Friday, November 12, 2010

Coming Home from the WEG

I had packed up a lot of the booth stuff on Sunday, so Monday morning, Cindy's (our hostess in Lexington) boyfriend Dennis, came and helped me finish packing and load up. Thank goodness for helpers, as it would have taken me much, MUCH longer to get everything squared away. I hugged our neighbors (make sure to watch "The Greening of Whitney Brown" when it comes out) and headed back to Cindy and Dennis'. They were great hosts - I was there the entire time, plus setup (so 19 days?), and they had people coming and going the entire time. Cindy was 'ground zero' for horses and people coming in for the International Equestrian Festival, that took place in downtown Lexington. We had Tekes and Teke people coming and going from October 3rd to the 10th, which is when the IEF took place. It was great fun to see OPH (other people's horses) and get to chat with people I usually only talk to via email or phone. We didn't get to visit nearly as much as I would have hoped, as I was alone most of the second week and off to the booth around 8 in the morning, getting back at 6 or 7 pm. Tatiana Ryabova, Tito and Natasha Pontecorvo, Milena Stoszek and some other people came by the booth the last Saturday night. Tatiana gave a talk during the day on Saturday and did an inspection at Cindy's on Sunday. Unfortunately, I missed both, as I was at the booth, promoting our horses.

Anyway, back to Monday, take down day. Dennis and I headed back to their place and Dennis helped me pack up and I was headed out the gates around 3:30 pm. I decided to drive for 5 or so hours and stop. Silly me. There are NO parks, campgrounds, gas stations, you name it from about 4 hours outside of Lexington heading SW until you get to a park in the middle of nowhere Indiana or Illinois. I was panicking by the time I finally pulled into a gas station at 10 pm at night...I was driving on fumes, starving and so very tired. Happily, I gassed up both the truck and myself and found a campsite at a deserted state park. Locked my doors and went to sleep. Next morning, I tried to find where to pay (never did), so after about a half hour, I headed out. I made it to April Pruente's place around 4 or 5 pm and spent the night, after admiring her horses and a great meal at the local buffet.

Next day, I drove, and drove, and drove. I think I did 15 or 16 hours and made it to Jas and Shannon's place in Colorado. Thank goodness for audio books! I was really wanting to be home, so the very long day was worth it. Next morning, I waited for Tatiana, Tito, Natasha and Milena to show up and instead of heading out as I planned, I spent the day talking and talking. It was lovely visiting with Tatyana, as I hadn't seen her in at least 8 years. We all talked and planned and looked at horses. Then, we headed out to dinner and it was bedtime. Next morning, I got on the road and drove until 6 or 7 pm. I spent the night in Idaho or Oregon...can't quite remember which. I was really itching to be home.

I pulled into my home driveway on Saturday, October 16th, around 6 pm and basically hugged everyone, was leaped on by the dogs and then sat and drank a beer. 29 days on the road...whew. I think I'll wait another 10 years to do this again. Fantastic, one in a lifetime journey, but LONG.

I'm still cleaning up, unpacking (almost done!) and finishing up WEG thank yous and getting back into my normal routine. I have had my butt in the saddle since I got home, almost a month ago, but it's still sporadic. I'm trying to do all the stuff I usually get done in Sept/Oct now, before it really starts getting nasty. Almost there! Galen is sure that he's been totally neglected, as we still haven't gotten out on the trails. Soon...I finally have the horse trailer unloaded completely. My family was amazing - the kids pretty much took care of the barn, poor Larry had to do his job and mine and the boarders helped out too. Thank yous all around!

I'm glad I went, but I'm really glad to be home.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

WEG, Part 2

Photos from top: Tatyana Ryabova, Tito Pontecorvo,their translator (I forgot her name!) and me in the booth on Saturday night before Show Jumping. Next are some of the rivers of children that came by the booth, then a shot of one of the outsides of the booth with one of our banners and last is Jas and Monica setting up the booth in the heat.
The next day, we headed in to finish up the booth. We had done most of the heavy lifting (and building of bookcases) the day before. Now we had to hang, adjust, hang, adjust everything until it was just right. We realized that zip ties are one of the handiest things out there (I bought a huge packet at Costco and thank goodness I did!), that we had planned better than we realized and we had our booth pretty much up and done by the end of the day. It was HOT - both set-up days were around 95 degrees, which I am not used to. Jas had to keep bugging me to drink more, as I was getting quite dehydrated. It was almost like an endurance ride. We finished up and headed out and got to drink beer and chat with Cindy back at the farm in the gazebo. Shades of things to come? NOT!

