There were no events lined up for the next day so I wandered around the exhibits. If it’s even vaguely horse related and for sale, it was present in one of the hundreds of booths. Overpriced WEG paraphernalia (think €50 for a t shirt), trailers, cars, tack, clothing, medicine, supplements, novelties, subscriptions, food vendors, all present. There were lots of cowboy hats in the crowd, and I was so nostalgic that I bought a black felt hat from a French woman. Mom: now that I’ve paid for my own hat, I know why you got so mad that Little McKenna sat her little butt on your cowboy hats on the regular. I feel like I have a little bit of home now, and maybe someone will come up to talk to me about horses since I’m displaying my interest so obviously. It also doubles as a “please don’t try to speak French to me” alert. A short note on my food for the day. In an effort to slowly wean myself off of the 10-15 cups of tea per day, I bought a coke with lunch that turned out to be €3. In comparison, my lovely sandwich only cost 6. It was called “The Norman” made up of food the region is known for: camembert, apples, and an herb butter. (Mama and Michael: If you are worried that I am not eating enough, it’s only because I find writing about food to be boring so I frequently edit meals out unless they are as interesting as The Norman.)
In an event arena, I saw fun horse displays. Some were similar to the Opening Ceremony, like the reenactment of the Battle of Hastings. It was not entirely accurate, as I definitely saw a Saxon help William back onto his horse when he fell off. The garde republicaine performed some of their dressage moves en mass, and there was another display of Akhal Tekes. They are the most beautiful horses I’ve ever seen and look like grayhounds, but I think of it the same way I do dressage: it’s very pretty, and incredibly artificial. The same riders from the ceremony on the Moroccan Barbs showed off their trick riding moves. Dad used to show off by taking one step off while Boomer was still walking and pop back in the saddle. That was step one for the trick riders, but they also rode backwards (like Bek!), did flips around the saddle horn, ran for several steps alongside their horses, and rode upside down. Who knew both Daddy and Bek have Step 1 of Trick Riding in their bag of tricks?
PHOTOS: Garde republicaine; William the Conqueror Reenactment: Sorry Fred Baker, the first war reenactment I saw was the Battle of Hastings.
Wearing my fancy new cowboy hat, I stopped at the information booth to ask a few questions. There was a French girl with fantastic English that I chatted with for quite some time. I asked if all of the volunteers are horse people and she said, “No, some of them are just regional volunteers,” and rolled her eyes. I left to watch some more horse shows, and was kicking myself for not realizing she’s the kind of person I came here to meet. I fabricated a question or two in order to go back to her info booth and ended by asking if she wanted to grab coffee and talk about horses some time. We exchanged details, and I had a facebook friend request waiting for me when I got back to home. Agnes threw together a risotto recipe and I told her I envied her ability to do that, and thanked her for the suggestion that the couch surfer cook food on the second night as a way to share recipes and help out. She said that I am by far the most helpful couch surfer she’s hosted, and she’s had around 25 in the past. :-D I finally had a request from a different host I had contacted who is a horse rider in the area, and he came to pick me up to rescue me from whatever I’m allergic to in her apartment. Agnes and I parted as friends, and I said I’d look her up when I came back to Caen next week.
Moroccan Barbs and trick riding.
The boy couchsurfing host said the only reason he accepted my request is because he felt guilty for being a part of the site but never being involved in it, which I thought was a weird way to start. He then became paranoid that I was going to infest his flat with bedbugs and had me put all of my luggage in trash bags for the night. I understand the precaution, though I don’t think that’s what the problem is. We stayed up watching a pilot episode of a tv series that neither of us got much out of because we talked about his American ex-girlfriend (who I already like more than him) the whole time. I happily went to sleep, but was itchy all night. The inhumanity!!!
I had tickets for the first event possible: para-dressage. I woke and walked to the venue, since the fella’s apartment was in the city center. I picked up my ticket since it had to be printed and there wasn’t one at the apartment, then took a shuttle to the hippodrome. I sat in the rain and watched the event for probably an hour, then slunk out in search of food (there was no breakfast food in the flat). I struck off in the general direction of the city center and stopped at a bakery for a delightful goat cheese eggplant tart thingie, and finally decided the state of ichiness was unbearable enough that I needed to find a doctor. A bit terrified of the process, I asked for directions at a pharmacy and was directed a few blocks away. I couldn’t figure out how to open the door so I waited for people to come out before slinking in to take the stairs to the waiting room. Eventually a doctor showed up and asked if I had an appointment (in French) and I said no. He took me to a room, examined my rash, said it was bites of some sort and gave me two prescriptions. The whole experience took about 15 minutes and €23, plus €12 for the two prescriptions. Fantastic, that is way better than at home!
I had made plans to meet the French girl, Karel, at her booth at 2:45. I arrived at 2:45 and spent a half hour looking for her information point. It was raining even harder by that point and I was madder than a wet hen and afraid that my error would cause me to miss meeting her. I eventually found it and returned to the land of the happy. We watched a demonstration of show jumping, which is her preferred sport, and went off to find a screen showing the day’s dressage. We watched together and she explained what each of the different movements were, how hard they are compared to each other, and other subtleties of the movements. It was great fun for me. There was a group of four Spanish riders who have various talents, one of which includes a man riding his horse and using a long stick to draw art in the sand as he rides. It was beautiful, creative, and such an odd concept. It made me think of Toothless in How to Train Your Dragon.
Then we went to the “Kentucky Ale Bar” and ordered beers from a man who is genuinely from Kentucky. He said things like “Sundee” and “nuthin” and I almost asked him to read me the menu because of how happy his accent made me. I asked if he rode horses and he promptly replied, “girl, you ever seen a black cowboy?” It was a good joke, but I ruined it by saying, “yes, three.” I then launched into a brief explanation of the demographics of cowboys of the Wild West, noticed nobody was as interested as me, and shut up. He spoke with another American and mentioned they guy’s daughter is the #1 barrel racer in the world at 13 years old, and she would be giving a demonstration at the arena shortly. The Kentucky man gave us key chain souvenirs on our way out because he was so happy to have found people who speak English. We watched the barrel racing and Karel and my roles were reversed, with me explain some of the ins and outs of barrel racing. I told her the girl was clearly holding back because I’ve seen faster times in Conway, Arkansas. Then there were two more dressage riders, a mother and daughter, giving a demonstration and Karel quizzed me on the different moves. I got pretty good by the end.
Looking for something to do, we went to the train station so I could get a ticket out of Caen for the week, and then we had dinner together. I was so excited that A) my pizza had nothing remotely like mayonnaise on it and B) that it had four types of yummy French cheese on it. She showed me photos of her horse Jazz and invited me to her home in Bretagne at the end of the Games. I accepted without hesitation. THAT is why Watson doesn’t want me to buy all of my plane tickets at once, so I can do unanticipated/relevant side trips like that. We walked back towards the expo park together and I told stories about horses in Kyrgyzstan before I had to turn off. It rained much more than it had all day on my way home.
When I got back to the confusing couch surfer’s apartment, he said, “I was going to say I thought you’d missed the rain, but clearly not.” His English is great because of the aforementioned American ex-girlfriend. I said, “In English, it would be appropriate to say I look like a drowned rat.”