the top level of the sport but also about myself. A trip like this is not for the faint of heart. You have to be a team player but also be somewhat independent and you have to walk in everyday with a positive attitude despite how dirty, tired, sore, hungry, hot/cold, bug bite covered you are. It's very hard to do sometimes but I'm here because I love it! I didn't really know any of the other riders and grooms before coming on this trip and I can confidently say I have made some new friends. I'm grateful for each and every one of them and everyone's ability to support each other through the ups and downs of the summer. There have been and will be times when quitting your job, dumping your boyfriend, and moving to a remote island sound appealing but big dreams with a hard work ethic will get you pretty far so keep trying if you aren't there yet!
Bailey is owned by one of the girls who work at the barn. I have a dachshund at home so he's naturally my favorite barn dog!
Rosie got a little down time after Rotterdam but has been gearing back up. We make sure the horses get out at least twice per day. Ali typically rides Rosie in the morning (followed by Gracie) and than Rosie is hand walked in the afternoon usually by Ali but sometimes by me. It's always a fine balance in the training of keeping the horse fit enough but not exhausting them. The training is obviously different for each horse as they need different things. Ali likes to work Rosie about 3 days on then 1 day of hacking/hand walking/easy stuff (and that goes for most of our horses). Rosie always goes in his magnetic blanket before his rides to warm up his muscles and gets iced on all 4 legs after his rides to help him cool down. He also gets grain 3 times a day and has a slow feeder hay net that is filled all the time. Since we also have Gracie, I'm usually able to keep myself busy most of the work day which is usually 7am to 4pm (but we horse people know how the days easily get longer) then back around 8pm for night check.
Rosie, Dublet, Gracie were able to take some serious naps while the others were at Aachen and the barn was extra quiet.
Holly and I were able to go play "tourist" in London for 48 hours! Thanks Ali!!
Packing for Rio is a little bit more work than packing for Europe was since the customs there is a bit different. We've started by having to write down the lot number and expiration date of the grain and supplements we will be bringing in, a very daunting task. Every container must also be unopened. This has been a bit tricky for some because most of us use supplements that are not easy to obtain in Europe and therefore have needed some stuff shipped to us because we didn't have a smaller, unopened container of it. The shipping of supplements can be tricky as well. I currently have about 6 gallons of oil lost somewhere between us and California. I am bringing about a weeks worth of extra grain just to be safe because once we're in Rio, we won't be able to get these items.
The rest of my packing should be straight forward. Basically everything I put in a box must be written down on a label on the outside of a box. We will be in Rio approximately 3 weeks and fortunately I will be able to do laundry. Rosie can have sensitive skin so I try to not reuse dirty, sweaty pads and wraps and wash with "sensitive skin" detergent. Where I'll wear the same jeans for a week, most of his "work clothes" gets worn once. I also anticipate the weather to be mildly warm (we're talking 75 during the day and low 60s at night). I always plan for the worst and make sure I have more than I need (I'm OCD like that) but am planning on not actually needing any of the blankets I use. I do usually sheet Rosie below 60 degrees if he can be exposed to wind. He actually doesn't love to wear clothes but he doesn't like to be cold so he tolerates it. He'll do just about anything for a carrot or banana.
If you haven't caught on yet, I love being organized. I'm one of those weirdos who likes to throw things out. I like things clean all the time. This means when it comes to packing, I just do most of it myself. I usually don't ask for much help. If you want it done right, do it yourself. I do think organization is a good quality for a groom though. That is probably my biggest packing tip. Pack things neatly so you 1. Don't ruin anything 2. Know where everything is. The only non typical thing I pack is a green dinosaur that comes to all of Ali's horse shows with her. Sue Blinks gave it to her years ago and it's been deemed her "lucky dinosaur".
Rosie is treated like you'd treat any other horse preparing for a long trip. The horses traveling did receive a Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis vaccine since it is not a typical disease found in the US. Rosie will get let down a couple days before we leave and then have a couple days to recoup once we arrive in Rio. The plane ride is nearly 12 hours not including the trip to the airport and the trip to the facility in Rio. By the time Rosie and the other horses arrive, we anticipate them to be tired and need rest. Some may have lost weight during the trip, so we will make sure Rosie is eating well and hydrated going into the flight, during and once he arrives. He is a seasoned traveler at this point and usually travels well. There will be vets on the flight in case of an emergency for any horse. Only 1 groom will be on the flight and everyone else will travel commercial. Eddie (Steffen's groom) will be that person since he has the most experience. Rosie will also be traveling in his compression suit which was specially made for him and this trip.
Rosie's hi-tech compression suit for traveling!
The riders and team were not required to get any vaccines going into Rio. Most of us will not be leaving the Olympic facilities so getting sick there is not a huge concern. Essentially the horses and team will be in a "quarantine" as we will not be exposed to much outside of the show grounds at Deodoro. The USOC has handled most of our paperwork and we will all be receiving credentials upon arrival. If you are not a rider, groom, coach or owner, you will not be able to get back to the stabling (typical of most international shows).
Ali has some great friends who have sent us so great USA gear to celebrate and show our support with!
It's slightly bittersweet to think the summer in Europe is coming to an end but like I said, I'm ready to go home. Time has seemed to fly by and I'm looking forward to getting the full Olympic experience! We're hoping for safe travels and some personal bests out of our strong team! Go Team USA!!!
To follow Kerri's trip from the beginning....read these gems: