Andrew Hoy's groom Katie Dutton shares her experiences of travelling to the World Equestrian Games at Tryon, North Carolina, with the Australian eventing team.
Tuesday 4th September
Well that’s it, Vassily and his team mates have been dropped off at Liege airport along with all his stuff! Hopefully, I haven’t forgotten anything. All essentials are packed and have been weighed, every spare bit of space in both trunks has been utilised. My precious charge is happy in his stable, surrounded by his other 4 equine team mates and is under the expert care of our vet who will be in charge until they land the other side.
Now it’s time for the humans, both grooms and riders. Take the lorries back to base and we then head off for some food, a night in the hotel and then start the journey tomorrow, while the two grooms sent ahead, settle the horses in and look after them while they are in quarantine in Tryon.
Wednesday 5th September
Well, I had a good night's sleep in the hotel and made full use of the jacuzzi bath in my room! I have packed, emptied and repacked my suitcase more times than I care to count. I’m hopeless at packing, if I don't run out of underwear and socks it will be a miracle! Hopefully I won’t need the 6 pairs of jeans I have sent back to the lorry, looking at the weather forecast I think I will be OK without them!!
So, I'm on my way to Brussels airport with the rest of the team, there are 11 of us travelling together, hopefully we won’t lose anyone...
We have heard that all the horses are well and are loaded waiting to fly, I feel like an anxious parent not seeing him this morning, but I know he is in good hands.
Now we have two flights to do today, 8.5 hours to Newark and then a connecting flight of 1.5 hours to Charlotte. Goodness knows how I'm going to sit still for that length of time, but I think I will be ok.
Thursday 6th September
Urgh hello jet lag!!!!
I'm 5 hours behind the UK currently, which is weird, very weird.
So, a quick phone call to the two grooms in quarantine when we landed last night and the horses all travelled well and are settled (as much as they can be) in quarantine. They arrived there at 6pm American time last night and will be in there until Friday afternoon. This is a standard procedure that the horses must go through. The girls have set times of the day that they are allowed in to feed and walk the boys, yes, all 5 of our horses are boys!
Decorating the stables in team colours
Friday 7th September
So, the stables are ready and so are we! 3 days without Vassily is long enough, just want him out now and be able to fuss and pamper him to the best of my abilities.
The stables are nice, big and airy! And they come with fans, boy it's hot! But the heat isn’t causing the problem, it’s the humidity, currently averaging 94%!
The 5 grooms have all decided to go for a team lunch. Boy the Americans know how to do portion sizes, usually I come home from an international having lost a bit of weight, not sure this trip will follow suit!
Saturday 8th September
Katie with Vassily
He is out! I’m so happy to be reunited with my boy. He is looking and feeling well! He was ridden early doors this morning to beat the heat. He loves the fans in his stable, I catch him standing under them letting the air waft through his mane.
Because the horses are being worked early, every couple of hours we all take our horses for a half an hour walk in hand in designated areas and walkways with fans wafting over us! It’s nice to keep them moving after their long journey, they flew 10 hours directly and an addition their days in quarantine. Plus, it means I get to spend that bit more time with him which I won’t turn down.
So annoyingly, all the grooms are being shipped about a bit in terms of accommodation. Tonight, I am heading into my 3rd place since arriving out here. That’s a little draining but hopefully we will be somewhere settled soon!
Sunday 9th September
Nothing too exciting to report today. All the horses were worked early again because of the heat. Once they are worked, it’s a case of getting tack cleaned, numnahs hung out to dry, which doesn't take long!
We are finding our bearings, it’s a bit like a maze round here... So many arenas and walkways that all seem to lead to the same thing, but I can’t seem to go somewhere and come back the same way. Geography never was one of my strongest subjects at school!
Monday 10th September
Tents! Some dreadful looking concentration camp like tents have appeared....
