November Update: We went to a show!

photo-nov-12-7-24-51-am-1

I’ve waited all summer but I finally got out to a show with Oh So on Nov. 12 at Loch Moy. I haven’t had a place to practice in a real dressage ring all summer, so my accuracy was lacking a bit, but he was very well behaved for our two first level tests.

I’ve never actually been to a show by myself, but I wasn’t able to find anyone to help out, so off we went. Logistically for a dressage show it’s OK, but then I don’t have anyone to video! I did manage to get the ring steward to help me out for the second test though so I could have something to show Heidi.

The first test he got a bit rough in the contact, not ugly, just not as soft in my hand as I would have liked, especially coming back from the lengthened canters. We scored a 66%, which was not what I hoped for, but that’s why we did a second test.

I haven’t been schooling trot lengthenings much at home because I don’t want to stress his tendons, so those were a little weak this time around too.

I had about an hour between rides, so I got off and stood around in the freezing cold. No kidding, it was 26 degrees when we got there!

I did a short warmup for the second test, and it flowed much better. The judge mentioned he did get a little behind the vertical, and that’s something Heidi is on me about a lot, so I always work to keep my hands up and push his nose out, but sometimes he sneaks behind a bit and I can’t tell from where I’m sitting.

We ended up third and fourth and won the TIP reserve award.

It was nice to get back in the ring again, even if it was just in time for the season to end. I’ve got some things I want to work on this winter, including perfecting our right to left flying change. I worked on that a bit today in my lesson with Heidi, and I think we’re both just stuck a bit on it, but I have some homework until next time. This was the first time I’ve ever really continuously asked him for changes during a single ride, and he got the left to right every time, so that was good.

Harley’s first event the week before went very well. We had a minor meltdown in dressage warm up in which we couldn’t get the right lead at all, and he missed it in the test, but got it on the second try. He scored a 31, which I was pleasantly surprised by, but it was only good enough for ninth out of 10.

I was a little rusty in the show jumping, but he jumped all the jumps and jumped clear on cross-country!

Now I’m off to Ocala for the weekend to cover the inaugural Jockey Club International, and when I get back the arena cross-country course at Loch Moy will be open, and Oh So will be ready to have some fun!

A Horse Box Subscription Review

I’m kind of obsessed with beauty subscription boxes, so I was intrigued to try A Horse Box, which is a monthly subscription box featuring lots of goodies for your horse.

I’ve received three boxes so far, so I thought I’d review each one. I’m doing the cheapest box, the Tack Box, which is $25.00 per month. They also have a Barn Box, which is $45.00 per month.

I love trying new human beauty products and getting travel-sized things, so I was excited to try out a combination of new brands and trial-sized items. Equine brands aren’t as ubiquitous as human brands, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find some new ones I’d never heard of. Overall the value is very good and the mix of products is excellent. I’ve found some new brands and some new products from old favorites.

I almost wish the box was cheaper and just included sample sizes of things like shampoos and other horse care items, but you really can’t argue with the value when you receive several full-sized items per month. I do think the box would be put to better use in a multi-horse barn, but single horse owners can also build up a good kit with what you receive.

September Box

2016-09-28-16-34-53

My first box in September contained the following. I’ve put the value of the full-sized item next to each product and whether it was full or trial sized. Each box also contains a horse treat sample:

Quietex Paste (full size) $11 – I’m not a calming paste person, but this is good to have on hand for travel.

Absorbine Wonder Dust (full size) $7 – I’ve used this before, and it’s great for putting under bellies and around sheaths when the gnats are really bad.

Absorbine Wonder Dust (full size) $8 – Thankfully I haven’t had to deal with a lot of big wounds, but I’ve put this in my vet kit. You take the top off and blow the dust onto the wound. It’s good for broader wounds and deep scrapes.

Mrs. Conn’s Bath Day Shampoo Filled Sponge in Liniminty Fresh $10 – I’d never heard of this brand, but I recently tried the Pony Tails shampoo-filled sponge. I’ve used it twice so far and it suds up nicely. It smells minty and contains some liniment. The brand makes some other kinds of sponges with nice scents that I’d be willing to try, and while they are meant to last a few uses, I feel that the value of a soap-filled sponge is kind of low for the price. They’re great for travel though!

