Jane Gregory’s Olympic countdown diary: 35 days to go

  • Who is Jane Gregory?

    Welcome to my first Olympic diary. Training in Germany with Olympic medallist Ulla Salzgeber over the past year has been an unbelievable experience. It’s been tough at times to leave the people and animals at home in Wiltshire, and commute to our flat in Germany, but it’s also been amazing.

    When I arrived at Ulla’s I thought she’d look at Lucky Star (Lusty), and see this short-legged, overweight rather boring grand prix horse. Instead, she and international rider Frank Freund both said ‘this is a really fun horse’, and I’ve loved every day there.

    Since the team was announced last Wednesday it’s been manic. I went in for a radio show on Thursday morning, and on Friday I had a new top hat fitted. But the majority of this week has been taken up moving our lives back from Germany to Wiltshire so Lusty would have plenty of time to recover from the journey before the mammoth trip to Hong Kong next month.

    The journey back to England takes two days and I had to pack everything we had out there into the lorry, including all our winter clothes and rugs. It was like moving house and there wasn’t an inch of the horse box that wasn’t crammed with our possessions. We got back at nine last night and Lusty dragged me off the lorry towards some grass, so he seems happy to be home.

    I’ll be spending the next few days trying to get my life back in England, unpacking and getting back into a routine. I’ll try and catch up on my gardening too. We’ve got a huge garden that’s hardly been touched for four months; I’m manic about it, I’ll get out there attacking the weeds and return looking like I’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards! There’s a lot of paperwork to do for Hong Kong too, and normal life doesn’t stop just because it’s the Olympics.

    I decided at the beginning of this year the other horses would have to take a back seat — they are for the future, whereas Lusty is for now. He’s 16, so if I don’t do it now we never will, so I’m giving it everything I’ve got. That said, I never imagined an Olympic appearance might be possible, I just wanted to ride internationally.

    It was something I’d hoped to do with my husband Aram, but sadly his new horse (Lascar) arrived with travel fever. It was desperately bad and he nearly died. He lost 200lbs and lived on a drip at Liphook Equine Hospital for a week. He’s a lovely horse and it was a gruelling few weeks. Since he came back to health Aram has had some good rides, but he didn’t get a chance to earn the second qualifying score he needed. Now they’re planning for the future and Aram will still be there to support me in Hong Kong.

    For me and Lusty to be selected is like a fairytale. When I won a national grand prix in Munich I though if I can keep this up we could be on the short list, but I still thought without a question of a doubt that Carl [Hester] would be on the team.

    Richard Davison asked me to go to the nations cup at Rotterdam in June and Ulla said just ride a safe test, don’t try and be clever. So I rode an over-safe safe test, which really wasn’t very clever! I wasn’t disappointed though, because I wasn’t thinking of getting on the team and I think that attitude has actually helped me get here. If you want something too much you can crash and burn. Even when Lecantos [Carl Hester’s ride] was withdrawn, selection still wasn’t guaranteed. Anna [Ross Davies] is very good with Liebling, she’s had some tough rides this year but is capable of better scores than us, it just depends what happens on the day.

    Now that we’ve been selected though, I’m not going to let anyone down. I’m going to be more focussed and committed than ever. I’m just an ordinary rider; I came from the North Cornwall Pony Club and I am still that person who just loves their sport, but I would love to be good enough on the day.

    I didn’t enjoy my last Olympics in Atlanta. I had a tough time as my horse wasn’t well and I came away feeling more than disappointed with my own performance, and as a team we were fairly low in spirits. This year couldn’t be more different, we’re a positive team and Laura [Bechtolsheimer] and Emma [Hindle] have fabulous horses. As for my test, Ulla keeps saying it’s just a piece of sand, but I’ll be giving that grand prix everything.

    Who is Jane Gregory?

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