Thursday, July 31, 2008

Video: Sir Paul McCartney Donates Song, Support to British Paralympics Team

Here we go, Olympics Part 2..with a twist and a turn and a set of wheels. As much as I enjoyed the "main" Olympics, I have been looking forward so much to the equestrian events of the Paralympics. This is an event worth following.

Tune in to the Internet coverage! Tell everyone you know to do same!

Video: Riders Escorted Through Hong Kong Airport

British television covered the arrival of "equestrian athletes" (a.k.a. "riders") at the Hong Kong airport this week. The riders are surrounded by a phalanx of greeters and official escorts.

The French Approach to the Olympics

Most of the promotional videos for the Olympic equestrian teams look like they were produced by ESPN: Fast-cut edits, pounding rock music, lots of rippling muscles, and don't forget periodic dirt being thrown in the camera lens. Tough. Ready. Edgey.

Ah, but then there's the French Olympic Committee's whimsical la-la-la of an animation short that looks like our friends at Apple computers lent a hand. Totally charming.

France, of course, is favored by many to take home the Individual Gold in Eventing, thanks to superstar Nicholas Touzaint and his high-flying Hidalgo de l'Ile. They won Badminton this year; it was the first time that anyone from France has won there, and also the first European to win since 1951!

There's nothing whimsical about him or his horse but his native country....vive la difference! Enjoy this video!

Touzaint and Hildalgo after their win at Badminton Horse Trials in May. (Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials/Kit Houghton photo)

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Get to Know: Italian Eventer Vittoria Panizzon

Tall and handsome, Rock Model may have all four hooves on the ground, but his rider's head is often in the clouds.

And that's where it belongs!

Did you know that Italian Olympic team rider Vittoria Panizzon is a member of the Italian Air Force sport group, with the rank of First Aviator?

Vittoria, who won the Junior European Eventing Championship in 2000, has been going to college in England and, of course, speaks perfect English. She now has three horses in active training in England.

You can follow Vittoria's adventures via her blog. Apparently her horse did not weather the 24 hour trip from Aachen in Germany to Hong Kong well and she's concerned, but otherwise seems to think that Hong Kong is quite a grand place! She's not too wild about the Italian team's high-tech official team togs.

Click here to read Vittoria's blog. Note: it is hosted by, the hot new equestrian video site in England. Most of the site is by subscription but apparently anyone can read Vittoria's blog.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Get to Know: Holland's Willeke van Uden, Dressage Groom

Anky van Grunsven and her horse Salinero, shown here in the flight stall, are the co-favorites to win the gold medal in dressage.

No, you won't find Willeke's name on the list of team members for Holland, but you won't find a more important asset to that team. Willeke is the groom for Olympic gold medal (dressage) winner Anky van Grunsven, and she is just settling in at the Sha Tin stables with her horse, Salinero. Anky has already been training!

Willeke is a student at Duerne in Holland. Duerne is a combination of the Kentucky Horse Park and an Ivy League University. It is the official Dutch horse industry school for professional training. Willeke works for and with Anky as part of her education.

Willeke is Anky's "travel" groom and is an expert in getting the horses from point a to point b and keeping them happy and healthy while they are at a show far from home.

Willeke was in Anky's horse van when it crashed in England back in the spring. No one except the van was hurt in that accident, but two of  the world's most valuable dressage horses had to off-loaded on a highway in the middle of the night, put up at a vet's office for the night, and be re-loaded into a replacement van in the morning.

Willeke wrote home to Anky's web site:

‘It goes really well with me and the horses! The flight went very well and the horses are all healthy. They like their stalls in Hong Kong. You can feel the weather here but after all we heard, it seems not as hard as I expected. This afternoon I sat down in the shade and you sweat while doing nothing. Salli is super fit and Anky trained him a little already. The coming days he goes back to normal training but so far so good!"

Meanwhile, Anky writes, "Salli is realy fit after the flight. It all went very well and within two hours after the arrival at Hong Kong airport the horses stood in their Olympic stalls. There is a constant temperature of 23 degrees in the stable. All facilities are very nice and I rode in the airconditioned indoor arena for a while and I rode outside. The temperature is quite okay and it all looks very nice!"

Anky's fans will be able to keep  up with her activities in Holland via reports on her website,, and through the Dutch media. I think it is great that Anky gives so much "air time" to her grooms.

Click here to watch a beautiful mini-documentary showing Anky, Willeke and Salinero working together at home. The narration is in Dutch, but don't let that prevent you from enjoying the photography!

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Typhoon Fung-wong Downgraded to a Tropical Storm, Hong Kong Spared

All those planes carrying all those horses have had plenty to think about the past few days as Typhoon Fung-Wong winds its way westward from the Pacific. It passed over Taiwan, apparently doing a lot of damage, and then was downgraded to a tropical storm as it headed over the mainland of China...toward Beijing!

