I can’t believe Fiona Bigwood has just scored over 70% as the first British rider to go in the World Games dressage event. I also can’t believe I just met Lyle Lovett (Grammy award winning country singer, big star out here), but I’ll park that excitement for the moment. I don’t think Fiona can believe it, either; that she just scored plus-70% I mean, not that I just met Lyle.
I’ve watched Fiona at a few European championships and things haven’t quite gone her way, I was starting to think I was her jinx. Here, she looked a picture of confidence and lapped up the attention from the crowd waving as she finished. Fan-bloody-tastic. When they came out, their score was actually over 71%, but that was amended; you may not lose sleep over this, but I’ll try to find out why for you anyway.
There was a bit of controversy surrounding the timing of Fiona’s selection for these games by the sport’s seemingly indecisive governing body, but there is absolutely no denying she deserved her place with that score.
Fiona was also as shocked as I was about the turn-out for today’s event; she thought she’d nip in and out unnoticed. It was 34 degrees when we arrived three days ago, now the temperature has more than halved and it’s pissing it down with rain. You’re going to have to chisel me off my keyboard at the end of today. Suddenly, the fact our motel pool has no water in it (yes, this was distressing to find on arrival) is rather irrelevant. Yet instead of the customary handful of supporters watching the start of the dressage grand prix, the covered side of the stadium is 80% full.
The British camp was especially supportive, and it’s great that at a championship like this you get riders from other sports showing an interest, like Mark Todd and Andrew Nicholson this morning. We’re poised now for Maria Eilberg’s turn as the second British rider to go. I’d get the odds on Britain winning dressage silver if I were you, looks a good bet.
What with that and Lyle, the excitement’s overwhelming. He’s playing an hour’s set at the closing ceremony and he owns one of the Italian team member’s reining horses. He competes in reining himself, too. He chatted about his land conservation work: “I was born in the country, now I live in the city, and I haven’t moved house”, he says. And he chatted about the work he does giving under privileged children the opportunity to start riding. He’s polite and patient and charming and shakes everyone’s hand and has a sense of humour. I’ve not met many famous Brits interested in horses, but they were nothing like this one. And again, sigh.