Woody started the journey off first by heading to Wellington to train with Christilot for a week prior to departure for England. I headed to Wellington March 28th for some lessons with Christilot before flying out of Miami March 31st.
March 28th I had a lesson and we spent a lot of time going over the half half and halt so that Woody was learning to respond quickly to the aids. He has been quite pleased with himself since winning Red Hills 4*. 😉
March 29th was an excellent lesson because not only did I have Christilot there to teach me I had Megan Lane to watch while I rode. A few years ago I competed at Caledon dressage show and Megan was there training and competing also. I really watched how she rode the canter work and it stuck with me for a long time. Seeing her ride again was so helpful. She really rides the uphill balance of the canter stride with her core and seat while making it look easy. So watched and practiced with Woody. Then Christilot asked her to show me a half halt almost to the point of piaffe for a few steps then ride working trot again. I told Woody to watch that part because it’s going to take effort from both of us to do that as well as Megan does.
On Saturday (March 30th) Woody had the day off to prepare for his long journey. Usha treated him on Friday and then Brian shod him with the winning shoes.🏆
Saturday morning Dr Surasky gave him some fluids to make sure he was well hydrated for such a long trip.
11:00 a.m. the horse trailer came to pick up Woody, Snow (Ann’s horse) and all our equipment. Ann drove back to Ocala to drop off her trailer and I went to Miami quarantine with the horses. We got there around 1:00 p.m. and dropped the horses off at the barns. Then off to the Martin Air cargo loading to drop off the equipment. They weigh it and record it so they know how much to charge for freight. I’m flying with Equijet again, nothing but the best for the Woodst⭐️r! Bastian and his team are kind and caring. Bastian personally came and helped me load up and set off from Wellington and his driver Paul was amazing. He took me to dinner Saturday evening while we waited for the horses to head to the airport.
I waited with the horses until the trucks came to pick them up at 11:00 p.m. and the drive with them to the pallet loading docks near airport. Seeing as how I got to do this last year I felt I knew a little better what to expect. The horses shared a pallet so they had good sized stalls and off they went to the airplane. I went back to the Martin air cargo loading area and waited for the flight crew to show up. The two captains introduced themselves and I followed them to the stairs that lead up into the plane. The horses were already on so I went back through the belly of the plane past boxes stacked to the roof full of flower bulbs. I found the boys and gave them some carrots before climbing the ladder back up to the front of the plane.
This year I got to sit in behind the captains and have a headset for take off and landing. 😳 What an experience! It was about 1:45 a.m. when we took off into the night sky. The runway was lit up like a Christmas tree I don’t know how they can keep all the different colored lights organized in their heads, phew. Once we levelled out I was allowed to go visit the horses again and see how they were after take off. I offered them both water from a bucket and they turned their noses up at me until I offered them carrots. I checked on them every two hours until it was time for landing eight hours later. As we pulled into our parking spot with the plane the pilots both turned to me and said “Welcome to Stanstead.” I almost fell out of my captains chair and said “for real?”
Let me explain why I was in a state of shock. Equijet booked this flight for me to Stanstead over a month ago and up until 48 hours before departure that’s where we were headed. Then Martin Air called to say the flight had been cancelled and we’re going straight to Amsterdam. Apparently vets and stables onsite in Stanstead won’t work weekends. So that was fine. Bastian and I worked out how we were going to arrange getting Woody, Snow and I from Horse Hotel Holland to Mark Todd’s in England. Well guess what…yes they canceled the flight but they still landed in Stanstead to unload some flowers and refuel, which took an hour, then we took off again and went to Amsterdam, which took two hours. So, at that point, the horses had been on the flight for about 11 hours, and then I had to drive them back to England the next day?!?! So, no shout out to Stanstead airport vets or stables.☹️
Anyway, I got off the plane with the crew and was driven on a shuttle with them to the airport building in Amsterdam. I had instructions (albeit limited ones) to find my way to a pillar outside the airport near the ABN bank so that the NCS (horse section of airport) could pick me up and take me to the horses onsite. Well that’s all fine and dandy except the shuttle driver wouldn’t let me follow the directions and he insisted I go in the building. (Language barrier)
I was carrying two backpacks that weighed a ton and a huge painting wrapped in bubble wrap and cardboard that I was bringing over for a friend who moved there and wanted it brought over. The very kind captains took one of my backpacks and I carried the rest as we tried to find our way through the airport. When I got to where I could go no further (crew had badges and their own security area) the captain handed me the other backpack and tried to point me in some sort of direction. Then I’m wandering through the airport till I ended up at customs (not where I wanted to be at this point) and got stuck in line for 30 mins or more.
