Interviewing riders at top events, you learn not to expect any useful comment before they’ve competed. Athletes who are charming in the aftermath can be monstrous in the build-up. This, I realised on reading our winning mindset feature, is on account of their focus — something you need in order to win.

As a rider, I am not focused and, unsurprisingly, not a winner either.

Eventing (badly) at pre-nervous level in the past, I’d be entertaining family at a picnic 30min before going cross-country — or they’d be entertaining themselves, Dad giving me a “helpful” leg-up that would send me straight out the opposite side door.

Reticent athletes, otherwise known as “those retaining focus at all times”, are a journalist’s nightmare, making acquiring an interesting quote akin to pulling teeth. But good for them — they’re winning. Though it does amuse me each time Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) comes round how some contenders appear to have precious little in the way of charisma.

Those who have both charm and success are presumably able, as our feature says, to “compartmentalise”. They recognise the benefits that coming across as an all right sort of person bring.

It’s heartening to learn that it’s never too late to acquire that winning mindset — I may even take up eventing again.

And, of course, for this year’s SPOTY, please don’t forget to vote for the very worthy Charlotte Dujardin.

Ref: Horse & Hound; 11 December 2014