Farm Ireland

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Working behind the scenes in Rio

Charles Maudlin had the experience of a lifetime as a stable manager at the Olympics and Paralympics

Charles Maudlin (right) with former international rider Kostadin Kalanov from Cyprus during the 2014 World Equestrian Games
Charles Maudlin (right) with former international rider Kostadin Kalanov from Cyprus during the 2014 World Equestrian Games
Charles meets British gold medalist Sophie Christiansen during the Paralympics

Siobhán English

It took over 70,000 volunteers to successful co-ordinate this summer's Olympics, but thousands of others worked away behind the scenes for almost nine weeks to ensure the smooth running of the 2016 Games.

Roscommon man Charles Maudlin was among an elite number of Irish residents on the ground who was involved solely in the equestrian events.

A stable manager for the event, Charles says it was a truly memorable experience in his long career working with horses across the globe.

"It all came about through my Irish friend Martin Atock who runs Peden Bloodstock," Charles recalled. "He co-ordinates all the horse shipping and stabling at many of the major championships and I had run the stables for him at the World Equestrian Games. I had also stewarded at the 2012 Games in London. One day Martin picked up the phone and asked me if I would like to run the stables in Rio, so I gladly accepted."

A former junior international event rider for Ireland, Martin Atock is a nephew of Mary McCann of Hartwell Stud.

As an FEI steward, Charles has a wealth of experience in the horse industry and in recent years has worked in far-flung places like Cyprus, Qatar and Hong Kong.

A native of Cambridgeshire, it was while working as a riding instructor in the UK that he was lured to Ireland to take up a post at Lough Cutra Castle in Gort. That was back in 1993, and since then he has called Ireland home.

"I had met my wife Jacqueline some years earlier and we had three children, so we moved over lock, stock and barrel. Although the children have moved on, we've never left and now live in a gorgeous cottage outside Roscommon."

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Though Charles is no stranger to hard work, having successfully run a yard in Qatar for four years while commuting to Ireland every few months, he says the role of stable manager at the World Equestrian Games two years ago proved quite the challenge.

"I'd also run the stables for the Global Champions Tour in Qatar but WEG was a lot tougher than that, so it was probably a good introduction really. In France we had more horses and more nations to deal with."

Over the years Charles has become well-known in Irish equestrian circles through his involvement with the Irish Pony Club and Riding Club movements, but particularly as chief FEI steward at the Dublin Horse Show. However, this year he was a notable absentee at Ballsbridge as his long Olympic journey began on July 20th, the opening day of the show.

"In the run-up to the Games Martin had been out in Rio many times preparing the stabling area and ensuring everything was on target.

"We arrived 10 days before the horses and although the stables were up, there was still plenty to do, such as laying down the rubber matting. It was just the nature of such a big event. There were always going to be teething problems and at one stage I had a snag list which was five pages long with 250 items.

"We had to make sure there was a good airflow through the stables as temperatures were in the high 30s most days, but most of it was sorted by the time the horses arrived."

In the early hours of the morning on July 30th Charles was on hand to greet the first group of event horses, but needless to say the horses were more relieved to see their regular grooms who had travelled out in advance, while professional grooms with Peden accompanied them on the long flight from the UK.

"It was a massive operation as all the equipment arrived at the same time. For the Games we had 236 stables and at one stage 230 of those were full due to overlapping of horse departures and arrivals."

Though Charles was delighted to be able to mingle with the Irish eventing team, in addition to the individual show jumping, dressage and paralympic riders, he admits he had little down-time during the event. "As there were only two of us running the stable block, with several others assisting us, to be honest it was non-stop and we had little or no time to relax."

"In reality we were in a bit of a bubble in the equestrian complex. Yes we did have an incident of a gun cartridge being found in the ice room of the stable block but apart from that there were no issues. We were told the shot was fired into the air by gangs up on the hills, but instead it landed in the complex."

After almost five weeks in Rio for the Olympics, Charles managed to get in a quick trip home while Deodoro was being prepared for the arrival of the Paralympic horses in early September. "It was only for nine days, but it was lovely to get back and see my family before it all started again."

"I loved the Olympics and it was a great experience, but the Paralympics were really special. Everyone was so friendly and the fact it was less competitive made it more relaxing for everyone."

"The only issue we had during those few weeks were fireworks which upset some of the horses. The Brazilians love fireworks and they send them off all the time in the favelas, mostly to warn others that police are in the area. At one stage they were only a few hundred metres from us."

Having arrived back to Roscommon just a fortnight ago, Charles has now returned to his day job in the transport division with Arrabawn Dairies. "They were great to give me the time off so I am looking forward to getting back to it. I'm also looking forward to doing a bit with the Riding Club - that is until the next travel opportunity comes along," he concluded.

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