Last Friday, after I wrote last, I went to a press conference for the British team. We did interviews with different TV and local radio stations and the press association, so that should things go well, then the media will have enough information.
Then we all changed into the official uniform that we would wear if we were going to the opening ceremony — which sadly we can’t — and had a visit from the Duchess of Cornwall. She came and spoke to nearly everybody about the horses, the journey and expectations. It was really nice to have the interest of somebody like the Duchess of Cornwall — it made me realise something big was about to happen. It was a good feeling, and wonderful that she took time out of her busy schedule to meet us.
Not being able to go to the opening ceremony is a shame, especially for the riders who’ve not been to one before. Laura [Bechtolsheimer] was saying how she would have loved to have been a part of it. When I was there at Atlanta in 1996 it was one of the proudest moments of my life. It’s an amazing feeling, with everybody watching it feels like you’re looking back at the world. But it’s not feasible to get to Beijing, and we will have alternative opening ceremony parties in Hong Kong, so it will still feel like we are very much a part of something big.
We went to a lovely send off dinner on Friday evening hosted by the Bechtolsheimers. The dressage and event riders were there, all the owners and many more people associated with the sport. It was a splendid evening with a meal fit for a king, and a nice feeling of team spirit for the send off.
Last weekend I did some training with Lucky Star in quarantine and went home to sort a few last things out and ride the other horses. On Sunday evening we worked with our own trainers, so Ulla (Salzgeber) came over. The idea was to set the horses up with a serious training session before we flew to Hong Kong.
On Monday we all rode through the grand prix as if in competition, with Stephen Clarke judging us, as if it was the real thing. Ferdi [Eilberg, team trainer] decided it was necessary to have some atmosphere, so they brought in music and a video camera, that also meant we could go through our test with the trainers afterwards.
Apparently there are going to be models of plastic horses in Hong Kong around the arena, so we reconstructed this too. Lucky Star was fine with the yellow horse with red spots, but was not impressed to have the bonus of a life sized black and white plastic cow also watching him.
It had the desired effect of making us think about these things that might be out there. You never know what could make your horse look and you have to ride differently to keep their attention and get them back on your side. Lucky Star was nervous through the test because of them and I had to get him to listen to me. Thankfully however, he did end up performing it well.
I picked up my new Patey top hat this week, which is beautiful. Ulla has been going on since the day she met me that I really needed a smarter hat, and I’m chuffed with it. With that and our new Mears tailcoats I’ve got no excuse. We’re very lucky to have such generous sponsors.
I was meant to back to the heat chamber we’ve been using to get used to the extreme humidity, but I was given a message to say it had broken down on Sunday evening — we seem to have burnt it out! I can’t say any of us were too disappointed!
On Tuesday lunchtime the grooms travelling out ahead of us to be ready for the horses’ arrival, got all their kit moved out of quarantine and headed for Heathrow. They would have had the chance to have a little rest and get the stables ready.
The horses flew at five on Wednesday morning, with everything going according to plan. I got a message from team captain Richard Davison to say they were safely in the air and all was well. They had a 15hr flight with an hour stop off in Dubai.
I can’t believe we’re actually going now. Speak to you next from Hong Kong!