Monday, July 23, 2012

When It Rains, It Pours by Lauren Lambert

Fair Hill 2009

As the Olympics are rapidly approaching, a lot of people are questioning if London will get a break from the rain.  Weather is a huge factor in eventing.  We don't have all weather cross country surfaces.  Rain and mud is part of the game.  I'll never forget my first time to Bromont trying to qualify for the one star at Young Riders.  It was an odd situation because I had already done Young Riders at 15, but afterward I was burned out and took a year and half break.  When I came back to riding, the qualifications had expired and Bromont was my only option to qualify. So we made the 21 hour drive over night to Quebec.  Then it started to rain.  And it didn't stop.  Many people withdrew, but I wasn't about to.  Baba Creek and I set out of that barn to do battle, but I wasn't prepared. 

That year at Bromont was the year before Derek DiGrazia took over, and we had to gallop to the top of the mountain.  Dad mentioned before I went out to take it slow out there and go clean, but when Miles hit the base of that mountain and wanted to run hard against the rain, I let him dig in.  By the time we reached the peak, everything was a sheet of white, I could hardly see.  There were only two jumps at the peak of that mountain and I had a run out both of them!  We descended from the mountain without a qualifying score.  As we packed up Sunday night, Will Coleman came around the corner to ask how the weekend went.  I told him about how I didn't ride well in the rain, his response stuck with me- he said  it wouldn't be the last time I would ride in the rain.

Fast forward three years, Fair Hill 2009.  Baba Creek and I are contesting our first three star.  The memory of walking out of the hotel Thursday morning seeing the rain pouring from the sky, it still makes me cringe.  This wasn't like the Bromont rain, this was a bone chilling Nor'easter.  Everything was a mud pit, especially the stabling and parking.  40 degrees and non stop down pour.  As I made my way to warmup Saturday, Sue Burnett told me to let my horse gallop on top of the mud.  As we set out, I did my best to find some turf to gallop on rather then slop.  Miles went all the way around that course but was pretty exhausted by final water complex and slithered over the roll top in.  That was the only time Baba Creek ever ran out of steam.  He was one sore puppy Sunday morning.  We passed the jog, and warming up for show jumping Jimmy told me to go in, ride forward, and my horse would forgive me... Ha! Already being a tad not careful in the show jumping, Miles and I went in there and had NINE rails!  We plummeted from top ten to 25th.  It was pretty mortifying, but the moral got better after a sip of wine and being awarded the highest placed first timer-AKA the only one crazy enough to run their first three star in the worst conditions possible and actually complete.  I can laugh about that disastrous show jumping now, especially after hearing Buck tell about his first Rolex show jumping when he only left two jumps up.  At one point, his horse jumped through an oxer and the front rail went over the horses head and landed balanced in Buck's lap!  He had to toss the rail aside to continue.  All kidding aside, cross country at Fair Hill that autumn left a scar.  Maybe it was the fact it was my first three star, but riding in those conditions and getting around was like going to battle and walking out alive.  Being out there on the front line, left with memories which only others who were there could understand.   Baba Creek would never have to run in those conditions again.  I probably will, but now at least I have some sold experience.

So will the weather be kind to our Olympians?  Who knows!  Weather is a huge factor in our sport; you gotta get out there and ride in the worst of it.  If you want to be at the top, sitting out when the going gets tough isn't going to get you far.  Eventing Is tough and the weather can make it down right scrappy.  Our team is made of hard working people who have trudged on in the worst of it, and come out the better for it.  I am very excited to cheer team USA on. Good luck to Tiana, Karen, Boyd, Will and Phillip - hoping some good weather finds you at Greenwich Park, but if not, you guys got this anyway!  Go USA!

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