Candace Green is a full time groom for Juniper Farms and two-time Olympian Jill Henselwood in Ontario, Canada, but for the next three months she’ll be performing her duties in Thermal, California for the duration of the HITS Coachella circuit. Candace has kindly agreed to share some of her experiences grooming for a world class pro.
We made it! We’re here, and we survived our cross-continental journey. The horses and the humans have had a week to settle and get comfortable in our new digs. As the show grounds start to fill up around us, I’m finally able to catch my breath and write about the adventure.
We started driving at about 9:30 pm on January 2nd; we left Ottawa and headed to the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel to cross into the States. My last border crossing was super simple. Drive up, hand over the passports, smile, and carry on. This time, not so simple. While our horses were seeing the border vet, the grooms got stopped and sent inside for further “questioning”.
After driving through the night, we were all exhausted, anxious, and a little smelly. Four of us were split between two vehicles, and while two of the girls managed to get an agent who was cheerful and helpful, my driving partner and I got the crankiest man alive. It literally took a second agent telling him, “They are legal, you have to let them in!” for us to cross the border.
Once we were back on the road, we hit I-75 to Lexington, Kentucky. The drive was a bit of a blur, but Lexington was exactly how I had imagined it – rolling hills, endless perfect fences, and horses everywhere! Our layover at Newtown Layover Station was fantastic. The barn was adorable, and the owner was one of the most gracious, thoughtful women I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.
Before our departure, she surprised our drivers and the grooms with coffee. Grooms + coffee = total bliss! Next stop, Amarillo, Texas. We stayed at Lone Star Bed & Bale, which was also totally adorable! We had gorgeous rooms and a fully stocked kitchen to share. The only issue was the surprise Texan snow storm! I was under the impression we’d driven all that way to escape winter, not see more of it!
The last leg of our journey took us from snowy Texas to the stunning Coachella Valley, in California. By now, we’d been on the road for several days and my entire existence had narrowed to my four hour driving shifts. I was one with the night, made of Redbull and jalapeño Cheetos. Nothing existed except me and the horse trailer I was following.
The drive was gorgeous – the parts I was awake for anyway, (Sorry Oklahoma, I have no idea what you look like!) but the exhaustion was making all of us cranky and weird. When we rolled into the HITS show grounds at 5am, it was like rolling right into a little piece of heaven. As the sun started to come up over the mountains, it finally felt real. We had finally arrived!
Tuesday, January 17th marks the first day of real showing. With a week to settle in, it feels like Juniper Farms has been here for months already. A week ago, we arrived at the empty grounds and with each passing day we’ve watched it come to life around us.
People and horses started to arrive in a slow trickle and by our first weekend the flood of grooms, riders, horses, and all their gear arrived. The excitement (and anxiety, let’s be real) has been climbing steadily as we get closer to show time and we can’t wait to see what the next three months has in store!