The tour continues.
While the destination is more familiar ground, it has been a very long while since the daughters have competed here. Moving the team operation is not any less complicated nor easier when the surroundings are more familiar. Thorough preparation is still required. “It probably matters more when competing on familiar ground,” says Griffin. “The expectations of how everything should be and work are higher. Disappointment can come much more easily. The tendency to relax is greater.”
airport bound: on the 405 to LAX (7:00 am, Tue Jul 06 2021)
Before our departure from San Juan Capistrano, Griffin’s focus was on the preparations at Colorado Horse Park (CHP), whether they were proceeding as arranged. From team grouping of stalls to supplies to credentials. She pressed her groom staff to know if the arrangements were being followed to the letter. “I will not accept anything less. My job is to take care of my riders and their horses, making sure they are in the best position to be competitive, in the best position to win every class they’ve entered. I will not let down my riders. I will not let down my horses. We are paying premium dollar for premium service. It is important we hit the ground running the very second we arrive in Denver.”
The concern was understandable. This season, the Summer in the Rockies series, is being produced by the Langer Equestrian Group (LEG), a group that manages hunter/jumper shows in California. “Whenever you have a change in show management groups, or have different groups with different responsibilities on site, making sure the arrangements are followed can be tricky. If they directly affect my riders and horses in a bad way, it places us at a competitive disadvantage.”
This is not the first time Griffin has managed a major campaign. She has managed tours for professionals who compete at the highest level. Three years ago, Trish lured Griffin to Colorado for the expressed purpose of mounting successive major campaigns for Deborah, Elizabeth and Tara. “My riders need to be riders.” At the time, Griffin was managing a World Cup campaign. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to leave to come to Colorado. Trish talked her into watching the daughters ride a practice week. Griffin was duly impressed.
The first meeting between Elizabeth and Griffin was tense. “She is a handful,” Griffin said to Trish. “Once you get to know her, she is sweet as can be. Very polite, very thoughtful, very sensitive. Foremost, Elizabeth is a once-in-a-lifetime rider. Give me a name, any name, she is the better rider. Loaded with talent, she’ll give her all every single time, whether it’s in practice or in the show ring,” Trish replied. “Deborah and Tara, they are not that far behind. All three have intangibles that are off-the-scale insane. They will listen to your advice. Should they take your advice, they will put their own spin on it.”
Griffin was certainly intrigued. “How soon do you want me start?” Trish answered, “Is yesterday too soon?” Hiring Griffin was a major investment by Mark and Trish. A high risk move too. To have a highly-regarded, professional groom to work exclusively with the daughters, there was no guarantee of success. With her organization and management expertise on the Rolex and Longines tours, Griffin was a “can’t miss” hire.
The first task was to sort through whatever issues between Elizabeth and Griffin. Before the sorting could be done, Elizabeth and Griffin were already trading phone calls and text messages. Whatever the friction was, it was resolved. Both said the introductory tension was having two alpha females in close proximity to one another.
arrival: Qatar Airways Cargo Flight 1642 Los Angeles to Denver (11:52 am, Tue Jul 06 2021)
Upon arrival in Denver, Griffin called Arturo. “What’s the word?” He replied, “We’re ready.”
We drew a little attention, again, as the horses and our gear were unloaded from the Qatar Boeing 777-F. One was a news helicopter hovering overhead. Our captain, Miles, was amused by the attention. It was certainly different. I told him it’s the name. “They’re not used to seeing ‘Qatar’ in Colorado.” Miles had a good laugh. “I suppose not.”
We thanked our crew for the smooth flight and excellent service. “We could get used to flying with those business class seats.” Before loading the horses into the trailer, we did a short photo-op of the crew with the horses, and the crew with Deborah, Elizabeth and Tara.
With the horses and our gear transferred to ground transportation, it was the hour and a half drive to CHP. If there is an advantage of being on familiar ground, it is not having to consult a map, paper and electronic, nor keeping an eye out for landmarks and street names. Kind of.
light traffic: unusually light on southbound E-470 from DIA (Tue, Jul 06 2021)
Meeting up with Arturo and Juan at CHP, they gave Griffin a short tour of the set-up. “is there anything I should know before we unload them?” Arturo replied not really. “They have a lot of moving parts one day, not so much the next. Just your typical show barn.”
“Okay, let’s do it.”
Today, they started for real.