Horses all on flying form! As are grooms and riders! Well, I say grooms, the food is so far not thrilling us! I mean we weren’t expecting Michelin style dining... but we are in America and they love food, right? Fingers crossed it will improve, otherwise I might still return having lost some weight after all!
I have been sent to the doctors, a chest infection has decided to make an appearance which isn’t the easiest thing to deal with. Combined with the heat, the air con in hotel rooms and the car I don’t sound the healthiest. Thankfully, I have been prescribed a course of antibiotics, so it should have cleared up by this time next week when I fly home.
Team Australia horses with their grooms
Horses are still being hand walked and they are all very happy in their temporary housing.
I’m off to investigate these tents, I am not moving into a shared tent. No way!
Tuesday 11th September
So, the good news is none of us are moving into the tents! Hooray! I spent a night in a hotel last night having been onsite since Friday night, but needs must. We have two grooms onsite should we need them, plus the team of vets are always about too.
I feel like I'm writing the same thing a bit, but nothing exciting happens really until tomorrow so the same day to day of sorting out Vassily, he gets worked early and then we walk several times a day to keep everything moving and preventing him from being in the stable for long periods of time.
Just heard, I'm moving to another hotel tonight, but on the upside, we have been promised that we shall remain here until the end now. It would be nice to semi unpack my suitcase for longer than one night!
Wednesday 12th September
Trot up day! Hopefully I can remember how to plait, its bizarre but we all keep joking that it feels like a long time ago since we put pretty plaits and quarter markings on, but I have faith that we will all remember how to do it and the horses will all look amazing.
Oh, my word, the rain in the UK is nothing compared to the rain we just had here! It was 26 degrees this morning, now within 20 minutes of the rain stopping it has shot up to 31 degrees, but also 97% humidity!
Trot up passed! All 5 Australian horses are through the 1st horse inspection which is brilliant news. Also, I can safely say I remembered how to plait Vassily’s mane and tail and put quarter markings on. Phew!
I can’t say that I would have passed any form of a vet inspection, a swift visit to the physio yesterday following a fair bit of pain in my lower back and it was found that the left-hand side of my pelvis had rotated. Something that happens to me quite regularly but it’s not the easiest thing to deal with. Along with being slightly lame with my pelvis, blisters have also hit with a vengeance. Mind you, we are spending 19 hours a day on our feet, mainly in deck shoes, until we get the chance to swop into flip flops. Putting baby powder in my shoes in a morning has become a ritual and I carry some in my rucksack too. It does help to stop your feet from getting quite so hot but to be honest it’s going to happen in this heat regardless.
Thursday 13th September
An early start for me this morning, our test was shortly after 9am. So, I needed to feed, muck out, hand walk and have him plaited and looking as smart as I knew I could turn him out and ready for when Andrew wanted to get on to warm him up.
Something very odd happened this morning though. I found myself a little stressed and panicky. We all have our own little routines of how we do things, I like to pop a headphone in one ear and zone out from what everyone else is doing but be aware of what’s going on at the same time.
Then it hit me. I started to doubt myself and my ability to do something I knew I could do. There was a different vibe in the barn today. Was it the realisation that we are at the World Equestrian Games or was I just being stupid? Either way I found myself in a flap and asking Steffi if she thought Vassily looked ok? Cue a very shocked face as Steffi looked at me and said of course he does. A quick hug and a well done settled me down.
What a test, I was a little emotional after he finished. He went in the arena and performed his little socks off. What a privilege to be a part of this! Proud is an understatement.
He will have some time in the stable to rest, relax and while we go and watch another of Team Australia test and then I will walk him again later.
Friday 14th September
The hotel we are staying in is half an hour away from the stables, which is less than ideal, but I have been here since Tuesday, so I won’t complain too much. Luckily, there is a Starbucks at the end of the road where the hotel is so at least I can fuel up on the way in in a morning. I seem to have become designated driver in a morning too which I don’t mind, the girls sleep on the way in and then I sleep on the way home when one of them drives. It's being able to compromise and work as a team that makes these trips so successful and memorable.
