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April 17, 2009

What Happens Behind The Scenes?

Tonight my job was to interview the U.S. show jumpers after they came out of the ring. This is not as simple as you might think. The in-gate area is small and tightly policed. There are coaches, grooms and relatives, who are all trying to watch their horse go. They get priority, and, of course, everyone has to stay out of the way of the horses. Then there are numerous officials who are very serious about keeping the traffic flow orderly.

Pedro Cebulka is the ringmaster of it all. He has his own website: www.pedrocebulka.com. He arrives each day in a new and more fantastic costume, speaks seven languages and is beloved by all the riders.

In addition to Pedro are many Thomas & Mack employees with very specific instructions about where people are allowed to stand. I had to find a new elevator route to the arena after one guard decided I wasn’t allowed to use the one that involved a short walk through a shared space with the horses. I promised him I could stay out of their way, but he didn’t believe me.

When I wasn’t avoiding the horses coming in and out of the ring, I was ducking out of the way of the camera crews. People with video cameras also get priority over mere journalists. You do not want to be the person who gets in the way of the perfect shot or interrupts the live feed! I lived in fear of tripping over the video camera cord.

There is a television in the in-gate area, so I was able to at least see each round. It’s not quite like watching the competition, but hey, I’m getting paid to work, not spectate. In between interviews I befriended the Swiss TV crew and explained the scoring for both the Show Jumping Final and the Dressage Final.

After a show jumper leaves the ring, the horse heads to a boot check station where his protective boots are removed. I had to try and grab each rider as he or she left the boot check station and headed back up the chute to the barns. I would then run alongside to get 30 seconds of interview about how the ride went. Most of the riders were gracious no matter how disappointed they might have been. However, there’s always one who runs away when he sees you approaching.

It’s a lot of running around for a 30-second interview, but it’s fun to be behind the scenes. Stalking a few riders and obeying the whims of in-gate traffic control is a small price to pay for getting a fascinating glimpse into the show behind the show.

Sara Lieser