Aspire Rain Rot Treatment (full size) $13 – I’d never heard of this brand, but they’re eco-friendly, and the bottle is recyclable. Oh So has a bit of rain rot on his haunches, so I’m going to test this out and report back!

October Box

photo-oct-19-7-29-45-am

Farnam Cough Free (32 day supply) $13 for a 12 day supply – I’ve been testing this herbal supplement out on Toppers right now, and it seems palatable. He occasionally coughs but since I’m not around as much I’m not able to see the effectiveness. I’ll be checking in with my mom to see what she’s observed. It’s a good value though with enough product to see if it works for your horse.

E3 Tea Tree Shampoo $10-$12 – This mitt flips over your hand and arm to keep it clean when applying lotions and sprays. I’ve been using it to wipe down Oh So with a shine spray or fly spray before I ride and so far, so good. It’s waterproof and reusable and can help get that last minute dust off before a show. It can also be used to clean tack.

E3 Tea Tree Shampoo (32 oz.) $13 – This shampoo smells so nice and pleasant. Tea tree oil is good for the skin and the shampoo made Oh So’s coat nice and shiny.

Leather New Foam (full size) $7 – Foams are super easy to use, and I love this for a quick after-ride cleaning of my boots and tack. I don’t find it particularly moisturizing so I use a conditioner afterwards sometimes.

Cold Flex Show Pro Finishing Spray (sample size) – The company claims this will repel dust and insects, but I didn’t get a chance to try it before winter set in. It does have a nice scent and is all natural.

November Box

photo-nov-18-7-29-46-am

Bigeloil Quilted Poultice Hoof Pad (1 pad) $6 – I’ve never tried this, but I’m keeping it in my emergency kit for the next lost shoe.The brand claims it’s not messy and is easy to remove. It contains kaolin clay and epsom salt so it’s perfect for abcesses and sore feet.

Powerflex Vet Wrap (1 roll) $2 – I’m not picky about my vet wrap brands, so this goes in the vet kit!

Charleigh’s Cookies (1 cookie) $23 for 1lb: You’d have to ask Oh So about how these organic cookies tasted, but he ate them right up!  The brand makes a Cover Up Cookie to help feed pills, so I’ll keep them in mind.

Farnam Purishield Emergency Wound Kit (4 sample sizes): This sample kit is just what I need for my vet kit. I rarely use products before they expire with just a few horses to deal with. Farnam’s new products include a wound spray, a barrier spray, hydrogel and skin spray. The skin spray is meant for bacterial and fungal skin issues, while the hydrogel is for wound care and is meant to bind to the wound. Thankfully I haven’t needed to test these yet!

Finish Line AirPower (1 syringe/1 dose) $5 for one dose- Meant as a natural cough syrup, AirPower soothes the airway with ingredients including aloe vera, honey and lemon juice. Oh So doesn’t have a cough, but when I gave it to him to test it went down easily, and he didn’t spit it out! I’m not sure how effective this would be for a horse with a cough. I would have to test it over a longer period. Having just written two stories about equine airways, I’m skeptical about supplements, and if my horse did cough, I’d take him to a vet and see if he might have inflammatory airway disease or something more severe like laryngeal paralysis. I could see giving it if your horse had a dusty bale of hay or to help a horse with IAD, but I’m not sure about the effectiveness long term.

October Update: Lots of travel and change

I’ve just finished off my whirlwind fall of travel, and I’m ready for a break! Since I last updated I’ve been to Plantation Field, Cincinnati, Dressage At Devon, Fair Hill and the Virginia Horse Trials.

Plantation was the first weekend where it really felt like fall. I covered it for the first time officially for COTH, and Phillip Dutton was a fitting winner at his hometown event.

2016-09-18-10-02-15-1

The ruins at Plantation Field.

I visited my brother, niece and sister-in-law in Cincinnati the following weekend, and it was kind of hot but I had a good time playing tourist and eating Skyline chili! The city is undergoing a lot of change, and my brother lives very close to downtown which is fun, plus they have a great view!

2016-09-25-19-22-23-2

Dressage At Devon was up next and back to cold and rainy. I went to Devon a few times with my mom long ago, but I’d never been as a member of the media. It was fun to see some different faces than who we usually see in Wellington, even if the scores weren’t as high. I wrote a commentary for the magazine, which I’ve only ever done once before, about how I hope riders and spectators will continue to attend shows like Devon, or Morven Park, which was on the same weekend, because they’re so unique and historic.

