WEG 2010 – an Amazing Journey

29 days and 6500 miles of adventure

Wow! What a whirlwind month (plus a bit). I left WA on September 17th and got back home October 16th. During that time, I clocked 6500 miles on my truck, talked to thousands of people, got a little bit of horsey time in, really learned my camper inside and out, and basically had a great time. Of course, I must say, I don’t plan on doing this again any time soon!

I left Snohomish with Monica Bretherton and the time flew until we arrived at Jas’ place in Colorado. We stopped at a nice state park in Oregon the first night, spent the next night beside a deserted road in Wyoming and made it to Jas’ the 3rd day.

"Stretch" says hello

“Stretch” says hello – photo M. Bretherton

Once at Jas’ we got to get some horse time in, admiring her herd and meeting my little guy, Stretch (Salam x M.V. Elfia). He’s quite nice, with a wonderful temperament, great legs and bone and a very nice shoulder and hip. Lots of chrome too – he looks like he’ll be some color bay – maybe wild bay, with lots of white.

"Stretch" - now  Salamdor - photo M. Bretherton

“Stretch” – now Salamdor – photo M. Bretherton

Jas’ husband, Shannon, was wonderful enough to frame in our garden lattice (and thank goodness, as it took him quite a while. I don’t know what we would have done without him!) and Jas, Monica and I started off the next morning, heading to April Pruente’s place in Missouri, to visit and pick up costumes, rugs, etc for the booth. We stopped at another lovely lakeside state park in Kansas? or somewhere, after battling high winds all day. That really took a toll on our gas mileage…down to 9.4 miles per gallon at one point. Yikes! We made it to April’s the next day and settled in for a short visit of visiting, seeing all her horses and loading her costumes and rugs in the trailer. We continued on to another nice state park, in Indiana or Illinois…and drove to Cindy Sither’s place in Lexington Kentucky the next day. We arrived in the afternoon and set up our camp, including my gazebo (for all those hours of lounging around, NOT!), and solar twinkle lights. Of course, we spent some time meeting Cindy’s herd and chatting with her. She had quite the month planned, with people and horses coming and going.

Cindy's stallion, Garpun, kept watch - photo M. Bretherton

Cindy’s stallion, Garpun, kept watch – photo M. Bretherton

Next morning, the 23rd, we hauled the trailer to the Kentucky Horse Park. We had been told we had to have a vehicle manifest, which I printed out and left at home on the counter. Happily, Monica was able to get it emailed to her on her Ipad. Of course, after all that worry, the guards at the entrance (National Guardsmen and women) didn’t even look at it. Everyone seemed quite confused and there was a lot of building, painting and scurrying going on all over the park. We found our booth, #22 on the side of the Museum of the Horse, and started setting up. As we got going, we realized that it was a good thing we’d given ourselves two days to set up, as it was a LOT of work. We had to park the trailer quite a ways from the booth, so we had to plan what we’d need during the course of the WEG and how we’d get it from the trailer to the booth. The trailer was parked probably half a mile from the booth and our truck ended up being parked about half a mile farther out than that..but more on that later.

We got to see some of the other booths being set up; our neighbors directly beside us were a lovely bunch of young people (they’d probably object, but they were younger than us!) promoting a horse movie called “The Greening of Whitney Brown”. Next to them was El Brio Vanners, whose horse starred in the movie. On our other side, around the front of the Museum of the Horse, was Tommy Turvey, who had trained the horse for the movie. It was pretty interesting. We finished up our first day of putting the booth up and headed back to Cindy’s for dinner and bed.

The Horse Park at dawn - photo M. Bretherton

The Horse Park at dawn – photo M. Bretherton

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.

We saw a lot of Cindy's place in the dark - photo M. Bretherton

We saw a lot of Cindy’s place in the dark

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 rhythm. 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.

Vistors to the booth

Vistors to the booth

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.

Monica and Jill Hallin, who was a WEG volunteer

Monica and Jill Hallin, who was a WEG volunteer

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!

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!