Games fever has set in, with the start of the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics now less than a month away. While riders are focusing on fine-tuning their horses’ schooling and fitness, as well as their own, the all-important grooms are embarking on the daunting prospect that is packing and planning for the trip.
“I started creating packing lists last week – they run to between 150 and 200 items per horse,” Alan revealed.
“The team have trunks supplied for them, which all stack nicely on the plane and can be easily loaded and unloaded. We get roughly a 200kg allowance per horse.
“Within that I have to include all the tack, numnahs, bandages, competition gear, feed, supplements, shampoo, sprays – everything they’ll need. Some of the riders’ things are included in the weight allowance too, so I have to take their boots and tailcoats for example. Heaven forbid I don’t fold them properly and get told off!”
One of the toughest aspects of packing, is that once the lists are complete, they cannot be changed – there’s no chucking in a spare girth at the last-minute.
“It’s hard as I’m a bit of a hoarder, and like to have hundreds of everything with me,” chuckles Alan.
He says that packing for Tokyo is so far proving more straightforward than for the Rio Olympics in 2016, however.
“There were so major regulations we had to abide by, for example we couldn’t take anything wooden with us – like grooming brushes with wooden backs,” he says.
“I had to list literally every item in my grooming kit for Rio and it was horrendous. Normally I have hoof picks and mane combs coming out of my ears because I just never know if I’m going to lose one, or if I will want something different. But this time, I can just put “grooming kit” on the list, thank goodness.”
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“Planning for an Olympics starts months in advance,” he continues, pointing out that even the best laid logistical plans can go awry – or threaten to!
“Before the flight to Rio I had to drive Nip Tuck and Valegro out to Liège in Belgium on my own. I got stuck in traffic on the way there, and I was panicking thinking, ‘If I miss this flight, I’ve got 50% of the British team on my lorry’. I was shouting, ‘Get out of my way’.”
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