2016-10-01-19-51-26-1

Under the lights at Devon.

My favorite event, Fair Hill, was up next, and while the weather was the driest and warmest it’s been in the 15 years I’ve been attending, it was unfortunately a little underwhelming this year. The entries were down, and Marilyn Little sparked a lot of controversy when her eventual winner RF Scandalous was seen with blood on her mouth on cross-country day.

After two of the most stressful weeks of my work life trying to write the story of the win while also reporting on what it meant to have a three-star national champion win with blood on her mouth, I hope what came out is a fair portrayal of what happened.

The “blood rule” was followed in theory, but there’s since been a lot of discussion about whether it’s right for the public image of the sport to allow a horse with visible blood to continue. I try to always see both sides of an argument, so I won’t weigh in, but I have to say I was disappointed with several things posted on the internet about how the media handled the incident.

It’s difficult when the sport is so small and everyone is friendly. We love feel good stories and stories of winners but we are journalists and have to report on the bad things as well. I feel like sometimes the riders get a little closed off when controversial things happen, but we’re just doing our jobs asking for the facts. If top riders want to get the press and be treated like celebrities, they need to realize that sometimes that means answering tough questions.

2016-10-15-09-03-07-1

Fair Hill cross-country day!

After Fair Hill I had a free weekend and took Oh So and Harley to a flat lesson with Heidi. She gave me some tips with Harley about keeping his walk and canter more forward and asking for more bend in all three gaits, so now I have some homework.

Oh So was very good, and we upped the work a little by adding in some canter/walk and walk/canter transitions.

I’m hoping we can get back to where we left off this spring and continue to work on those transitions and eventually get clean changes both directions.

He’s finally pretty much back to full flatwork and now we’re getting ready to pop over some jumps for the first time since June this week, so I’m excited!

Both boys were very well behaved during gale force winds with leaves hitting us all in the face and dust swirling around!

photo-oct-28-4-37-13-pm-1

Oh So and Harley take on the coliseum at the VA Horse Trials.

This past weekend we took Harley to the VA Horse Trials for some exposure and I brought Oh So along to ride in good footing. Both boys traveled well together and settled in. Harley was very professional for being 5 and they both thought they were living the life of luxury with Meghan and I tending to their every need.

I schooled Harley on Saturday and Meghan sat on Oh So. She’s only ridden in a dressage saddle a few times, so she was working on getting her balance and playing with some leg yielding, but she was pushing all of Oh So’s buttons by accident, and it was pretty funny. He would offer a turn on the forehand, haunches, leg yield or rein back and not get frustrated, so that was cool to see him play schoolmaster.

A lot of memories came flooding back, and I don’t know if I’ll ever compete him there again, but I’m glad we went.

Today I moved Oh So to a new farm just up the road from where he was in Waterford. I found a deal I couldn’t pass up where I’ll be able to afford two horses if I decide to get one in the spring. The only thing is he’ll be living out 24/7 so I’m pretty nervous about it , but he settled right into his paddock today and made friends with a mare across the fence line. He ate his dinner and was checking out some chickens when I left him, so I hope it goes well.

photo-oct-29-2-07-41-pm

Meghan and I did some sightseeing at Natural Bridge in Lexington.

We won’t have an indoor, but we do have lights, so back to living the way we were at home. I’ll just have to pull out my winter breeches a bit sooner!

Harley is doing his first event this weekend on my (30th, gulp) birthday, and I’ve entered Oh So in a dressage show at Loch Moy the following weekend. It may be the end of the season, but I’m going to squeeze in what I can!

photo-oct-31-1-48-22-pm

Oh So checking out his new digs.

I’ve been thinking a lot about bucket list goals as I’ve been interviewing people this fall, and I came up with a list of my own. I still feel pretty aimless without having any competitions to look forward to, but here’s what I’ve come up with.

  • Complete another training three-day (I did one in 2006 with Sam and finished 2nd).
  • Complete a CCI*.
  • But before that, I’d like to finish a prelim on my dressage score.
  • Ride at the Kentucky Horse Park.
  • Earn my USDF bronze medal (maybe Oh So could take me there!)
  • Ride at another AEC.
  • Hit up a few other events I’ve never competed at like Plantation Field and at the Horse Park of New Jersey.
  • Compete at an Area 2 championship (that never seemed to work out with Oh So’s schedule).

