Emile recalls his ride on Virtu at the 1993 European Dressage Championships in Slovenia
I always knew that Virtu was capable of winning a medal. He was massively talented. A German judge once wrote that his piaffe-passage was the best in the world at the time, but he was lazy. The key was to have him fresh and fit.
Virtu and I had a fairly good summer season in 1993, but team selection is never guaranteed and I was excited when we were offered a place in the 1993 European Dressage Championships.
The team competition got off to a slightly dodgy start when Ferdi Eilberg’s Arun Tor took a major dislike to the cameras. But Richard Davison with Master JCB did the business, and Laura Fry on Quarryman had a career best and eventually finished fourth individually by just 0.3 of a mark.
Jane Kidddescribed my performance in Horse & Hound: ‘Virtu caught everyone’s attention with some wonderfully impulsive work performed in a classic outline. The result was some tremendous piaffe and passage with clearly defined steps and extensions in which he opened out. He remained round and light throughout and looked magnificent. There were great cheers and whistles from the British as he halted; they all knew it was the good test we needed for a medal.’
In the grand prix special, where we won our individual bronze, Virtu stopped dead, reared and spun round in the tunnel to the stadium, so I had to get my groom, Emma, to lead me in. I couldn’t get him to stand still outside the arena either, but I knew he was going to be brilliant.
At the start of the test I had to do the quickest salute in history as, when we halted, I could immediately feel Virtu moving underneath me.
After that it was like being in a perfect, thrilling, surfing ‘pipeline’, where youare completely unaware of anything else in the world except what you are doing. The only sound I could hear was Virtu’s breathing, and I was only aware of the horse flying beneath me.
I was so nave that, although I was thrilled with the performance, it never occurred to me that it would be worthy of a medal. When it sunk in that I had won an individual medal I burst into tears.
I think if Virtu were competing now he could still hold his own at top level – in fact, he might even be better, as I have more experience. I’d give anything to have a ride like that again, but I’m still waiting.
Click here to subscribe and enoy Horse & Hound delivered to yourdoor every week.