... I can write this now as we are back all safe and sound after our 2150+ miles round trip - despite driving about 500 miles through snow in France which was a bit of a worry. Pip traveled very well though - but we could not get him out of the lorry as much as we planned due to the snow and ice. The competition turned out to be a very hotly contested one - riders from nations as far afield as Brazil to Hong Kong were there - including Latvia, Austria, Norway, the Netherlands as well as the obvious ones from Spain, Portugal and France.I was very pleased with the first day's competition and looked forward to Saturday's test when I felt I could improve on my scores. Alas things did not quite work out as planned and together with a change of judges everyone's scores were considerably lower. Still we had had a good result and more points for the rankings list - once again the object of the exercise. As competitive as it was the organisers made a great effort to keep the atmosphere friendly and personal and they added a number of touches which all gave it a tremendous family feeling. An added bonus was that they filmed and aired live on line all the tests of the first 2 days and the top 5 in each grade of the Kur on Sunday.
While I was making final preparations for the trip to Spain I received an email from the FEI (Federation Equestrian International) the worldwide governing body for all equestrian sports. It appeared that there was some query about the Virgin Islands and their Olympic committee. I responded, forwarding it also to the president of the Virgin Island Olympic Committee (VIOC) for his input as I felt there must be some misunderstanding. But to cut a long story short - and despite researching everything I thought I possibly could over the past 18 months - I failed to appreciate, along with the remainder of the VIOC and the members of the Virgin Islands Equestrian Association who have supported me solidly over the past 5 or so years, that the VI needed to have a separate Paralympic committee. A great rush of emails ensued, initially from the President of the VIOC, including writing to Sir Philip Craven the President of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) who regulates the individual country's committees, requesting assistance to enable the necessary committee to be formed.
Unfortunately this paperwork all needed to be in place by the 31st January and we received an out of office email from the person responsible for membership to the IPC till the 23rd Jan. He duly responded to the VI request - but not until the 26th Jan and with a considerable list of requirements, including an emblem which has to be approved by the IPC, a constitution - etc etc.- all to be ratified by the IPC. All this was of course by now while I was in Spain, receiving emails I had been copied into but not really able to do much to help and the deadline was looming.
I returned to work to an even larger number of emails concerning the national Paralympic committee - everyone was putting in enormous efforts to deal with the red tape. But it was and remains soul destroying trying to get all the necessary information from the various bodies concerned and so by missing the deadline the bottom line is... the VI have until the 15th March to finalise the paperwork and have it ratified by the IPC including submitting an emblem for approval; then they have to make a Bipartite entry for the Games before the 26 March and which will be decided by the 9th April. This has all been so very frustrating especially since all the chasing round Europe that I have done recently was the right move - I was 2nd on the individual rankings list for the Americas section after the teams qualified and therefore guaranteed a place on the 1st Feb - if only...
Hindsight is a wonderful thing but the FEI contacted the VI last Feb enquiring if they were likely to be sending a rider to the Games - they wanted an idea of numbers, why no one thought to raise this seemingly crucial point with them - or me - or anyone else before the middle of January is a mystery.
But - and there is a big but - all in the VI are working like mad to get the paperwork done and I have typed up the draft constitution remotely to assist. The contact at the IPC has been very positive in his comments and also - this is the first time (obviously, with the committee fiasco) that the USVI has had a competitor for the Paralympic Games - ever - despite having competed in the Olympics at various times over the past 45 years - so it is a big thing for us all - and they have made this point very clear to everyone they have been dealing with. So I am staying focused - and with Pip now rested, checked over by the vet and physio, we are back in training!
It was a mammoth journey to Spain and due to a last minute change of plan I ended up doing all the driving - with my son and daughter for company which actually made it a great experience for us all as it happened - a lucky accident!