I think most of these will have to wait until my next horse, but I’m still holding out hope for Oh So!

Rio’s In The Rearview and An Oh So Update

2016-09-14-08-06-53

Life is back to normal finally after my trip to Rio! Oh So got the go ahead to start ramping up his work again, which is awesome, but we’re only adding 5 minutes of trot per week, so the going will be slow for awhile.

He flexed and palpated pretty well, so the vet decided not to do ultrasound and just told us to start adding trot. He also got his back injected in the areas where he has kissing spine, so hopefully that will help him feel a little better.

In the mean time I’ve been having a lot of fun riding my friend Meghan’s 5-year-old OTTB Harley, who is wise beyond his years.

He only raced twice and then was used to pony horses at the track, and while he’s very green in his body and education, he’s willing to take instruction, and he’s come along quickly over the last two months that I’ve been riding him a couple of times a week.

We’ve taken him off property to cross-country school three times and show jumped twice, and he keeps getting better. He’s pretty willing to jump anything, but sometimes it’s the other jumps on cross-country or the things going on outside the ring that catch his attention.

I’m really enjoying the process of working with a young horse again. I wasn’t sure I was ready to start over after Bear, but we’re slowly starting to trust each other, and it’s fun when it clicks for him.

On the flat he just needs to learn to take the contact forward, down and out. He’s been ridden in draw reins before, and he seemed afraid of the contact at first. Now he’s taking the bit tentatively, but still comes behind the vertical in trot on occasion. In canter he wants to raise his head and hollow his back, especially to the jumps, so we’re keeping them small right now while we work on his flatwork.

Meghan has felt a difference in him, which makes me feel confident that I’ve been doing the right thing despite no proper flat lessons and riding in my jump saddle!

The hope is to get him to a starter trial this fall. I don’t think the jumps will be the problem, just the activity, but we’ll keep working hard!

 

2016-08-18 11.36.58-1

Copacabana Beach

I’ve had a couple of weeks to think about Rio, and it’s coming a little more in to focus now that I’m not in the thick of it.

I watched all of the cross-country on the NBC replays when I got back to the U.S., and it really helped me understand the course better and how grueling it really was.

While I was out on course, I really had no idea what was going on because of the terrible announcing, so it helped to see it again.

2016-08-18 12.47.26-1

View from Sugarloaf

Being there and focusing just on getting the best photos made it almost seem like another horse show until the medal ceremonies. I’ll admit I had a tear in my eye when the U.S. team got on the podium in dressage!

I wish I’d had more time to explore the city, but the day off I did have was amazing. I went to Sugarloaf Mountain and was the highest into the sky I think I’ve ever been. I’ve been to a lot of castles and mountain ranges in my life, but that was so high my legs were getting a little wobbly.

I had a ticket to see Christ the Redeemer that afternoon but the clouds came in, and I didn’t get the view I wanted. Ah well. Now I can say I’ve been there!

2016-08-18-13-20-43

Sugarloaf Cable Cars

2016-08-18 15.57.30

Christ the Redeemer

I spent the weekend at Plantation Field and now I’m off to Cincinnati to visit my brother and sister-in-law, see my niece and eat chili!

Next week is Dressage at Devon and then on to Fair Hill in the October.

2016-09-05-08-41-30

Rocky loves to ham it up!

2016-08-25-15-47-57-1

Toppers and Rocky

2016-09-18-10-02-15-1

Plantation Field

2016-09-05-08-30-52-2

Sam!

Adventures In Rio: Non-Stop Action, And Lots Of Bread And Cheese

This blog originally appeared on coth.com.

2016-08-04 14.43.05-1

The first water jump.

Bom dia from Rio!

It’s been awhile since my last check in because Mollie and I have been going full throttle writing for the website and writing two magazines stories on a deadline for mid-week.

The excitement hasn’t ever stopped, as we’ve had a second bullet found on the groundssome drama in dressage and some last-minute show jumping team changes.

I’ll back up to cross-country day—the best day of any horse show if I say so myself!

It was warm, but overcast, and quite a large crowd came out to have some fun. From the very beginning though, it was clear it was going to be a tough course.

