The obvious riders who are so near but so far this time are Harry Meade — 3rd at Badminton with Wild Lone — and Gemma Tattersall, who jumped the wrong side of a flag in an otherwise excellent Badminton round and was 5th in the CIC3* at Bramham with Arctic Soul.
Both riders were quick to offer generous congratulations to those heading to Normandy on twitter, as well as acknowledging their own disappointment.
Harry Meade tweeted that he “has been selected as reserve”. So while the British Equestrian Federation say they cannot announce the reserves until after the deadline for nominated entries (21 July) it looks like he is first in line for that call-up.
To Harry — and to Harry’s fans — I would say, take heart. In the past decade, there has only been 1 year that no reserve has been called into the British eventing squad due to an injury between selection and the event — that was in the last WEG year, 2010.
No one wants horses or riders to be injured. To be selected for a championship and then have to withdraw is 1 of the most gutting experiences of a professional rider’s life. But the fact remains that horses are vulnerable creatures and keeping 6 of them in peak condition for the next 2 months, while preparing them to full fitness, is very difficult.
Statistically, if Harry is the first reserve, there is a 90% chance that he will ride at this year’s WEG. And sometimes, reserves end up excelling themselves — think of Tina Cook and Miners Frolic’s individual bronze at the 2008 Olympics or Piggy French’s individual silver with Some Day Soon at the 2009 Europeans.
Selected riders will watch every step their horses take between now and the trot-up in Normandy on 27 August. Meanwhile, I’m sure Harry will have Wild Lone perfectly prepped if he is needed for WEG — reserves can be substituted up to 2 days before the first horse inspection and the proximity of this WEG to Britain means getting to Normandy at short notice if he was needed would not be impossible. If not, it’ll be game on to Burghley.