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Kelly Rappuchi

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A WEG Volunteer Checks In, Gets the Scoop, Shows Us Her Swag

Photo by Kelly Rappuchi.

Math teacher: “How about a volunteer to solve for x. Can I have a volunteer? Anyone? No one?” No one. “Hey, wake up, don’t make me volun-tell you.”

Solve for WEG and you get 1,700 volunteers for one of the largest sporting events on the planet. That’s close to double the number of world-class WEG horses. I learned this during Saturday’s orientation as I sat next to a retiree from the Swiss Alps who had just flown in to prepare for her volunteer cross country jump judge shift. She had just come from the same gig at Burghley. On the other side of me sat a Swedish transplant who moved to Tryon four years ago.

I assumed the cross country fence judge positions would be the most coveted. Based on this week’s weather forecast, all the jobs will be hot, but it turns out that WEG Mascot Groom is the hottest of all: “Groom for two mini ponies. Must be able to muck out, brush, dress and properly
handle rescue mini ponies.”

Star and Huck, the official WEG mascots. Photo courtesy of TIEC.

Mascot Groom was harder to get than tickets to Springsteen on Broadway, but there are still volunteer positions open. Check out the WEG Volunteer Portal for more information and to sign up. If nothing else you’ll be amazed at the variety of roles, from Flash Quote Reporter to Airport Liaison to Usher.

The swag is free and the official shirt is made of top-notch material with a super design. Lucky for me, the gorgeous royal blue is a favorite cross-country shirt color. The lanyard for the volunteer pass is international: a Middle Eastern media sponsor is identified in both English and (I think) Arabic.

Photo by Kelly Rappuchi.

We eventers are good about thanking volunteers. Here at the Games, ask where they’re from and I bet you’ll be chatting it up with interest.

#Tryon2018: WebsiteDefinite EntriesScheduleStart Times & ScoringHow to Watch LiveEN’s CoverageEN’s TwitterEN’s Instagram

The Local Scoop: Where Tryon Horse People Get WEG Updates

Keep an eye on local news to stay in the know when it comes to WEG traffic and detours. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

If you’re not a resident of the Tryon area, here are three local media outlets we’re following for digestible, up-to-date WEG news. They might smooth out your visit. For certain they’ll offer insights into the horse mecca of the foothills.

  • The Tryon Daily Bulletin. Lately, “The World’s Smallest Daily Newspaper” has been providing big traffic and road construction updates — If like me you’ve had your share of TEs from going off-course, take steed heed. You’ll recognize the printed version of the bulletin in the gas stations. It’s 8 1/2 x 11, or a quarter the size of major newspapers. Bonus: Old-fashioned ads and a few spunky (and occasionally scary) stories.

Recent headlines:

NCDOT: Follow Signs, Not Phones

Decker: WEG Will Be Happening

WEG will be a tick-free zone

Polk approves $1 million budget for WEG

Free Community Day set for Sept. 17 at TIEC during WEG

Mobile hospitals set up in Polk County as World Equestrian Games draw near

  • NBC local affiliate WLOS. For months they’ve been rounding out the story of the Games from an editorial standpoint. WLOS broadcasts locally on Channel 13 out of Asheville.

Recent headlines:

Reality Check: Lexington had a successful World Equestrian Games — can Tryon?

On-site final preparations underway ahead of World Equestrian Games

WNC businesses, hotels happy to already be cashing in on World Equestrian Games

Polk County Schools makes adjustments for World Equestrian Games

Ticket sales for Tryon’s World Equestrian Games may be lower than expected

  • This Week in Tryon Daily Horse Country. Our beloved online newsletter of all things horse in the greater Tryon area. It’s a labor of love and includes a comprehensive horse-related calendar, short articles, a featured artwork, and announcements. They have a website but to get the weekly you have to subscribe (free). The online sign-up link wasn’t working on my laptop today so you can always e-mail the editor, Judy Heinrich, at [email protected] See the latest issue here.

See you here. Go Eventing!

The Wonders of WEG: Dr. Anne Baskett on Caring for The Stars of The Show

Photo courtesy of Dr. Anne Baskett.

Coordinating the veterinary care of an estimated 900 of the world’s most elite performance horses is an unimaginable job – and an eventer took it on.

Dr. Anne Baskett, who evented through the Intermediate level in her native Canada, is co-managing the veterinary services operations at the World Equestrian Games alongside her husband, veterinary surgeon Dr. Bill Hay. Anne has over 15 years of experience as an FEI eventing, dressage, and show jumping veterinary delegate and was a selector vet for the Canadian Eventing Team when they won the silver medal at WEG in 2010.