2016-08-06 09.40.27

On the job!

I spent the first part of the day shooting the first and last water, and got some great shots, then wandered towards other parts of the course where there was absolutely no announcing, so I felt utterly lost as to what was going on and why people weren’t making it to where I was.

It was weird feeling so disconnected from the action, so I was texting with a co-worker back at the office who was watching the live stream. She was about 10 minutes behind the live action, but she still knew before I did that U.S. rider Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen had retired on course.

2016-08-05 10.29.34-1

Looking out of the start box.

Bummer! I’m a huge fan of Clark and Glen after having spent so much time chatting with him over the last couple of years, and finally meeting him and Glen in person this summer, so I was just gutted for them.

Lauren also had some terrible luck, but looked good when I saw her, and Phillip and Boyd gave masterful riding demonstrations. Blackfoot Mystery, and Boyd, looked exhausted coming through the last water, and Boyd nursed him home expertly.

It says a lot about a course when a guy who rides 10 horses at a one-day event in the middle of summer is exhausted riding one horse around a four-star!

2016-08-06 11.47.55

The stands filling up.

As usual, Michael Jung was masterful, although he had a bit of a save on Sam through the last water when he wanted to bow his right shoulder over one of the fish.

I think I shot some of my best photos ever on cross-country, which you can check out here.

Eventing show jumping day went by in a blur. We had to cover two rounds of jumping, plus team and individual medals.

The French team, who are all very handsome and charming, won gold and our hearts!

2016-08-08 08.40.46-1

Daily inspo.

Mollie and I fell into bed that night, but no rest for the weary as we went straight into dressage the next two days with the Grand Prix and team medals. I saw Valegro! OK, so a lot of people have seen him, but I’ve never seen him in person, so I was super excited.

He was just as round and cute as I’d expected!

We rallied one more day to cover the Special, but for me, it was a tough night as I got food poisoning from our media village dining hall and spent all night with severe stomach cramps that continued into the next day.

2016-08-11 08.17.34-1

Police horses on the job.

Luckily we had shots of all of the riders who would be in the Special, and they ran in reverse order, so I spent the morning in bed and found enough strength to go over to the venue and shoot the afternoon. I couldn’t miss Valegro again!

I almost doubled over in pain as Steffen Peters was riding, another I didn’t want to miss, but I held it together for a few more riders until Charlotte went.

We’ve been subsisting on basically bread and cheese since we’ve arrived because we haven’t been able to go to any restaurants or find a grocery store until Saturday.

2016-08-14 19.33.02

American bread and cheese! What a treat.

Mollie and I get up every morning to the sound of idling buses and military men doing drills, grumble about how the breakfast at the media village hasn’t changed, and load up our plates with the same rolls, cheese and thankfully some fresh fruit.

We’ve also started packing cheese sandwiches because the venue only has, well, more bread and cheese sandwiches with meat that aren’t so tasty.

We grumble again as we eat in the dining hall at night, but we’re usually so hungry we stuff our faces with rice, pasta, often crunchy, and iceberg lettuce, then pass out to the sound of guns going off fairly close by and rowdy rugby journalists.

2016-08-14 09.49.07

Working hard with George Morris watching over me.

We had a day off on Saturday, and while all of our journalist and photographer friends were off having fun at the beach or sightseeing, we had to hunker down and write our eventing and dressage stories for the magazine.

After writing from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., we decided to give ourselves a break and head to Barra where a couple of photographer and journalist friends are staying.

We hopped on a bus to the Main Media Center and were soon being escorted down the Olympic road by military guards. Our bus driver told us another media bus had a rock thrown through its window. Lovely.

2016-08-14 12.52.01

Just chilling with McLain Ward and Kent Farrington…

We took a quick bus from the MPC to Barra and had a wonderful evening of actual food, capped off by a lovely walk past all of the main venues like the diving arena.

It was cool to be in the middle of it all, if only for a short time.

We grabbed some healthy snacks at a grocery store and made our way home, feeling refreshed and ready to shoot the first day of show jumping.

2016-08-15 20.41.58

Equestrian on TV!

The weather has been up and down, from very pleasant to downright hot the last two days, but the crowds showed up in full force for show jumping.

It was absolutely deafening when a Brazilian rider came in the ring, and when they went clear, watch out!

