The French showjumping team are hoping they have now had their full dose of bad luck for the Rio Olympics.
World number two Simon Delestre had to pull out last Wednesday when his horse Ryan Des Hayettes was found to have a micro-fracture of his hock and reserve Phillippe Rozier was called in with Rahotep De Toscane.
“I’m sure in one month my horse is ready for the Olympic Games,” jokes Phillippe today after jumping a clear in the first individual qualifier. “The trainer said would I accept the reserve position and I said yes, my horse is ready, we’re not just coming for a holiday.”
Further problems befell the team when Penelope Leprovost’s Flora De Mariposa suffered a mild colic episode on Friday night. The rider ended up sleeping a night on the floor of the veterinary clinic.
“All the hard times we went through made our team bond even closer,” says Phillippe. “The last three days were really hard for us. We’ve had a lot of hardships, so now we’re done [with our bad luck].”
Phillippe says his 11-year-old stallion by Quidam De Revel is “my friend, not my horse”.
“I first rode him at five and he wasn’t super crack at five, six or seven — he was a normal horse,” he says. “At eight he was much better and now he’s super crack for me.
“We have a great bond together and I think that makes us really strong. It’s really the kinship we have that makes us better — I think the cross-country riders have that too with their horses and that takes them further. It’s not so much the training and all the work that we do, it’s really that bond we have with the horses.”
Phillipe, who is based in Fontainebleau, says he does a lot of training with “Toto” in the big forest there and that the stallion has a pony-like character.
The French team had a four-day training camp at Deauville before flying out to Rio and they sit equal third as a team after today’s competition. However, faults from today do not influence the team medals, the results simply determine the starting order for the team competition on Tuesday and Wednesday. Today’s scores also count for the individual rankings, which will determine who qualifies for the individual final next Friday.
Full 20-page report from the Olympic showjumping in Rio in the issue of H&H published Thursday, 25 August, including full analysis of every round of the competition and expert comment from Geoff Billington and William Funnell.