Constructing the plan for WEG started over a year ago. Today, less than two months before the first horses arrive in Tryon, every conceivable detail is outlined in the official WEG 2018 vet services and bio-security manuals, and plans are underway for constructing a temporary on-site vet clinic.

I talked to Anne at Tryon Equine Hospital, the facility she runs with Bill.

What are you and Bill responsible for in this role?

As Veterinary Services Operations Managers, we coordinate care for all WEG horses from the time they arrive until they leave the TIEC grounds. I’ve identified all the vets needed at the site – about 80 from around the world who are volunteering their time. And that number doesn’t even include team vets, FEI vet delegates, regulatory USDA and NCDA vets, volunteer specialists for illness and bio-security, and on-course vets for endurance and cross-country. We work closely with the team vets to handle any injuries during the games and are organizing equipment, meds, bio-security, treatments, and on-course vet presence.  

You’re an eventer. How will that help you navigate your role at WEG?

I’ve competed in eventing and been an FEI treating vet and official so I know, because of cross-country, event horses (and endurance horses) will likely require the most post-competition care of all the WEG horses.

Eventing is a sport where everyone wants to help, in spite of all the moving parts. I’ve always gravitated to the eventing community. Eventers are passionate about their horses and it makes it easier to treat their equine partners. Eventers tend to have a good knowledge of horsemanship because they have to. Dealing with a range of treatment scenarios from eventing has given me a template for the three-phase driving event and endurance.

You’ve worked on this for over a year. When do you start working directly with the WEG horses?

The first horses touch down on September 2nd. They’ll arrive at different airports depending on where they’re coming from. Ten flights from Europe will fly into Greenville-Spartanburg airport, about 45 minutes from the venue. These horses will do their pre-arrival quarantine in a specially constructed barn at TIEC. Horse ambulances and veterinarians will escort the horses from the airport. Other horses from South America and Asia/Australia will fly into Miami or Chicago and arrive by van at TIEC.

Each plane ships 50-75 horses and arrives on different days so horses don’t have to wait at the airport and can rotate through quarantine.

What do you say to people who worry about bio-security?

Actually, the overall disease risk is assessed as very low because of the extraordinary health and fitness of these horses. They are the most elite athletes treated with the highest standards of preventive medicine and veterinary care. They are so closely monitored . . . every movement and contact is tracked long before they arrive. These horses come healthy and fit. The bio-security plan is similar to the London 2012 Olympics, just on a bigger scale.

Dr. Baskett watches intently during a horse inspection at the Bromont International Three-Day Event. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

What plans are in place for treatment?

The team vet is the first line of treatment, although not every team will have its own vet and we’ll provide veterinary care if a team needs it. Whenever a horse is in training or competition, vets are on the field of play and at the rings.

We’ll also have a clinic set up at TIEC with experts in imaging, surgery, and internal medicine. It’s essentially a full-on temporary facility complete with stalls, onsite radiology and ultrasound, a pharmacy, lab services, tech support, and imaging. Tryon Equine Hospital, University of Georgia, and NC State will serve as referral centers for emergencies.

Are there different approaches to caring for horses in non-eventing disciplines?

Different disciplines have different challenges. One thing I’m convinced of after all these years of treating horses and keeping them well, is how much fitness plays a part in keeping any horse healthy and sound. And WEG horses are certainly fit.

What excites you most about your role?

Having this level of competition here in our hometown and being up close to the top horses in the world. Compared to the Olympics, WEG is much bigger in scope because of the multiple disciplines. It will be an incredible experience being behind the scenes and working with vets from all over the world.

Dr. Baskett enjoys a light-hearted moment during The Fork at Tryon. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

What are the biggest challenges?

One challenge is keeping everything organized at such a big venue. We’re lucky that Dr. Yves Rossier will share the role of managing the veterinary aspects of all the different competitions and the onsite clinic. It would be impossible with just one person.

It’s always challenging from a people perspective, because team vets, riders, and everyone involved with a horse’s success – they all care very deeply about treating their own horse. I understand where the competitors are coming from in terms of managing the rules and regulations . . . and balancing that with the ultimate responsibility to the horse.

Hopefully there won’t be any emergent issues that prevent competitors from participating, and that any injuries to horses are treatable. I know the heartbreak that can come with all that.

You and Bill spent 20 years together building a practice, constructing a facility, and raising two girls. How do you make it work?

