Mary King’s Olympic Games diary: cross-country day

  • I spent last night at the Olympic village and caught the 6.30am shuttle bus up to Beas River. Everything is amazingly well organised and the transport runs like clockwork.

    Call Again Cavalier (Cavvy) had spent a good night, drinking well so we had no reason to be concerned about his fluid levels, which was a great relief.
    As the cross-country began at 8am I was glued to the closed-circuit TV screens, which were sited in the big riders’ marquee. It was nerve-wracking watching my teammates go, and as the competition went on it became obvious that it would be impossible to get the time. The two brushes at the second to last were clearly the bogey fence and this is the one I had liked least during my course-walks.
    Generally, though, the track looked to be riding well.
    I went back to the stables half an hour before I was due to get on Cavvy. I put his boots on myself, something I always do at a major competition so that if something goes wrong I only have myself to blame.
    I got on him 20 minutes before my allotted time. Usually I ride for half an hour beforehand, but bearing in mind the fact that it was a little more humid than we are used to at home I decided not to give him quite as long.
    Thankfully the weather was amazing. God was clearly looking after the sport today as we woke up to a cloudy morning that was barely any hotter than a mild English day.
    I took Cavvy into the big sand arena for an initial warm-up before going into the grassed area where there were three cross-country practice fences. I gave him a good spin to get him sharp and keyed up for the challenge ahead.
    As we already had three team scores in the bag, mine was less imperative. I was given permission to go for an individual placing and advised to give the second last fence a crack.
    We entered the start box at 11.21am and straight from the off were in a fast, forward rhythm. Cavvy is a relentless galloper. Although he’s not a full Thoroughbred and lacks that quick acceleration, he keeps going, plus I cut the corners as much as I dared. I honestly don’t think we could have gone any faster without being dangerous.
    He gave me a great ride with no problems at all, although I was nervous approaching the double of brushes at the end. We jumped the much higher part of the hedge to ensure that he didn’t run out and as I knew he wasn’t going to stop I was strong with my right hand and sat upright, not giving him the option of going to the left.
    Galloping through the finish was a huge relief. We hadn’t pulled off the fastest time, but we were now in fifth place and I was thrilled to bits as well as over the moon to have helped the team rise into the bronze medal position.
    Cavvy had coped well with the test. His temperature was fine and he wasn’t at all dehydrated afterwards.
    The cross-country course had been brilliant, and the whole competition had produced a great sight for the world to see, with a lot of good riding and relatively few tired horses at the end. And thanks to all our supporters in the UK for tuning in to watch at some ungodly hour.
    Tonight I’m going to the Sheriton Hotel to spend some time with my family. I hope I’ll get a bit of a lie-in tomorrow as the trot-up isn’t until 4pm, and the plan is to live it up a little tonight as well.

    You may like...