The locals are all wonderful, and the military are all friendly. Unfortunately it seems that what we’re allowed to bring in through security each day changes, but we’ve learned to adapt!

2016-08-16 07.49.39

Military presence on every corner.

We’ve been keeping the TV on at night and watching some of the other sports while we write, and even saw a five minute blurb about the horses last night. It’s weird not having access to NBC and their instant replays. I guess I’ll just have to wait until I get home to find out what actually happened on cross-country!

We’re in the home stretch! I’m counting down the days until I can cook my own food and see my horse, but until then, Mollie and I figured out a way to order pizzas to Deodoro Village, and I have to say, American bread and cheese tasted heavenly!

2016-08-17 09.22.13-2

Adventures In Rio: The Olympic Spirit Is Alive, And We’re Making The Most Of It

This blog originally appeared on coth.com.

2016-08-04 13.03.43-1

Our home away from home.

When I was first asked by my editors if I wanted to cover the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, I’ll admit I asked for 24 hours to think about it.

Most people would jump at the chance to go to an Olympics, but like most people, the things I’d heard through the mainstream media worried me—Zika, dirty water and crime.

But once I thought about it, I realized I’d better not pass up the opportunity. Besides, my co-worker Mollie Bailey has lived in the city, knows the language and has experienced several international championships, so that eased my mind a little.

As we got closer to our departure I began to feel a little more nervous as the media started to ramp up the stories about Rio’s crime and unpreparedness, terrorism threats and the spread of Zika.

On the day of my flight, I was feeling even more nervous, despite being an experienced international traveler. Would there be signs in the airport in English? Would my huge Pelican case full of camera gear be stolen right off the baggage claim? Would someone brush against me and steal my phone or purse?

Luckily Mollie went ahead a few days before me and was texting and sending me email updates about exactly what I should expect.

The airline had lost her luggage (more on that later), but she seemed to be having a great time crashing with our photographer friend Shannon Brinkman, who’d rented an apartment in Barra.

So, I anxiously stepped off the plane, followed my fellow travelers down a long corridor, and around the last bend, we were greeted by several people in Olympic gear. I went through the customs line very quickly, then made my way to get my luggage, which was there!

I grabbed a cart, was ushered by more friendly volunteers to the exit, and felt like a celebrity walking the red carpet as I walked out of the airport surrounded by people holding signs for their friends and customers.

2016-08-04 11.31.10

Our dorm room before we got our twin beds.

The bus to Deodoro Village arrived almost immediately, and I hopped on with two other people and was off in about an hour from landing.

I’ve never traveled to South America, but I knew about the poverty surrounding Rio so I wasn’t totally surprised by the landscape—favelas, dilapidated buildings, graffiti, dirt and trash, flanked by the beautiful mountains in the background, higher than any I’ve seen in the U.S.

There were no Walmarts, chain restaurants or open fields alongside the highway, just the urban sprawl of Rio.

As the bus pulled in to Deodoro, which is a military base, I saw several colorful buildings decorated with tanks, airplanes and statues, and armed men at every corner.

2016-08-04 10.25.23

Check in was in a temporary tent that was attached to a small convenience store. It was very easy, and the staff were very helpful. I was escorted to my room and given help with my bags.

When I opened the door to our home away from home for the next two and a half weeks I was a little taken aback. A double bed sat inside a tiny dorm room with a small bathroom attached. With barely enough room to turn around with my luggage, I turned around and asked a staff member if there were any bigger rooms because we’d requested a room with twin beds.

Nope. This was it. But they were able to quickly change the bed situation so Mollie and I won’t have to literally sleep on top of each other! Now we’re about three feet away.

2016-08-06 07.56.32

Deodoro accommodation village.

The good news is our room is part of a small apartment that has two other bedrooms (we’ve met one of our roommates, a field hockey photographer from Canada), a lounge area with a balcony and couches and a kitchen so we can spread out a little.

The kitchen only has a microwave and fridge, which might come in handy if it comes down to eating the Ramen they have for sale at the convenience store, but we’re not to that point yet! We’re hoping to find a grocery store and buy some healthier food than what’s available in the cafeteria on site, but for the last three nights we’ve only been able to make it that far. If we want restaurants or grocery stores we’ll have to find a taxi and make our way back towards Rio.