With Vassily having done his test yesterday, he went for a little jump this morning along with his team mate who also did his test yesterday which I can safely say he loved! In fact both horses and humans loved it.
In between watching the remaining 3 Australian tests today, Vassily will keep going for walks and then us grooms really want to go and walk the cross country course later so we know just what challenges lie ahead.
With storm Florence edging a bit closer each day, we have downloaded a storm tracker on our phones which we are eagerly keeping an eye on. Hopefully it won’t disrupt our schedule!
Off to walk the course now! Think we will need to take lots of water!
Saturday 15th September
Wow! What a course awaits both horses and riders today. The fences are big, but beautifully presented and I'm glad we went and walked it, so we know what the riders are talking about later in the day. I’m off to get prepared, we are 6th out on course. Wish us luck!!
Ok, so I have no words! And for anyone who knows me well, they will know how rare it is for me to be speechless! Clear inside the time at only 9 years old! Unbelievable. The course caused some problems, with older more experienced horses, but this special boy just ate it up like it was nothing. He really is amazing! Lots of carrots and apples for him tonight!
The only frustrating thing is that we were told last night that the showjumping has been postponed until Monday due to Florence moving in closer to us.
The food hasn’t improved much sadly. But luckily, there are places on site we can eat, the only downside is our accreditation doesn’t mean we get it for free, but I would rather pay for good food than eat rubbish free food! Again, anyone who knows me, knows how much I love my food!
Vasilly looking beautiful!
Sunday 16th September
Rain, rain and more rain! It’s just like being in England really, except it’s a bit more persistent and heavier than any rain I have witnessed. All of the walkways and arenas are flooded, we are absolutely soaked to the skin. I’m glad I left a couple of pairs of jeans in my suitcase, today is definitely not a shorts and vest top kind of day!
With the decision made that we will trot up today and show jump tomorrow, we plaited up, put on our waterproofs and all passed the trot up.
I’m off to dry out and eat some comfort food! Sounds mad and probably a bit silly but I'm starting to feel a bit homesick now. Think the long days, mental exhaustion, the driving, not being in the same place for more than one night in the beginning is starting to take its toll on me.
Monday 17th September
Showjumping day has arrived! We are near the end of the list to jump as they jump in reverse order on the last day, so we have quite a long wait until we jump. Thankfully it has stopped raining and its back to shorts today! I think my shoes might take a while to dry out though!
So, with the showjumping course causing no end of problems I was getting more and more nervous. I don’t know why, it wasn’t me that had to jump the fences. I just wanted Andrew and Vassily to have the result they so deserved.
Down to the showjumping we went, he warmed up beautifully and he went in and jumped the most spectacular clear round. Double clear at the World Equestrian Games at just 9 years old! I cried, a lot! We finished 4th, so close to a medal but nobody could have expected that result - truly brilliant.
Now for the big pack up. The horses fly tomorrow morning, and our flight has been changed from Wednesday to Tuesday - so we will all leave at the same time. All our kit has been packed back into the two trunks it flew over in and Vassily’s flight bag is ready. The trunks have all been placed outside of the barn on pallets ready to be transported to the airport ready to fly home.
We are all off for a well earned pint or something alcoholic. I have completed my 1st championships and what a result to finish with.
Tuesday 18th September
So that’s it! Time to go home. I’ve packed my suitcase for the final time. We leave for the airport before the horses leave. But we have all been and fed, walked and left instructions with the vet who is flying home with them. What an amazing experience this has been.
I have made some friends for life, met and worked with some inspirational people and some of the world’s best in the industry. Memories have been made that will last me a lifetime. What a year, what an opportunity.
Could this be you? Is it your dream to be part of a team and experience the highs (and lows!) If it is, we want to hear from you- whether you are experienced and looking for a new challenge, or starting out and looking for your first foot on the ladder- we can help. Contact Clare on 07714236765 or email firstname.lastname@example.org