Ride of my life: Kirsty Mepham

  • Kirsty Mepham recalls her ride on Dikkiloo at the Sydney Olympics

    Dikkiloo was one of the ugliest horses I’d seen – a puny neck, hips like hangers and a roach back with no muscle. But he had a lovely, kind face and a soft look in his eye.

    The first time I got on him, he ran away with me in the school. Walk and trot wasn’t too bad, but cantering was like riding a motorbike. We swapped him from a snaffle into a driving bit, which allowed some control, and later, when he felt morebalanced, went back to the snaffle.

    ‘Dikki’ won me over very quickly. There were glimpses of his talent even then and he was always up for anything.

    Dressage judges either loved or hated Dikki. It was frustrating, but we kept plugging on. Once we started working at grand prix, it suited him much better because of his fantastic talent for piaffe/passage.

    He arrived in Sydney in good shape, but the night before our big test I woke up to a torrential rainstorm that was to seal our fate.

    The next morning, our working-in felt good and our nerves were under control, but as I rode into the main arena I could feel Dikki was unhappy as he paddled through the slushy going. We cantered up the centre line and he lost his footing and slid into our first halt. From that moment he kept the handbrake on as he didn’t trust the footing.

    I could feel him struggling more and more in the going, but he still tried his heart out, lifting his huge feet as high as he dared in the piaffe/passage. He sensed the big occasion and tried his best to rise to it, finishing on a score of 62%.

    It was one of the hardest tests I’ve ever ridden. As I left the arena I wasn’t upset,just disappointed because we didn’t get the chance to show what we could do.

    We don’t have any plans for retirement, but Dikki is 17 so this might be his last year competing. He’s a one-off and will always be part our family.

    Don’t miss this week’s Horse & Hound (13 June) where John Watson talks about his “ride of a lifetime” at 1978 World Championships.

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