We’ve promised ourselves we won’t eat at the cafeteria every night!

2016-08-04 16.16.23

The main stadium and mixed zone.

I met up with Mollie at the equestrian venue on Thursday after dealing with our accommodations. We hit the ground running and went on a stable tour where we were able to play fan girls and get lots of photos of horse and human stars. It’s funny because I see our U.S. eventers on a monthly basis and have gotten to know some of them well over the years, but in this setting, Mollie and I became like paparazzi, shouting, “Boyd, Boyd! Over here!” or, “Go Glen!” as they walked by.

Our timing was well enough that we saw the U.S. eventers coming back from a flat school in the main arena. It was good to see everyone settling in, smiling and happy.

2016-08-04 12.35.44

Marmosets greeted us by our bus every morning.

The show jumpers are trickling in, so within the next few days, every Olympic horse will be on site. Where else can you see the U.S. eventers, then walk around the corner and see Valegro playing with his groom Alan Davies’ and be passed by Michael Jung on his way to walk his cross-country course?

At the entrance to the stables and into the venue itself, everyone, including the horses, have to walk over a squishy disinfectant pad each time in an effort to keep things sanitary.

We went on to a media course walk with the course designer Pierre Michelet, who explained that the track is twisty, so time will be influential. The word in the stables from riders is that it’s a lot bigger than they expected, so I don’t think this will be a dressage show!

The venue is first class, as many riders have already reported, and our media tent is right by the main arena.

2016-08-04 17.02.38

Locals waiting for the torch to pass through.

The photo staff are very helpful, and we have almost full run of the place as far as shooting locations. Unfortunately after day 1, it seems the best locations are facing the sides of the arena with no spectators in the stands, but I promise, despite my photos, there were people! It was a little sparse for eventing dressage, but it seems like a good mix of eventing fans and Brazilians, who got a bit rowdy when their first rider, Marcio Appel came in the ring.

They were cheering and shouting for him during the test, which didn’t help his horse, but I can understand. They are true sports fans and so proud to have the Olympics in their country.

As we were standing outside waiting for our bus on Thursday, the street was filling up with locals hoping to catch a glimpse of the torch on its way through.

A young girl went up to Shannon, who was standing nearby, and handed her a note in English that read, “Welcome to Brazil” with a heart.

How cool is that?

2016-08-04 15.41.40-2

The rest of our Thursday involved taking a bus to the Main Press Center to get my photo vest, which took about a minute, getting some food from their more expansive cafeteria, then catching a bus to Shannon’s apartment to pick up Mollie’s rogue luggage which had finally arrived, then back on a bus to the MPC, then on another bus back to Deodoro.

In general the transportation has been very easy, with buses coming on time every 20-40 minutes. We were getting to the end of that period waiting to go back to the MPC when we started discussing taxis straight back to Deodoro instead.

I’m really glad we didn’t do that because after we finally made it back to the MPC and on another bus to Deodoro we met some friendly field hockey commentators who told us they’d tried to get a cab to Deodoro but the driver couldn’t find the place (apparently there is no address) and when he did was unable to get very close. Thanks to our field hockey friends, who Mollie helped learn to pronounce several Portuguese names on our bus ride back, we learned that only one cab company is allowed on site. Good to know!

2016-08-04 14.44.09

A view from the cross-country. (Notice the blimp!)

It is kind of cool to be able to interact with journalists from other sports. At the Pan Ams, we never saw any other sports, and at the World Games, it’s only equestrian journalists, so we’ve been chatting up several people, including our field hockey friends, who are from Ireland and New Zealand and were fascinated by Donald Trump!

We arrived to the first day of competition full of energy and excitement and were promptly greeted by a broken metal detector. With a bus full of journalists needing to get in and get set up, it wasn’t the best way to start a morning, so Mollie did some Portuguese sweet talking and found her way in with a smaller backpack, but I was stuck in line for another 15 minutes until they let us go through another line. Apparently the second scanner broke right after I went through…

2016-08-16 08.01.10

Disinfecting!

All was going well until the lunch break when those in the media center heard a loud noise. I jumped, but thought someone just dropped a camera or something. I was gathering my things to head back out to shoot and thought nothing of it until I was told a stray bullet had pierced the tent!

