Well, this really is it after more than 40 years in eventing. And when I woke up the morning after announcing my retirement, my first thought was, “Thank God I don’t have to go and ride in circles in the arena anymore!”
It’s been a manic week, with more press attention from all over the world than I could ever have anticipated — and getting the next stage in my life, training racehorses, up and running.
Going into that final event at Camphire, I hadn’t told anyone — not my owners, or even my groom — that it was going to be the last one, because I didn’t want any fuss beforehand. It was nice that I rode my last cross-country round on Leonidas II — I have had him nine years and we’ve been through a lot together, both highs and lows.
Tim and Jonelle Price, my team-mates on the New Zealand team at Camphire, had put pressure on me to go fast and clear to try to win the Nations Cup, and fortunately Leo obliged.
I’m quite an emotional person, and when New Zealand team manager Graham Thom announced that I was retiring and read out a great spiel about me when we were on the podium after winning, there were a few tears. But I did turn to Sam Watson, who was standing next to me, and say that it sounded like I had died, or something…
Camphire might not have been the most obviously glamorous event to finish at, but I was riding three horses there that Pete Cattell and Di Brunsden, who have been great supporters since I came back to the sport in 2008, either owned or part-owned, and everything just seemed right as far as the timing was concerned. I had never been to Camphire before, but it was lovely — old-fashioned in a good way, in a beautiful setting with good facilities and tracks, and a really fun, friendly event. It was a nice way to bid farewell to the sport.
The horses we own — a seven-year-old, a six-year-old and a five-year-old — will be sold, as will Kiltubrid Rhapsody. Pete and Di’s Cool Tide is going to Tim Price, and we are confirming which rider Leo will go to for the continuation of his five-star career.
McClaren, whom I rode at the World Equestrian Games last year and who has had an injury, has received the all-clear from the vets after his last scan. We will rehab him and he will go to a New Zealand rider in due course.
Pull together for eventing to thrive
Eventing has been my life, near enough, for the past 40 years. I’ve seen a lot of changes, and it is definitely my time to finish. The sport must keep moving forward, but I find the endless rule changes and penalty additions offputting, and surely they keep making it more difficult for the public to understand, not simpler?
And it is too fragmented; too many people want to angle it in their direction for personal gain, and they need to pull together to help it survive and grow. It’s a brilliant sport, and I hope it continues to thrive.
Ref Horse & Hound; 8 August 2019