Monday 17th - Panta and the others had been at WEG a week and now it was trot up day - the vet check. Angela was up early to walk Panta and get him ready - he looked fab when Andrew took him out for the judges to see - no worries there! So we then had time to not only take him for another short schooling session but also watch the delayed showing jumping final of the three day event with a nail biting finish!
Not sure how much was reported on the controversy of the groom's accommodation but Angela was one of the 'lucky' ones - she did not end up in the military tent with 39 others and no air conditioning but was able to share a basic "shed" with an Italian vaulting groom. At least the shed was on site, had air conditioning and its own little bathroom... and not 40 minutes away as some of the grooms were shuttled off to hotels with very unsatisfactory shuttle timetables. There were only about 80 of them... the maths didn't add up. But the food tent that was the nearest to us was great - I hate to make comparisons with Caen and this will be my only one - but the food quality and selection was soooooo much better in Tryon. So much fresh salad as well as hot meals - there was plenty of choice! I never actually made it to the other food tent which was miles away and had to close when the rains came! But our local tent was just great!!
And so on to our competition day... it was hot! It was very exciting that Jan Robinson from St Thomas was in NC at the time, while her house in the USVI is being rebuilt after the hurricane last year and was able to come and watch and cheer us on!! So nice to have another island supporter!
Everything went to plan - preparations - warm up - 10 minute box. I rode into the arena feeling that I knew what I had to do. No nerves exactly - just a purposeful resolve to ride the horse I had in the arena through the movements. In that respect I felt I had conquered a huge hurdle.
The test was not the one we worked for, trained for, hoped for - but horses are not machines and dear Panta got worried after a stumble/spook/whatever and was difficult to get back onside when he got buzzed up. For my part I felt that I did not panic or tense up or loose my brain as has happened in the past but instead continued to ride him irrespective of what he did. So we finished the test - not our best effort but we gave it our best shot!
The para dressage competition was full of dramas that week and there were others just as disappointed or more so. My team were so sympathetic and just pleased that under the circumstances we completed the test... although that is no consolation really - as much as I appreciated their support - we had all put so much into getting to WEG!! But I had to remind myself - we had gotten to WEG when many many times over the past 18 months it looked impossible... and so many riders would have given anything to be there!! The media were very interested in my story and all about the islands after the hurricanes last year - so much so that everyone wondered where I got lost to after my test!
So it was dinner out for all of us that night!
The following day Panta had off... he had several walks in hand (there was no hand grazing) but we decided to get off the compound for a while and ventured into Tryon itself. What a cute place... totally horse orientated and such friendly people. Regine had the largest banana split I ever saw!! One of the overriding memories of this trip will be just how friendly all the people in the area were... from our air BNB host to every waitress, security guard, food tent assistant, they all were just so welcoming!
And speaking of our air BNB host who looked like a real hillbilly but was so sweet! Our little house was super - a shame it was a good 40 minutes drive away from WEG but was the best I could find that was affordable. It had great little personal touches - fresh flowers - lovely furnishings - a better equipped kitchen than my own (OK - thats not difficult!) and a hot tub no less!!
And so to the final days - and we got to see such great sport including the final days of the para dressage and Sophie Wells' just brilliant freestyle for yet another world record!! The showing jumping team final was crazy exciting and then the individual - right up to the line with the German girl totally keeping her cool - what a great horse - what a great team - very privileged to see that in person - awesome!! But the final excitement was left for the driving. Although watching some of the earlier competitors we realised that we had been a bit spoiled by adrenaline of the scurry classes at the HOYS etc but getting down to the last couple of teams of 4 horses navigating through the most complicated set of cones I have ever seen was amazing - and the winner was truly a class act!! There was no real closing ceremony... maybe everyone had just run out of steam - it was still excruciatingly hot & humid but we all left having felt that we had witnessed some truly amazing sport!!
I had ridden Panta a couple days after our competition and also lunged him to keep him exercised and supple without over exerting him before his long flight home. His flight was due to board the lorries to the airport the following day at 7 a.m. but the flight - for some reason - was delayed by 12 hours. That meant that we would not be there to see him onto the lorry unfortunately as we all had to catch flights that afternoon ourselves. Luckily the Latvian horse was not leaving till the following day and Angela made up feeds and hay for Panta to see him through the day for the groom to give him and the Pedens team would load him on to the lorry for us - I left my buckets so he had plenty of water and then had to say our sad goodbyes to Panta.
It was an eventful WEG - full of dramas.. well it wouldn't be horses if it didn't would it - lets be honest!! But no mistaking the fact that I could have not ridden down that centre line without all the support from such a great crowd of people behind me! It hasn't been easy with no 'official' sponsors but there have been so many who have donated their time, expertise, time, facilities, time, horse, time, money , time, time, time .... and as we all know - time is money!
So it has been a blast... and who knows where we go from here.
Much love xxx