Having been to the past two Olympic Games, I know how it feels to be counting the days before that first ride down the centre line. Even more so when the expectations and pressures to perform are tangible.
For some athletes, the focus will be on seeing the arena as if it were any other normal pile of sand they ride on, while for others that extra excitement and pressure is part of what they need to make the magic happen. Each rider will have a method in place to help them achieve the best possible result.
The work that will have gone into logistics by the World Class team is hard to comprehend and I know the equestrian Team GBR athletes — both two- and four-legged — will be looked after second to none.
In London, many other nations, including the Germans, were jealous of our organisation. The journey for the horses is usually not as big a deal as people think, but the “Games factor” for the horse and rider combination is a bigger deal than is often given credit. The Olympics are something different and as a rider you have to accept that to be able to embrace it. You only get 10 or 15 minutes to familiarise your horse with the arena — twice if you’re lucky — and there are many other things about the time there as a team that is totally different to all the shows you do in the year to get there.
I’m not one of the lucky few flying off to represent my country this time round, but I am not too sad as I have some lovely horses in the pipeline.
It’s great that our yard is still being represented: after the initial disappointment that Lara Griffith was not one of the four team riders, she’ll get her first taste of the Olympics as travelling reserve and will be a huge support to the team.
I will be staying at home to ride the rest of the rabble, but Dad will be out coaching Lara in case she has to step in and step up. Having put so much work into Lara’s riding over the past six years, it will be a very proud moment to see her set off for Rio, though tinged with sadness that I won’t be there to mentor her through it.
I was asked by the German equestrian magazine St Georg for my predictions on the team and individual podium places. I have to say it’s hard to know.
The last big show in each of the respective main nations, (Dutch national championship, Aachen and Hartpury) are to be taken with a bucket of salt. Horses scored results so far above anything they had done anywhere else that unless you saw the tests you would not know what to make of them!
Germany are the strongest for gold but, despite sky-high Aachen scores, appear beatable. Tests and marks don’t always match pre-Games. They may have done too much with three tests so close to Rio, bearing in mind three of their team horses are just nine and 10 years old.
On the other hand, let’s hope ours did enough and are fit enough for all three tests. The Dutch and Americans are more balanced teams but possibly missing the one outstandingly high scorer. I’m sure we have a team medal in us, but the colour remains to be seen.
None of the Dutch, Germans or Brits can afford a major slip as the USA will be hot on the Europeans’ heels. I still believe Charlotte and Valegro have it in their hands individually, having seen how game “Blueberry” was at Hartpury. And nothing can touch them when they have even just a good to average day.
I will have everything crossed for our team and wish them the best of British.
Ref Horse & Hound; 4 August 2016