Hayley Watson-Greaves is back from an “incredible” trip to Rio, with her first taste of the Olympic atmosphere. And she’s hungry for more.

“I’m totally inspired for 2020 in Tokyo. It was incredible, I’m so lucky to have gone, without the pressure of competing. The atmosphere was amazing, and it’s everyone’s ultimate goal,” she says.

“All the talks before we went were about the food hall; it’s massive, the size of three football pitches,” she reflects. “You can eat as much as you want! But it’s all healthy. The best bit was taking pictures by the Olympic rings.”

“We also got to watch some other sports; the beach volleyball was amazing, such a good atmosphere — plus it’s right on Copacabana beach! Going to an Olympics wouldn’t be so daunting now; I could be more focused as I wouldn’t be distracted by everything else going on.”

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Which Olympic sport would she like to do if it wasn’t dressage?

“I’d like to say eventing, but I’m too much of a chicken. I started out eventing, but I was too terrified of the jumps. That’s what got me into dressage in the first place,” she says.

Her ride in the grand prix freestyle today, WG Rubins Nite, is an impressive black gelding by Rubin Royal.

“I’ve had him since he was two, so ten years. He’s the first one I’ve competed internationally, which is a fantastic feeling,” Hayley grins.

Frequent flyers and future plans

Hayley and ‘Squeak’ have been to six international shows in the past year, but their trip to the Middle East in March is the highlight.

“Doha was just incredible. Money was no object,” Hayley is almost speechless thinking back to the show. “What more can you say about it?” she asks her groom, Sam.

“They had a carrot delivery man, bringing the finest Australian carrots,” giggles Sam.

Access to carrots on tap isn’t such a change for Squeak, who has a personal ‘carrot fridge’ on the yard at home.

“Anyone who goes near his fridge gets mugged,” Hayley admits. Squeak is a character at home, who got his name for both his high-pitched whinny and his “squeaky-clean” stable habits.

“He lights up at shows; he just loves the atmosphere, and the people. I think the more people clap, the higher he lifts his legs — it must be built-in,” she says of the 12-year-old.

Hayley and Squeak are not finished with globetrotting for the year; they head to the CDI in Mallorca in the next couple of weeks.

“After that, we’ll aim for Olympia, and then it’s all about the Europeans next year,” she says.