The first day of WEG was Endurance. Monica was covering it and Jas had tickets, so we had a very long day planned. We got to the park at O dark hundred in the morning, parked in some field along with a zillion other vehicles and headed in. Jas helped me open the booth, while Monica went off to the Endurance start. Not much traffic to begin with, but it allowed those last minute touches on the booth. Jas came and went all day, and we watched the endurance ride on the computer - little green dots following the trail (usually, although a few wandered off here and there, which I think was a tracking glitch, not the actual riders going off course). We were amazed at the speeds they went - at one point, one dot was going 33 kpm. We had people coming and going all day and we started honing our 'speech'. I got it down to about a paragraph by the end of WEG. People would ask about the breed and we'd give our 'speech'. Then, we'd answer any specific questions, hand out informational booklets and if they were interested enough, a DVD. We found the positions of all the surrounding bathrooms and found the nearest food. Food was terribly expensive - later in the week, Jas and I split a hamburger and had a drink each and it cost $17! That was one of the biggest complaints we heard - limited food and expensive. We got to meet some local volunteers and talked and talked and talked. That night was the opening ceremony, so we were supposed to stay open until 10 pm. We didn't make it to 10, as we'd been there since around 6, but we closed up and headed for the truck. At this point, we realized an almost fatal error- we hadn't really checked where we parked that morning and it was dark. FINDING the truck was an exercise in frustration. The volunteers in the parking area knew nothing (although they were very friendly), nothing was marked and we spent at least 45 minutes figuring out we weren't even parked in that parking lot! On to the next, further one, and me with my smart key, trying to get the truck to flash its lights at us. It is dark out, we're exhausted and we can't find our ride. We weren't the only ones either. We heard other people stumbling around in the dark, the occasional beep of a car as it recognized it's key, but we FINALLY found the truck. Later we heard that after the opening ceremonies ended, it was utter chaos. No one had thought to remember where they parked, people were stumbling around in the dark for hours and THEN, they sat in line for more hours trying to get OUT of the one entrance/exit. It was one of the many places that the organizers could have improved - section numbers, colors, something to help figure out where your car was parked. The next day we put a GPS tag on the truck, just in case.

Second day we got there later, and watched some of the best condition judging for Endurance. Lovely horses! We also got to watch some warm-ups for dressage and eventing over the course of the WEG. Fantastic!

After the first day, we settled into a rhythym. We'd get to the booth (later and later, as no one showed up until at least 10 am), open up, get our coffee from our nice next door neighbors, set up the slideshow and DVDs and settle in to answer questions. We had a pretty good flow of people, although some of our neighbors were very unhappy with our location. We were quite a ways from any of the big arenas, there was little to no signage to direct people to the Equine Village, and although I heard that the WEG ended up with around 500,000 visitors over the course of the entire 16 days, we sure didn't get that many in the Equine Village. We had some big clinicians there, who I'm sure were rather unhappy with the lack of traffic. The Trade Show, up by the Main Arena, seemed to be pretty busy, every time I went through it. Maps were terrible - it took us days to find certain booths, and we were 'in the know'. There were events going on all the time in different locations that we heard about after the fact. We did get to get out and see a few of the clinicians and demos- Jas and Monica were great at letting me get out and about some and Amrita and Jenny came and helped out during the Eventing days. Anne-Marie came to help for a few days and
several days we had a few other people stop by and help for a bit.

The weather was usually pretty decent - there was one day that was cold, rainy and miserable. I was freezing and when I got back to the camper, I was asleep in about 30 seconds.

We had people stop by from all over the world. I talked to people from just about everywhere that there are horses and many of them had heard about Akhal-Tekes, quite a few knew a fair amount and an astounding number knew of one, had ridden one, or owned one! As someone who has been involved in the breed for almost 25 years, this was very heartening. I can remember when all I heard was "It's a WHAT?". We also had schools bringing kids by on field trips - rivers of children, all happy to be out of school. I heard that every school in the Lexington and surrounding areas came to the WEG on field trips during the Games. We handed out thousands of postcards - after the first day, we just found the adult in charge and gave them packets of postcards to distribute - trying to give them to the kids wasn't possible with only one person at the booth most of the time.

As to who was interested in Tekes, the endurance crowd was very interested - we had most of the smaller country teams come by after the Endurance and chat. The big guys, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, they have their own breeding programs, but we had team members from several smaller 'powers' come and chat. We'll see what happens in the future, but that was great. We also had quite a bit of interest during Eventing and we played the lovely tribute video to Kandar, that was provided by his owner and rider, Karen Yates. Kandar was an astounding Teke, who was long-listed for the 2000 Olympics in 3-day with Karen. Every time I watched the DVD, I thought, "That looks easy, I could do that". Then, I'd go "HA", as I know what those jumps look like from walking around the course during the WEG. But, Kandar and Karen made it look easy. We didn't get many from the Show Jumping crowd and not many from Dressage, although the ones that did come knew about Absent (Teke stallion that went to 3 consecutive Olympic Games in the 60s for Russia in Dressage and medaled in all Games). We had some vaulters come, although I doubt we'll see many slender Tekes as vaulting horses, some driving people, a few reiners (the Chef d'equipe from Ireland came by - he'd ridden a Teke in Arizona years back and remembered the horse fondly), and lots and lots of people who just liked horses.

We had people come by and take photos of the booth itself, people come and offer to buy the beautiful costumes and rugs (nope!), and people that just wanted to find out more. All in all, a very positive and excellent outcome for our venture.

The last Sunday was very slow and our neighbors had already packed up. I closed early and was able to start packing up. Now, all I had to do was take down and pack everything and drive the 2700 miles home! In the next installment...