Somehow we come to a division of labor without much need for a discussion. I guess we gravitate toward the things we’re good at. Bill is bricks and mortar and foundation. Everything on top, how it’s presented, turns out to be my domain. Bill has more of a role in the design and building of things like the vet clinic, and I focus more on the vets and staffing. For WEG, we will continue as we did during the test events, dividing up tasks as they come along.

What do you look forward to most after the last horse leaves the grounds?

Sleep! And eventing my young homebred, Blue Rodeo (aka Stanley). I hope I remember how to ride! I’ll also be happy to get back to treating horses.

The Ins and Outs of the Test Ride

Kathleen Murray and Ballynoe Castle RM performing the test ride at Kentucky in 2017. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Want to to ride at an FEI event or the AECs without “officially” qualifying or paying the entry fees? Consider doing the test ride. I rode three test rides last year that were invaluable. I got to expose my horse to an atmospheric venue, see how I might stack up against the competition, and improve my dressage scores in the events that followed.

The first time my name was put forward to test ride I was so excited. You mean I get to try out the cross country course before anyone else does? Heck yeah I’ll do it! Turns out the test ride is for dressage only. (What can I say? I was naïve but hopeful.)

Test riding takes place at competitions that require a panel of two or more judges: namely the CIC/CCI tests or the Preliminary through Advanced tests at the AECs. Judges use the test ride to get on the same page. More on the purpose of the test ride below from judge Mark Weissbecker.

Horse and rider requirements

You don’t have to be a professional or ride a fancy horse. Amateurs who can put down a clear and hopefully accurate test at the Preliminary+ levels are eligible.

I’m an amateur with a wonderful, steady OTTB. We’re solid in our partnership and he is willing and competent in the dressage phase (on most days). I was experienced riding the tests I agreed to ride and would not have felt comfortable doing them for the first time as a test rider. Other competitors who get tapped to test ride, especially at the Intermediate and Advanced levels, have never performed their test rides in competition and do just fine. Remember the terrific job done by Ballynoe Castle’s groom Kathleen Blauth Murray for last year’s Kentucky test ride?

I was nervous before my first test ride. But unless it’s a sentimental pair at a big-time event, the reality is that no one shows up to watch a test ride at the crack of dawn. My dressage coach, who is also a judge, told me my only goal was to ride a pleasant test. Basically, don’t go out there and try to make your horse into Totilas.

How the test ride works

The test ride takes place about 20 minutes before the first horse in the competition comes down the centerline. Your ride plays out as if you were competing in the dressage phase at the competition. You are assigned a time, pick up a packet with a number, complete a bit check, and leave your whip ringside (you are free to use it in warm-up). I braided. Later my tests were available for pick-up. They were marked and scored fully including summarizing comments. Big plus.

For one of the competitions I received complimentary tickets to the competitor meetings and parties. It was so nice to enjoy a few glasses of wine without the anxiety of competing the following day.

Kelly performing the test ride at the AECs: 

The purpose of the test ride

According to FEI licensed eventing and “S” judge Mark Weissbecker, one reason is for the judge at C and the judge on the side to familiarize themselves with the flow of the test. Another is to establish the critical relationship between the judge and scribe. “It can become a very long day in a very short period of time if good communication is not established early on.” (Also true for horse and rider!) He sees the test ride as an important part in “the ongoing effort to create a fair and equal field of play.”

While the judges may not score every movement the same, they want to agree on the requirements of the test and discuss any of the subtler aspects related to movements, directives or collectives.

Often the reason for different scores on a movement is the location of the judge.

“A shoulder-in on the long side,” Mark says, “might be scored higher by the judge at E who sees the quality of gait, fluency and outline as quite good — whereas the judge at C might note the lack of bend, position and suppleness which is not as evident from the side, thereby justifying a lower score.”

After one of my test rides, my husband watched the two judges come out of their booths and talk for a good five minutes. He saw the head judge at C mimicking the steps of the rein back, perhaps to review the essential requirements (good rhythm and active steps shown in diagonal pairs). For what it’s worth, mine received a 7.0 from the judge at C (“slightly hesitant”) and a 6.5 from the judge at E (“slight resistance”).

The best part for me was hearing the comment from the judge at C as I completed my test and left the ring. “What a pleasant start to the day. Thank you so much for doing this.” Exactly the goal my coach told me to focus on. The judge, coach and rider ended up on the same page.

If you want to test ride

Talk to your coach or instructor. Sometimes they get contacted to put names forward. I don’t see any harm in contacting the show organizer directly if you’re confident about doing a test ride. Ask around. Organizers and judges genuinely appreciate the test rider.