On Saturday morning all 47 Dressage horses passed the jog at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. The riders then waited their turns to get a chance to school in the arena at the Guadalajara Country Club. The U.S. team was last to go.
The day started with the Venezuelan team. Each country was allowed 20 minutes in the arena. Then it was Brazil, Canada, Cayman Islands, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Puerto Rico and Mexico going before the US. While the riders tested the footing and atmosphere conditions they would face in the arena, the photographers tried to work out shooting positions where they would be able to get the best possible photos.
The feeling of the Country Club is not as expansive as in some of the Olympic size arenas. The seating is set back so that the horses aren’t too close to where people are seated. Half the arena is grandstand seating while the other is reserved for VIPs with tables and catering. Wandering around the country club colorful Mexican signage is everywhere-bold pinks, sky blue, yellow green and burgundy seem to be the colors of choice.
The press room is basic but has most of what the media needs. The one main thing that is missing is lockers but the staff is plentiful and very helpful. The room has the press conference setup on one side with the working area on the other. So far internet access is excellent everywhere; something that is critical for journalists.
Restrictions continue and are nothing new to those who have traveled to most of the international events. The rules and regulations are often established by those who have never taken a picture for publication or written a story. Yet, they are the ones that decide the best places for the photographers to shoot from and the writers to get their stories. They don’t think about things such as where the sun is or if the Pan American Games signage will be visible in the backdrop of the photos or even if there is a decent backdrop from where they allow the photographers to shoot.
Only a handful of journalists showed up at the Country Club on schooling day but before they arrived everyone had to go through the same process. First you head over to the MAC (Main Accreditation Center) to get photographed and have a credential placed around your neck. Right across from the accreditation center is the MPC (Main Press Center) where there is a large working area for media, cafeterias and the various Federations and organizations, as well as Nikon, where photographers can borrow equipment and have it cleaned.
From there shuttle service is available to the various venues, including the Country Club. However, the shuttles only run on competition days so for the schooling your best option was a cab for approximately 85 pesos (around $7).
Everywhere you have to send your bags through metal detectors along with anything else that might send off the alarms. Yet overall there is decent access for the media and a group of people that are trying to help as much as possible.
The training started at 2:00 p.m. but by the time the U.S. team entered the arena it was close to 7:00 with a start time the next morning of 8:30 a.m. for the Team competition. While all the teams had the riders go in together, the U.S. team opted to each take their turn. Heather Blitz went first and Paragon was elegant with sweeping extensions and impressive passage. Marisa Festerling was next in the arena and she and Big Tyme varied their movements using the time to accustom themselves to the footing and the setup. Cesar Parra rode Grandioso, who was true to his name showing a lot of power. Last to go was Steffen Peters and Weltino’s Magic who was also impressive and seemed unfazed by anything around.
Outside the arena Technical Advisor Anne Gribbons and Chef d’Equipe Eva Salomon were busy watching the clock and ensuring each rider had their opportunity to school.
It was about 8:00 by the time the press room was closed and everyone finally headed home. As we wandered by the front entrance just by chance Cesar Parra was chatting with friends and had some final thoughts to pass along. “The arena is great, everyone is wonderful and tomorrow we hope for the best.”
Sunday is a long day and the focus will be on the Teams. The day begins at 8:30 and by the time the class if over around 6:00 the placements of the teams will be known. We’ll all be there rooting the riders on and capturing them in our photos and words. So, for sure, take the journey with us.
Photo Credit: Cesar Parra and Grandioso; Press Room; Marisa Festerling ans Big Tyme. All photos by Diana DeRosa