Not to be cliche but…
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times?
The pressure got to Natascha on the final day in Lima. Show jumping has been her nemeses for some time, and although she is greatly improved, and warmed up like a pro, she went into the ring and completely froze. I am heartbroken for her as she was our only chance of a medal at these games. It is so hard to know what to say, as nothing can really help when this happens. All you can do is assure her that it happens to everyone, and with the right plan, it will get better. I am so proud of her professionalism, her kindness, her desire to work hard, and her appreciation of her partner, Clifton Peekachu, who did his very best to help her to the podium. However, what an achievement to even be at these games, and the picture of her jumping the last fence on the cross-country says it all.
As for our other two riders to finish the competition, Elena had our best result on the steadfast jumping horse, Nonours Du Moulin. She ended up in a respectable fifth place, the highest of our Venezulelan riders this weekend. (Natascha fell to 9th) As for Maritza, her fantastic horse jumped really well for her, and she finished 12th due to a 20 on the cross country. Well done ladies!
The eleven days in Peru taught me a huge amount about the holes in our program, and the programs of many South and Central American riders. The main problem is the lack of organization, and the general laid back approach to getting basic things accomplished for the care of the horses and the preparation of the riders.
I now have a new overwhelming respect for Jim Wolf…you are AMAZING!! Your crazy eyes make perfect sense to me now!!
As an American rider that has traveled with her horse overseas (albeit to Europe) I have learned to greatly appreciate the way our country sends people ahead to pave the way for us. It is essential for the health of our horses, and the success of our riders. I had to fight everyday in Peru for the basics needs of our horses. From moldy hay to lack of ice, it was a constant struggle not made easier by the dearth of knowledge that is prevalent among the riders and support staff. Without Barry Thomason and Dougie Hannum, I couldn’t have provided a healthy environment for our horses. Finally, I could have wept with relief when Peter Gray and Kyle Carter arrived to back me up, insisting that smiling and saying ,”This is the way it is in South America,” is simply not a good enough answer.
Having said all this, I still hold out great hopes for the future of eventing in these countries. I met many kind, animal loving people this week. Every official that I spoke with, and the soldiers at the site, all tried to make the changes we wanted. All we need now is an openness to work together to improve the standards of care and general knowledge, that I have taken for granted in this country. This can only be done if the riders themselves take a more active part in ensuring the welfare of their horses. My hat is off to Ronald Zabala who was doing just that all week for Mr. Wiseguy.
Finally I want to thank Natascha, Gaby, and Roberto for showing up at our farm this June to rope me into this crazy adventure. I have had a blast…every minute. It has helped me through a difficult year, and reminds me how much I love this sport and the great horses that make it up.