Well that’s my Olympics over with and I’m fighting mixed emotions. On the one hand it’s been amazing to be part of such a fantastic British team, but on the other I am disappointed with my own performance.
Looking back at the build up it was a really weird feeling, as every day seemed to be the same as the day before, with the big day so far away, then, almost before you know it, the big day suddenly arrived.
I was drawn fifth to go in the team competition so was competing in the early evening. I spent the day trying not to let the butterflies take over. There was a lot of excitement and people buzzing around, but I tried to keep my mind on the job and stay focussed.
I arrived at the stables in plenty of time and we gave Lucky Star a quick trot up with the vet to check he was 100%. He was fine of course, but you can’t help but think: “What happens if he falls over? What happens if he loses a shoe?”
That over with I felt very calm and decided I was going to warm up in my top hat and tails as it was one less thing to worry about at the last minute. We started off in the air-conditioned indoor school and then went outside for the final 10-15min of our warm up. That was when the pressure started to build as you realise that, in a matter of minutes, you will be competing for your country at the Olympic Games.
As you can imagine, nothing can prepare you for trotting through the gates and into the arena for real. Although it was not yet completely dark, the lights are incredibly bright and you have extra distractions, such as the sound of camera shutters going off, to deal with.
At the start of each evening of competition the stands were packed with spectators. The crowds had been asked to stay still during the tests and not use flash photography, but with it being so warm many of them were using hand-held fans to keep cool and this just added to the incredibly electric atmosphere. Later in the evening many of the spectators had headed home and it was much stiller and quieter for riders competing then. Lucky Star and I went straight into the buzz!
When we entered the arena Lucky Star felt a bit in awe of the place and we didn’t get off to a very good start. He moved slightly in the halt and then trotted off crooked, which he never does. I knew we had a lot of ground to make up after that.
The beginning of the test I felt very happy with. He felt really with me and was going well. Unfortunately we then made three little, but very expensive mistakes, two of which were in movements that earned double scores. Added together they were very costly. I think I was trying a little too hard and he picked up that this wasn’t just another grand prix test.
When I came out I was devastated that the judges didn’t feel the test was very good and that we didn’t get the marks I was hoping for. I just wanted to go straight back in and ride it again to show how well we could do it. I had that awful, awful feeling that if it wasn’t perfect then I wasn’t good enough and my biggest concern was that I had let the team down.
The team were all really supportive and reminded me that that’s just horses for you. For me it wasn’t good enough, but at least we didn’t do anything dramatically wrong. I was more than a little upset that it wasn’t the score we were all expecting – but I feel very proud that we done it and very fortunate to be a member of such a fantastic team and the plus is we still came sixth in the world. The British team spirit out here has been really amazing.
Although it hasn’t all gone according to plan, it has been a great experience to look back on and we will live to fight another day. Once we are back in the UK and Lucky Star has recovered from the journey, we will be back out there again, riding another grand prix. I’m eager to take all the positives from this and look forward to our future challenges!
With heartfelt thanks to everyone who has supported me.