Horses are not the only ones working as a team on the Driving Marathon course at the 2010 Games. The two grooms sitting behind the driver are crucial to the success of the team during this phase.
“They make it work,” said driver Mike McLennan of the U.S. about his two grooms.
Mike’s wife, Jerry, is his navigator, and Mike said it’s one of the only times she gets to tell him what to do…and he listens. This is because the navigator’s role is to help direct the driver through the different obstacles on course, which can be difficult to remember.
“I have to be familiar with the whole hazard, so if the route (Mike) picks doesn’t work, and the horses don’t respond quickly, I can tell him where to go,” Jerry said.
Jerry spends a good deal of time learning the options for each hazard on the course, and she said it is the most difficult thing she has to do as the navigator. Prior to the marathon she will walk the course, pencil and paper in hand, and memorize the hazards.
In addition, Jerry also keeps up with Mike’s times, starting a clock when they enter each hazard and keeping track of their overall time for each section of the marathon.
The second groom, on the back of the carriage, has a completely different job. Where the navigator has more of a mental obligation to the driver, the groom on the back does much of the physical work.
“The person on the back makes sure the carriage doesn’t tip over,” said Olof Larsson, a groom for Chester Weber of the U.S. “It’s a heavy job but it’s not bad when you have a good driver.”
Larsson leans, pulls and sometimes even lifts the carriage to help maneuver it around the obstacles on the course. And if something goes wrong, Larsson will hop off and adjust equipment, tend to a horse or anything else that needs to be done.
Once the team crosses the finish line, they all tend to the horses. With four horses to cool down, two grooms as well as other helpers are necessary to get the job done. Everyone’s hands are full with the horses; hosing them down, un-tacking them, un-hitching them and of course, giving the horses, and each other a lot of praise.
“It is a real team effort,” said Larsson. “We work hard together on the carriage.”