I’m writing this from quarantine at Hartpury College in Gloucestershire. The atmosphere here is like a camp; everyone’s getting on very well and people are friendly and easy to talk to — it’s like one big family.
With Maria Eilberg [travelling reserve] and Anna [Ross-Davies] here, as well as Laura [Bechtolsheimer] and Emma [Hindle] it is a great opportunity for everyone to bond as we are going to be spending a lot of time together. It’s unusual having a whole team of girls, and things are bound to get difficult nearer the competition, so we’ll need to help each other out.
I had a strange Saturday last weekend. A lady came up the drive a week ago to drop off a pamphlet about the opening of a new pavilion in the village. Then she said to me, ‘we were wondering if you might be prepared to come and open it for us’. I was totally shocked and asked why on earth they’d want me to do it, and she replied ‘you’re the most famous person in the village’. Well that really made me laugh.
So I went along to open the pavilion and gave a little speech about how we’d be giving it our all in Hong Kong. I’m totally convinced that nobody who was there is any the wiser as to who I am now than they were before! But it made me and Aram [Jane’s husband] chuckle.
On Sunday I was meant to pack for quarantine but Ulla [Salzgeber] came over and gave me four lessons in the afternoon, including one on Lucky Star, and I couldn’t face any more than that in the day.
Ulla agreed that bringing Lucky Star home from Germany and backing off him for a few weeks had really freshened him up. It was a confidence boost for me to have that training and to be reminded of things I need to concentrate on right before going into quarantine.
On Tuesday we came to quarantine. I met team farrier Hayden Price early outside the gates as I wanted to get Lucky Star shod at this stage in case something awful happened. The horses were bloodtested and had nasal swabs for equine influenza before going in — we got the results within 15 minutes. Once in quarantine team vet John McEwan checked everything had been disinfected properly. Even our yard coats had to be thoroughly cleaned — everyone’s trying to uphold every rule.
The lorry was inspected and must now stay here until the horses have been in the air on their way to Hong Kong for four hours! We have a “cross over room” in between the yard and the outside world. We walk through disinfectant and change into different clothes and shoes that are only kept that side of barrier. We have to sign in and out, too. Everything must be totally by the book.
Jenny Ellis is our fabulous stable manager and is monitoring all the horses’ temperatures, how much they’re drinking and doing hydration level checks. They’re being weighed too with all this information going onto a daily chart. It means we’ll know what is normal for the horse so we can spot any problems on the flight or in Hong Kong.
On Thursday night we all trained the horses late in the evening so they get used to working out of their routine in Hong Kong. But the biggest education we’ve had so far is going into the heat chamber. All the riders, grooms, and some support staff have been in, and there’s exercise equipment in there if you’re feeling noble.
The conditions in there are very realistic, with the room about the size of a bathroom. I’ve never seen so many people sweat; there’s no being dignified about it. We go in for 40 to 45 minutes, but within five minutes we’re soaked. You could wring your clothes out by the end.
We’re experiencing conditions that are as bad as it could be, it might not be so bad, but at least we’re prepared for what the worst will feel like. I’m going in with a top hat on next week to see how much sweat is going to run into my eyes during the length of a test — if we can’t see, that’s going to be a problem.
We’re going to have to take several changes of clothes and then warmer layers as going from that into the air-con is going to feel very cold. I’m going to warn my parents to bring clothes that will absorb moisture as well as being light — the humidity really is phenomenally oppressive.
Next time you hear from me will be Wednesday before I head to the airport for our flights to Hong Kong. Until then, Jane