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October 18, 2011

The Spirit Of The Pan American Games Has Been Overwhelming

Lauren enjoyed hanging out with members of the Cuban volleyball team.

Walking down the barn aisles on the first day was overwhelming. I tried to ask for help in broken Spanglish, which left me wondering if I even spoke English. I came early to the Pan American Games without a groom, without a coach, without a veterinarian and without a team. I relied on my past showing experiences to pull me through. The Pan American Games, however, is not just like any other horse show experience.

After I found my stall, I was pleasantly surprised when one of the grooms quietly carried all of my things to my tack room without me even noticing. The veterinarian from El Salvador who I met while here has taken time out of each day to watch my horse be ridden. Ecuador invited me to have lunch with them when I was just finding friends. Mexico’s veterinarian got my mother a taxi to get to the horse park. I could go on, but the point is that I have received this quiet, but priceless help during my entire time here. I, the lone Puerto Rican, have been adopted by El Salvador, Uruguay and other Latin American countries as one of their own.

As I wrote previously, the purpose behind these Games is to unite the Americas. I have received nothing but care and consideration from all the countries I have encountered. I, surprisingly enough, feel comfortable walking into a barn where I don’t understand more than 75 percent of what I hear because of the quiet force of care that these people have shown towards me.

Through these relationships, built through a love for horses, living in the western hemisphere and broken Spanglish, I have learned the diverse and unique stories of the riders that make up the eventing portion of the Pan American Games.

I’ve spent years developing my horse to ride at the two-star level, and I’ve spent the past two years preparing for these Games. It took specific selection of the right horse, nerve-wracking shows and careful preparation to get here. However, the riders that I call my friends have very different stories than many of us could identify with.

Over the course of the past week, I’ve learned more about some rider-and-horse teams. Many of the riders come from show jumping and cavalry backgrounds. These riders, mostly men, are here after a year or two years of eventing. They have obtained horses through adoption from previously harmful homes, abandonment and some purchases. They’ve taken these diamonds in the rough and turned them into international horses that they are hoping to compete with at next year’s Olympic Games.

I spend a lot of my time watching these riders. I practice trying to place the breeds with the horses, because many of the riders are guessing themselves. These stories serve as inspiration to me to remember that in the sport of eventing the relationships we have with our horses are vital. Many of these horses find strength and comfort in their riders because they are the first people to see their drive, their desire to compete, and the potential to experience events like this.

Each day walls of my perception about the way this sport should be done are broken down by the partnerships and hospitality of the people I have the fortunate opportunity to compete with. Here’s to the Pan Ams! The path here is not always expected, straight or easy, but we all join together in the reality that we are at the Pan American Games taking in the experience of a lifetime.

Thanks for reading! 

Until next time,
Ginger & Lauren

LaurenBillys.com

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