We’ve felt very safe since we’ve been here, with armed military and police with their fingers near the trigger on every corner, but that was a little alarming. The official story is that there is none, but a lot of people believe it was a stray bullet from a military training exercise. We may never know, but we would really like to!

I’ll check back in a few days with, I’m sure, more stories. We’re trying to keep a sense of humor because it’s still early days, but as with every international championship, there’s always something!

2016-08-05 11.09.49-2

Product Review: Sun Shirts

The idea of wearing long sleeve shirts in the summer makes me want to faint, but with a big trip to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro coming up I thought it would be wise to invest in some sun shirts to protect myself from mosquitoes.

We’ve had a miserable heat wave the last week, so I took mercy on myself and wore sleeveless shirts, but before then I was able to test out a few different brands.

Ariat Sun Stopper Shirt

-1526496928894570000

sunshirt

Ariat is one of my favorite brands, so I picked up a few colors of their classic sun shirts with 1/4 zip tops. They also make several of the above colors in polo versions.

I know it totally goes against the idea of keeping you cool in the summer, but I bought the navy and red (so I can be patriotic!) and the navy geo. I like the look of the white striped one but I just don’t love wearing light colors to the barn, and I wanted to make sure that what I invested in could be used throughout the year.

The technical polyester/spandex fabric was very light and the shirt has fine mesh panels under the arms to help with airflow. Ariat’s Moisture Movement Technology is supposed to keep you cooler by pulling moisture away from the skin.

When you hold the shirt up to the light you can see through it, but it’s not too revealing. The 1/4 zip tops have a mock collar and stock tie loop, so the plain white shirt would work well for a show shirt.

I found the shirt to fit true to size and was stylish enough to wear out and to the barn. It was long enough to tuck in if needed and had flattering seams on the sides.

The fabric isn’t the softest compared to some of the other brands I tried, but it’s very light, and I felt it cooled my skin even when I sweat.

I wish they made a red and black one, then I’d be all set for those cooler cross-country days!

SmartPak EQology 1/4 Zip Long Sleeve Top

22927_Navy_Front

I’ve been really impressed with SmartPak’s clothing, especially their breeches, and after trying an EQology short sleeve top I decided to try their budget sun shirt.

The tencel/bamboo material is eco-friendly and very light weight and has UV protection. I bought the turquoise first and thought it was too sheer, so I exchanged for the navy.  I don’t think it wicked moisture away as well as some of the other tops I tried.

The shirt has Raglan sleeves and thumb loops. I was not a fan of the fit of the sleeves, especially towards the bottom where they were quite baggy. I ended up rolling them up several times. They sort of felt like they’d been stretched out, but that’s just the design of the shirt. The rest of the shirt fit true to size on me.

Tuff Rider Ventilated Tech Shirt

tuffrider-ventilated-tech-shirt-ladies-long-sleeve-M0

The Tuff Rider Ventilated Tech Shirt immediately felt heavier when I opened the package. The material also felt cheaper, but I think it’s just a different technology. It’s a thicker mesh with lighter mesh on the underside of the sleeves, and I felt a little “stuffier” when I rode. It’s not as sheer, so I think that contributes to the lower breathability factor.

It wasn’t my favorite for super hot days, but it comes in several sizes and with a good price!

89aUSPCZh3Uq5tVmNcdDUhvzOvRnBc3jiiX2F08VIX8

Kastel Denmark Signature Sun Shirt

Maybe it’s the $75 original price tag, but I feel so sophisticated and European wearing the Kastel Denmark Signature Sun Shirt.

They’re on sale on eBay for $25-$30 each though, so jump on it quick!

I have a zip up and 1/4 zip top one, and these are a close second favorite to the Ariat shirts. The material, which has a slightly pocked underside to aid in moisture wicking, is very soft and has a UPF 30 factor as well as anti-microbial agents to help keep the smell down.

The shirt looks very fitted in the promo photos, but I ordered my usual size and it wasn’t tight, which I prefer. The sleeves have fitted cuffs, which felt weird at first, but I much prefer that to the loose SmartPak sleeves. They also have a very fine mesh on the underside.

I think these did the best job with cooling. When I walked in my air-conditioned house after sweating through during a ride I almost immediately felt chilled! It was also very breathable during the ride.

I bought the royal blue and dark blue, and they’re thin, but not sheer thankfully!