Anky van Grunsven recalls her ride at the Sydney Olympics

People expect the freestyle, the final of the three tests at the Sydney Olympics on Bonfire, to have been the best ride of my life, but it wasn’t, becauseI was too nervous at the beginning. I was not so happy with the first test, the grand prix, either, because of a mistake and forgetting to ride my horse properly.

I felt very different when I came to ride the second test, the grand prix special. I wanted to show everybody that I had the best horse, regardless of the colour of the medal I might end up with. It was more important to me to feel that I had performed well and enjoyed the experience.

Sometimes it feels as though riding is the easiest job in the world – you don’t have to think – it all just happens. That test was the closest I have ever come to that.

There is an expression used by athletes in other sports called “in the flow” and, that day, I thought this is what they must mean. I felt no pressure; I just wanted to have fun – me and my horse, that’s all that mattered.

During the test, I was so concentrated – I had no nerves and was completely relaxed. I was not aware of anybody else around me – none of the people in the audience. It sounds stupid to say it now, but I don’t remember anything going through my mind, just that Bonfire felt great.

The way I felt after the test was so good because I had achieved what I wanted and then I heard the score, which was also good. But the most special thing for me is that the test went like a dream. One thing I do remember is having a huge smile on my face as I rode down the centre line for the last time.

After putting Bonfire back in the stable, I had to talk to the press, and then, as always after a test, I took him out for a long walk to let him graze and to be together. The celebrations came later.

Don’t miss this week’s Horse & Hound (5 December) where Chris Collins talks about his ‘ride of a lifetime’ at the Chechoslovakia’s Grand Pardubice Steeplechase on his own Stephens Society.

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