Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Pau Experience: A Groom's View by Nobie Cannon

I’ll start by apologizing for the tardiness of my blog, the last two days of competition got quite busy with the two horses going. Joe had good cross country times for both his horses, Don went in the morning and Cam went later on in the afternoon. After morning chores I set out all the necessary warm up/vet box gear (i.e. buckets, sponges, scrapers, coolers, halter/leadline, extra studs and tack, and the like) and made sure both the boys got their morning walks and magnetic blanket time (not to toot my own horn, but I’ve become quite an expert at the foreign magnetic blanket during my time here at Pau). Joe came back from walking his course again with a little change in stud plans, so we readjusted those and I tacked Don up, complete with his space cowboy cross country boots, and Joe came out in his red and white ready to go. My boss had a good reason to be quite “cross” with me, as I had put on the wrong jumping saddle (oops) but in typical Joe fashion he just calmly helped me switch and hopped on Don to tackle the course. While they warmed up I set out our space in the vetbox to ensure an organized cooling down situation. Luckily, the course finished in the main arena where a huge megatron showed most of the cross country, so I was able to see some of Don’s ride. Joe and Don both did a really great job and came back clear with Don looking ready to go again. After Don was settled I moved on to preparing Camie.

Same routine to get him ready, but I added the fern stencil for good luck. My ever calm, laid back boss waltzed in, did a quick mental run through of the course and hopped on Camie like he was going schooling. I prepared our little assembly line of buckets in the vet box again and was able to see Joe leave the start and jump the first fence before he disappeared onto the course. The Pau videographers obviously had a serious French bias and showed some French girl’s entire abysmal ride without showing one of Joe’s jumps. Almost hyperventilating at this point wondering how the two were going, I picked up a few bits and pieces of the French announcer saying something about Joe and Camie making the course look easy. Way to go boys! Joe galloped over the finish smiling so I knew that must have been a good sign, we grabbed Camie and cooled him down and he was released and back to the barn before we knew it.

The rest of the afternoon/evening was spent reorganizing equipment, icing, wrapping, braiding for jogs, and watching legs. Joe stayed at the barn with me until barns closed icing and checking the horses; considering most of the riders chucked their horses at their grooms and went off to party, it was really nice to work for someone with such concern for his horses.
At 11 pm we gave the horses their final checks and good luck pats before what was sure to be a very early, very busy morning.

Sunday morning came with a little disappointment, as Camie was a bit sore after the tough course the day before and Joe made the decision to withdraw, which he thought would be in Camie’s best interest. Don trotted at 7:45 am so I got him together rather early and after explaining to my boss that flashing judges is not proper etiquette here in France, I sent the two off to their jogs.

Show jumping was upon us before we knew it, so Joe hopped on and I followed him and Don down to the warmup to help set fences. Let me just say, if you thought an American warm up ring was a bit of a mess, just wait until you see a foreign one. A cacophony of foreign trainers’ shouting as well as a herd of cross country ponies circling around the warmup made for quite the stressful experience. To add to this, I basically had to yank rails out of several of the French trainers’ hands, as they obviously thought their silly French horses were superior. Narrowly escaping the warm up arena without starting World War III, we made our way to the main arena. The tense atmosphere in the arena didn’t do Don any favors and he tagged a few, but he and Joe still ended up in the top 20. After getting Don settled, we started the always annoying job of packing everything up and getting the ponies ready for travel. The fun was all over too soon!

Although we’ve had quite a bit of fun picking on each other all week, all joking aside Joe has been a pleasure to work with. His laid back attitude and obvious skill and experience do wonders for the horses and make for a great atmosphere around the barn. It really was an honor to get an inside look at such a great horseman’s routine and to get to know his sweet horses. Thanks for the patience and sense of humor, Joe, I really learned alot (including a whole new Kiwi vocabulary) and hope I was some help! Also a big thanks to my trainer at home, Ruthie, for setting this up for me! I owe you both!

Hope you guys enjoyed the blog and happy trails!


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