It may have been a case last weekend of ‘forget the Olympics, the world of international eventing is coming to Aston-Le-Walls’, but the British Olympic eventers were taking it easy during their final pre-Olympic outing. Nevertheless, team manager Yogi Breisner was entirely satisfied that they are right on track.
“I asked them to do nothing – that is, I asked them to ride round in such a way that ensured that their horses are fit and well, and peaking for the Olympics,” he said, “and that’s exactly what they did.”
Few of the Olympic contenders went flat out across country in the Mulberry Insurance-sponsored CCI, aiming for a neat performance rather than a victorious charge. New Zealander Matthew Grayling wasa rare exception, completing in the fastest time of the day (albeit with 0.4 time penalties).
Four of the British Athens-bound eventers finished well within the top twenty, with William Fox-Pitt and Tamarillo leading after the show jumping, while Pippa Funnell stayed on her dressage scores at this stage with both Cornerman and Primmore’s Pride.
The English trio were displaced as they took the cross country at a steady pace, and eventually, as a bevy of British horses and riders finished in 9th – 14th, split only by New Zealander Dan Jocelyn.
The only British disappointment was, perhaps, Sarah Cutteridge and The Wexford Lady. Perhaps the Olympic first-timer’s mind was still on Thursday’s Eventers Grand Prix at Hickstead, when speed can make up for mistakes, and they had an unfortunate three rails down.
However, Breisner was totally upbeat about the least experienced combination of the Olympic squad.
“If you look at the Wexford Lady’s record, her show jumping is, on the whole, impeccable, so this was just down to bad luck. It doesn’t cause me any concern,” he said.
The British team are due to head out to Athens on the 7 August, sadly missing the Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe. They arrive in Greece three days earlier than most of the eventing teams, but not so early, hopes Breisner, that “the horses get bored and stale.
“It’s not the most ideal place to train, not least because of the climate, and the ground is so hard that you can do little fittening and gallop work.
“The facilities themselves are excellent, but it has to be a careful balance of giving the horses and riders a reasonable chance to acclimatise, and not allow them to get bored.”