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August 20, 2014

Moats, Castles And France's Version Of Walmart

The view from the grooms' quarters at the Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team's pre-WEG base in Chantilly, France, isn't too shabby. Photo by Megan Kepferle.

Chronicle blogger and eventing groom extraordinaire Megan Kepferle is in France with her equine charge, Sinead Halpin’s Manoir de Carneville, and she’s checking in with a report of all the behind-the-scenes shenanigans from the Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team’s training base in Chantilly.

So apparently people want to know what’s happening in Camp USA.

What I can tell you today is that Boyd is turning 35 years old, so spread the word.

I also think I may have torn a rotator cuff loading and unloading 56 times the very light amount of equipment we collaboratively brought with us. (I think I heard our shipper say we beat the dressage team in number of trunks... This was not a proud moment.)

I can also tell you it’s pretty fun watching the riders work together to determine how to set up a dressage ring, which is what I’m doing right now.  

Additional things that are fun: cheese, Champagne, wine, French food in general, French wine in general, moats, castles and seven-person vehicles in Europe. Also, the continuously charming struggle of Americans speaking really horrible French. If you want to create some team-building exercises, put a large group of hungry people in a restaurant that speaks a language that no one knows. #teamwork.

Chantilly is beautiful. The farm we’re staying at you’ve likely seen before, and I can tell you there’s a reason why this is a consistent base camp for Team USA. We are not left wanting… Other than those of us sleeping on the property wanting to leave the compound sometimes, and then realizing we don’t have a clicker to get the gate open, and thus being left trying to determine the height of the property walls (high) and the pain threshold of climbing over barbed wire (low).

Yesterday we headed to a really large sports store. Think REI meets Super Walmart. I believe it was Buck Davidson who originally located this fabled warehouse, and soon word traveled through camp, and everyone all of a sudden NEEDED something. 

So yesterday the grooms headed toward the warehouse. No, we didn’t stop to pop into the quaint stone shops or take in the historical highlights of beautiful Chantilly. Instead, between the six of us who went, we walked out with 45 layers of shiny clothing, some new shoes, a couple of watches, and I was really excited to finally buy a protein shaker and some whey protein. (For the record, I later ate a platter of dessert.)

I would consider myself fairly well traveled, but France is not a country I know a lot about. And besides spending a week in 2007 broke in Paris drinking 2-euro bottles of wine each night yelling really bad French over a balcony trying to make friends (didn’t make any), I have spent no time here.

And so personally my goal, aside from winning gold medals, is to learn at least a little bit of accurate French on this trip. I am close to being able to read 40 percent of a menu.

What I can tell you about the U.S. horses, riders and grooms is that everyone works very well together. This is an awesome, eclectic bunch of talent, and I am honored to be a part of it. From sharing stories of trips past to making new memories, we all know that we are lucky to be here.  We are one week from the jog, we are focused, and we are working with our heads down, smiles on our faces, and cheese in our hands.

Bring on Normandy.

—Meg Kep

Meg resides in Chester, N.J., and works as head groom and manager at Sinead Halpin Equestrian. Meg, 28, is also committed to sustainable avenues promoting good horsemanship and the sport of eventing, and her recent dedication to fitness has inspired her to share her story and help others toward “the path of awesomeness” at MyBodyTutor.com. You can read all of Meg's columns here.

 
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