I handed the officer my passport and he asked why I’m here. I reply “just passing through on my way to England for a competition with my horse.” He wished me luck and handed back my passport. Wow I think to myself, that went better then I thought. I walked toward the doors past the luggage carousel and an officer pulled me up. He asked what I have in my arms and I explain it’s a painting for a friend. “Is it a gift?” he asks. “No,” I said, “It belongs to a friend who moved from USA to UK and I’m bringing it to her.”
Luckily he has a sense of humor and said “Is it a Rembrandt? If so, we split the profit, yes?” Then another guard came over and they both asked where I was going. Well I’m trying to find the horses I flew with and I have no idea where I am. Luckily just then the NCS called me and I tell them what’s happened and try to explain where I’ll go outside and meet them. The customs officers were very helpful and told me where I was, so off I went outside to try and meet my ride. Well that took another 30-45 mins of ring around the roses. FINALLY they picked me up and drive me to the horses, meanwhile they had not handed in my carnet to the customs officers to get the ball rolling on clearing my equipment, so I could leave the airport. Bart who owns the Horse Hotel Holland had been waiting for me and, unfortunately, he had to wait a lot longer until the equipment was cleared. I felt so bad for him waiting around for ages when a lot of time could have been saved had they handed in my carnet hours before while I was lost in the airport.️
We loaded the horses and equipment in the whipping cold wind and 10:30 p.m. and off we went to the lovely Horse Hotel Holland. Unloaded the horses at about 11:00 p.m. and went up to bed. Denise (Bart’s daughter) made me some cheese sandwiches for a snack and to take with me on my journey the next day. So kind. 😍
April 1st my alarm went off at 3:30 a.m. and I headed downstairs to feed the horses and get started on unloading the equipment from one trailer only to load it into the horse box that would take us to England. My driver Rob was a champ and he was up helping me at 4:15 a.m. so we were loaded and ready to head off at 4:45 a.m. to avoid the traffic in Antwerpen. We made excellent time and the horses were very comfortable in an air ride, eight horse lorry supplied by ETA. These guys are pros and last year they moved 3,800 horses all over Europe. 😱 This year I decided to take the Eurotunnel to England from Calais instead of the ferry. It’s more expensive, but it’s not weather dependent, you can pre-book and it’s MUCH faster. In fact, we made such good time by avoiding rush hour and getting up at a ridiculous hour that we were at the train two hours ahead. We asked them if we could take an early one and they said “Yes by 10 mins.”
So I hung out in the plaza at the tunnel station and used the WiFi to inform everyone back home of my adventures so far. Then we drive the lorry onto the train with just centimetres to spare on either side. Then you park in the and it’s like the London Tube takes only about half an hour and you pop out the other side. Having gone under the English Channel you definitely feel your ears pop from the pressure but other then that it’s quite relaxing so I had a nap in the truck.
Once we got off the train it was a very short drive to the ETA stables at Dover. I unloaded the horses for 20 mins to try to get them to drink. They dunked their haylage a little, but that was it, so I loaded them back onto the trailer and off we headed to Mark Todd’s yard. Only took about 3.5 hours to get there and we arrived around 4:30 p.m. to wonderful sunshine. I unloaded the horses and put them in their own barn in huge stalls across from each other. Then unloaded my equipment into our very own tack room. Moving up in the world.
After keeping an eye on the horses for a while and then feeding them I was picked up by the wonderful Jess and taken to her fabulous home in Chievely. I stayed here last year and they leant me a car. In gracious Jess style she made me a delicious dinner (and I thought I was too tired to eat)…ya right! Once that deliciousness was in front of me I inhaled it at the speed of light. In a food coma I crawled into a snuggly bed with a heating blanket and passed out.