Team FLAIR™ Eventer Marta Tabatabai experienced the 2015 Pan American Games from the inside. In these installments, while acting as Groom for Lauren Billys (PUR), our California-based rider describes enjoying a ride of a different kind as she acted as groom for Lauren and Lauren’s horse Purdy during the Games!
Entry Two — Summing It All Up
I can’t believe that less than a month ago I was grooming at the Pan American games. I left Canada with countless great memories, new friendships, and the drive to improve my own riding. It was so surreal to be surrounded by some of the best riders in the world all at one competition. Especially coming from California, it’s not every day you see Mark Todd or Karen O’ Connor walking around at the horse shows. Although I was surrounded by these big name athletes, one thing I noticed was how friendly everyone was. It didn’t matter which country’s stalls I was walking by, I always seemed to be greeted with a smile. I stayed with all the other grooms at the venue so we all got to know one another throughout the week. I had the chance to meet at least one groom, athlete, or vet from every country competing in the games. With only two of the fifteen countries there speaking English, the little bit of Spanish I learned in high school came in handy. It was a neat experience to get to meet all these different people from North, South, and Central America and get some insight to what eventing is like outside of the U.S. One memory that stood out was when a few of the Argentina event riders started talking to me and later walked me through their thoughts on the whole cross country course. As a rider myself, I enjoyed that they took the time to talk to me about the course.
The competition itself was like nothing I’ve ever attended before. Competitors were intense, the crowds were huge, and the patriotism was high. Every country’s team had worked so hard to get every horse and rider pair there and it all came down to who laid down their best performance. The pressure was on but I was impressed with how composed everyone was, regardless of the thousands of people watching. (Maybe I won’t be so nervous next time I do a dressage test with only the judge and my parents watching.)
I wasn’t really nervous until Lauren and Purdy headed out to warm up for dressage. I anxiously waited as they circled the ring and was so happy to see them put in a beautiful dressage test. After a rainy day of dressage, all the horses were loaded up in trailers early in the morning for a police escort to the cross country venue. That was definitely something I hadn’t experienced before! The area was beautiful and the course looked well put together. Although there were some penalties gathered on the course, it seemed to ride well for many. Lauren and Purdy continued the event with a fast and clean cross country round. Watching Purdy gallop around the course with his ears forward, you could tell it’s what he loves to do! After a fun day of running fast and jumping high, Purdy continued on to the second jog. At both jogs it was interesting to see every country’s style, from the military uniforms to the big hats and everything in between. Later in the day, Purdy went into the show jumping arena and jumped a nice round with a few unfortunate rails. All in all, it was great weekend for the Puerto Ricans!
Even though Lauren competed for Puerto Rico as an individual, it definitely felt like Puerto Rico had a team. Just off the top of my head I could think of many people that were part of the team. As we all know, this sport is challenging and can’t be done alone. We had an amazing support group at the games; our vet, coach, owners, friends, family, and Puerto Rican Equestrian Federation officials. Not to mention all the people at home that helped get us here. It’s finally set in that this really happened. I feel so fortunate to have been part of team Puerto Rico on the journey to the Pan American games. It was an experience of a lifetime that I’ll never forget!
Entry One — Getting There
It’s crazy to think that in 2011 I started taking lessons with Lauren Billys and heard about her plans to represent Puerto Rico at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara. Fast forward four years later and I am with Lauren at the Pan American Games in Toronto! I couldn’t be more excited to groom for Lauren at this event! I’m still pinching myself to see if this is really happening.
I don’t think it started to feel real until we had every single thing packed, loaded in the trailer, and we were heading down to LA Tuesday night. That was the moment I took a deep breath and it finally sunk in that we were on our way to the games.
Although I was extremely excited, I knew we had a long trip ahead of us. One of the neatest experiences was flying on the plane with Purdy from LA to Kentucky. I had a seat in the back of the plane with a few other people, while all the horses were loaded in slots in the front. There were dividers between each horse that went halfway up their side so they could still the other horses. From our seats in the back we couldn’t see the horses but I was allowed to check on Purdy as much as I wanted. Purdy didn’t seem to mind being thousands of feet up in the air. He was a little piggy, munching away at his hay like normal. I was surprised with how easy it was to fly the horses. The crew at Tex Sutton had everything running smoothly the entire way.
After landing in Kentucky, I met a horse hauler that came to pick up Purdy and I to drive us to Canada. It was obvious we weren’t in California anymore with the sight of green grass and rain outside. After countless hours of driving, we finally made it to the farm in Canada early Thursday morning.
We met Lauren later that morning and began setting everything up for the few days ahead of us. We weren’t able to move into the facility where the Pan Ams are taking place yet so we’ve been staying at Ghostwood Farms in a town near by. Lauren and I are in awe with how beautiful the farm is. Green pastures, cross country course, show jump arena, dressage court, and plenty of area to hack. What more could an eventer ask for?
The last few days Purdy’s been settling in, enjoying the grass and the perfect weather. He struts around with his head held high, excited as ever. I think he knows what’s coming!
Having watched Lauren and Purdy up close the last month as they’ve done their final prep work, I can say they look better than ever. It looks like all the pieces have come together for them at the most important time. I’m anxiously waiting to watch them head down centerline on Friday. After watching some Pan Am dressage today and meeting athletes from all over Central and South America, I’m more pumped than ever to finally be heading to the venue! Tomorrow we will move Purdy into the Caledon Equestrian Park with all the other event riders. Who knows what this week has in store, but I can tell it’s going to be a week I’ll never forget…