A Whirlwind Trip to Bramham and Back

EN is thrilled to have different members of Lauren Kieffer's team blogging in the lead up to the Pan American Games and during her temporary move to England this fall in this new series presented by Athletux. Today super groom Shannon Kinsley takes us behind the scenes on their trip to Bramham.

Shannon Kinsley and David O'Connor at Bramham. Photo by Samantha Clark. Shannon Kinsley and David O'Connor at Bramham. Photo by Samantha Clark.

As I sit here trying to collect my thoughts on all of the awesome things that happened two weeks ago on our trip overseas to Bramham, it honestly feels like it was forever ago or at least a great deal longer than two weeks! It is amazing to think how much has happened in the short time since we got home from Bramham, including Great Meadow, and now with all of the packing for the Pan Ams and our temporary move to Europe coming up July 22, things are crazier than ever.

Back to my adventure to Bramham with Veronica for a moment. The trip over is a much greater haul, even for a typical overseas trip than most realize. Veronica and I took almost every mode of transportation we could find, between driving to JFK airport, flying into Liege, and taking the ferryboat to England, we spent a little too much quality time together for her liking.

Fortunately, Veronica is a really great shipper and handled it all like the pro she is, where as I am sure I looked a bit haggard upon arrival. Lauren met Veronica and I at Chris Bartle’s on Monday before the event, and we shipped to Bramham on Tuesday. As a groom, you are always anticipating the arrival of your rider, and at times I find myself worrying about everything going smoothly with Lauren’s arrival almost as much as I worry about the horses and myself. Some things are just out of your control — plain and simple.

We met up with Caroline Martin and her crew when we got to Bramham, and after getting everything organized, I made sure I knew the location of the closest Pimm’s tent for my after work happy hour — a must.

The girls sat in 10th place going into cross country and were in complete beast mode around the course. Once your horse and rider leave the start box, the feeling “mother hen” doesn’t even begin to explain it. Full panic could be more accurate, yet at the same time I know what this combo is capable of and knew they would be great! Veronica pulled up like a champ, and after icing and running fluids, I was able to put us both to bed at a decent hour — always a highlight when you are a groom at this level.

The jog was not too terribly early Sunday morning, another huge score for me, and V had one of the prettiest show jumping rounds I’ve seen her do yet. Lauren wasn’t so bad either; guess I’m going to have to give her a little credit for that one. They ended up seventh and even got the Angela Cotton Trophy for highest-placed mare, and I could not have been more proud of either of them.

Just like that, Bramham was over, and it was time to switch gears and get ready to head back to the States, this time without my travel buddy Veronica.

The week itself was pretty epic, from Buck Davidson being our activity coordinator and gifting me with his precious blender at the end of the week (it has all the speeds); to me offering Andrew Nicholson help going over his dressage test after he forgot a loop on his first horse; to those dang caravans we stay in over there that for some reason I love; and finding out that yes, James Daniel Connor, they do have Coors Light on tap at a pub there.

I feel so lucky to get to do what I do every day and sometimes when I really stop to think about it, I can’t believe I get to do something I love so much.

After dropping V off at my good friends’ Clark and Jess Montgomery’s, where she will stay until we get back to Europe on the 22nd, and spending a couple of days with them, I was homeward bound with Great Meadow just two days later.

Meadowbrook’s Scarlett and Vermiculus looked great when I got back to the States. Luckily, the team at home is the best I have ever been fortunate to work with, and I really just landed off the plane from being with V, put the horses on the trailer and shipped them down the road to the Pan Am prep event. The ponies were on point at Great Meadow, with Scarlett winning and Bug (Vermiculus) ending up sixth. What an incredible whirlwind!

Which brings me back to the fact that I am currently consumed with packing for the Pan American Games, which we leave for on the 12th, and our England excursion, which has five more ponies flying overseas on the 22.

Just another day in the life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Well, I better get back to packing. I am pretty confident I will forget many things, but luckily over the last 15 years I have perfected the art of borrowing. Canada, we’re coming for ya!

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