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Lucy Higginson says . . .

“Last week rejoicing, this week depression. While our dressage squad pulled out personal bests at the Europeans to win an Olympic place, our show jumpers finished ninth in Donaueschingen and thus failed to qualify for Athens.

“It is hard to believe that Britain will not be represented at the Games, and desperately disappointing for the team itself who, by all accounts, fought hard. The irony, of course, is that we have a far richer heritage in show jumping than we do in dressage.”

Mark Phillips says . . .

“I travelled to Athens full of scepticism about what I was going to find. The reality was probably the best Olympic venue I’ve ever seen. Never have visiting nations been so spoilt.

“The training facilities are small, with four dressage arenas and four judging areas. The footing is good, as long as enough water is kept on the dressage areas, and the stadiums are awesome, with the show jumping on grass.

“I cannot begin to guess at the cost of this wonderful facility.”

Richard Phillips says . . .

“This is the last Phillips column you will read in the Nag & Dog. I have had a longer run than The Mousetrap. All I know is that when I first started writing in this magazine, John Major was popular, Luke Harvey had hair, Peter Savill had friends and Aiden O’Brien only had eight children.

“My thanks go to all the poor Editors I have put into early retirement, Luke Harvey’s parents for providing me with so much material and Huge Grant in Notting Hill for making my job easier to explain.”

NEW! On a loose rein’s Janet Menzies says . . .

“When I was a teenager, the only piercings I was interested in were those made in my stirrup leathers so that I could ride short for point-to-pointing. My parents seized on any passing liaison as hope that I was at last “growing out of it”. Of course, the true pony girl never does “grow out of it”. Instead, everybody else has to grow into it.

“First it is the amiable but inexperienced parent, then boys, besotted at the sight of the white breeches so casually hoisted over the J-Lo-style bum.

“It would be wrong to think that pony girls are unaware of the opposite sex. Oh no. Men definitely have a role to play. There are the duties of horse holder, official legger-up, lorry driver, cheque-signer-in-chief, dirty rug carrier, horse catcher-and-dragger, bacon roll provider and, of course, that most important position of “swearee” (the person who stands there in miserable silence while the girl swears).”

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