Laura Tomlinson: More to medals than just riding *H&H VIP*

Opinion

Things are heating up as selection for the World Equestrian Games (WEG) comes closer and our base of horses scoring mid-70% is increasing.

Over the next month, there will be plenty of speculation as to who might make the teams of the top nations, and which countries have the strongest medal chances, other than the obvious choices.

What doesn’t get discussed so much is how much goes into travelling to a championship on the other side of the Atlantic.

Having been to a WEG in the USA — Kentucky in 2010 — I can say from first-hand experience that it is easy to underestimate the work that’s done behind the scenes.

Taking horses to the USA is complicated, as is transporting all the kit and feed we take for granted when competing.

Fortunately for anyone on the British team, our UK Sport support staff is second to none and the World Class crew are exactly that. As a Team GBR member, you want for nothing and can focus 100% on your job. The facilities will be great and everything will be unpacked and ready for when the horses and riders arrive.

However, feed lists need establishing well before the horses and riders travel. In fact, each horse’s feed is sent ahead of time and every single ingredient has to have been specified in advance, including exact quantities, so knowing your horse and what you will need in the varying weather conditions is vital. Often, horses will be put on the same type of hay they’ll be fed out there in advance to limit the changes on arrival.

Keeping the balance

The horses have to travel to Europe, board the plane, then have 48 hours of quarantine in the USA before finally reaching the competition venue. Making sure they arrive in good nick involves some planning. Their feeds need amending, so they’re not bubbling over after so many days with barely any exercise and, for the first couple of days at the showground, they need exercising with care. It would be no good to arrive thinking: “I’ve missed several days of training, I must hammer my horse and make sure it hasn’t forgotten any movements.” This would just result in horses tying up.

Therefore, in the 10-day period at the event, thought must be given to when you want your horse to peak, how best not to overwork him just because you are at a “really big show”, and how to make sure you keep the horse in a normal routine, including rest days. For me, it was important that my horse was as fighting fit on the last day as on the first day of competition. This meant plenty of planning, management and fitness work to cope in warm conditions. Luckily, this summer England has blessed us with some decent acclimatisation for the WEG horses and riders alike.

WEG’s world class
This is a fantastic event, celebrating the top riders from all disciplines. There is so much to watch and learn across the board; it’s a special event to take part in and a privilege to represent one’s country at such a competition, but a lot of work goes into it. The World Class team, as well as all the grooms, who do so much of the preparation work, are to be highly commended and not to be forgotten when medal glory comes, as we hope it will.

Ref Horse & Hound; 19 July 2018