All of these places are quite far north and east of Hong Kong, although some remnants of the storm apparently can be felt. Moderate rain is expected tomorrow. Typhoon Fengshen hit Hong Kong last month.

The Horses Have Landed!

Well, some of them, at least.

The extremely efficient plan was to offload the horses from the jumbo jets and sprint them off to their stables faster than the human passengers could collect their bags and get through customs. The horses would travel in air-conditioned vans with police escorts and support vans. And it all went according to plan, at least with the first group that arrived on Saturday!

These images are provided without captions by the Equestrian Games office and the Hong Kong Jockey Club. I know the bay with the snip on his nose, led by the red-headed groom, is Salinero, and the bay behind him is Hunter Douglas Sunrise but I am not sure of the others. (It's nice that the Dutch usually wear orange so you can always pick them out of the crowd.) 

The fellow in khakis and a blue shirt helping the grey out of the van is the transport mastermind for Peden Bloodstock and the FEI, Martin Atock.

It's interesting to note the transport legwear worn by each horse. And no coolers! The temperature in Hong Kong It's a pretty big switch from Canada or Ireland or Sweden.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

G2K (Get to Know): Canada's Kyle Carter, Eventing

Get to know Canada's Kyle Carter in this video clip from

Kyle Carter lives outside Ocala, Florida, on his prophetically-named "Five Rings" horse farm and training center. You may remember him flying around the cross-country course at Rolex or heard about his fifth-place finish at the Pan Am Games in Brazil last year.

But when it comes time to compete, Kyle Carter wears the maple leaf, not the stars and stripes, on his saddle pad. 

And now it's time for Hong Kong. For the first time, the 39-year-old Alberta native will be representing his home country at the Olympics. Riding the known-to-be-mischievous 10-year-old American ex-racehorse Madison Park, Carter has been preparing by schooling under the watchful gaze of Olympic gold medalist David O'Connor.

Kyle Carter and Madison Park flew to Hong Kong on July 25th. Kyle told that he has opted to skip the experience of being with athletes from all sports as part of Team Canada in the open ceremonies in Beijing on August 8 because it would require a plane trip and time away from his horse. He competes the next day.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Someone Flipped the Switch on the Amazing Olympic Architecture!

How about this! Meet the Aquatic Center at the main Olympic site near Beijing. They turned the lights on tonight and one word says it all: WOW! ( photo)

Take a Look: The 2008 Olympic Medals

Take a look at the front (top) and back (lower) silver, gold and bronze medals for the 2008 Olympics. Each medal is also made with some jade inlay as the inspiration for the design is the ancient Chinese "bi" coin, made of jade.

Yes, take a look: this might be as close as most of us will ever get to one!

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Transport Team Ready and Waiting for the Planes to Land

The air is a steamy, humid 32 Centigrade (90 Fahrenheit). The horse transport fleet stands ready: it includes about one dozen air-conditioned vans for horses and grooms, five horse ambulances, a veterinary van and other support vehicles.

The sprawling horse vans are outfitted with the horses' safety and comfort in mind. Each can accommodate nine racehorses. But to provide the equestrian horses more space, each lorry will carry a maximum of six Olympic or Paralympic horses. Rubber lining the trailer's walls, floor and kick board protect the horses from injury, and a waste trough keeps the compartment tidy. Grooms, who sit in the trailer, can comfort and attend to the horses if needed, and have an alarm bell or intercom with which to communicate with the driver.

Today, July 23, the Hong Kong Jockey Club is opening the doors of the Olympic stable complex adjacent to the Sha Tin racecourse. Soon the air will  be electric and the barns will smell of liniment and hay and molasses and...horses.

I look forward to bringing you closer and closer to the equestrian events at the 2008 Olympics. It will seem much more real once the horses have arrived.

Welcome to Fran Jurga's "WorldRides" Blog we go!

Who's who at the Olympics Equestrian Games in Hong Kong? And who are they riding? And what are their stories?

The world’s best equestrians are packing their bags to head to Hong Kong for the 2008 Olympics Equestrian Games. In just 15 short days, all eyes in the equestrian world will be on the tiny island off the southern coast of China. Who are these riders from around the world?

Get to know the glorious winners...and the lovable losers...come with me behind the scenes and through the language barrier as I introduce you to new equestrian heroes and their horses!”

Visit this blog daily, or click on the RSS feed icons at right to read this blog in your favorite news reader, such as your customized Yahoo! or Google home page.

Expect lots of photos, video and unusual news that you won't find anywhere else., thanks to the best technology the Internet can offer.

Don't expect to read much about the American riders in this blog, because has ace coverage of the US teams as well as direct reports from key riders and personnel. I will be introducing you to the Lusitano horse on the Australian dressage the dentist on the German eventing the Brazilian dressage the Welsh farrier...and to the people of Hong Kong who are welcoming the horse world to their island and making these games so special and unforgettable.

Here we Hong Kong!

--Fran Jurga

Do you have questions? Click on the "comments" link at the end of a post and I will do my best to answer your questions!