The way things worked out in Tryon wasn’t what I wanted from what was definitely my final World Equestrian Games (WEG) — an event at which I have never had any luck.
People had high expectations of the New Zealand team, perhaps higher than our own; I think we were hopeful, rather than overconfident. Full credit to the Brits — they had four very good riders and horses and produced the goods, as did the Irish in silver.
We had a slightly alarming introduction to the whole thing. We were staying at a vineyard close to the venue, and had three golf carts to get into it via a back route. The first time we set off, we got lost, finding ourselves in a yard, where a woman on a horse explained that we were in the wrong place. Then an old man appeared on a balcony, hollering, “Get off my f***ing land!” and threatening to get his shotgun out and put a bullet in us. Never have three golf carts moved so quickly.
The facilities for the horses were fantastic. It’s a shame that, during the opening ceremony, we could hear the hammers and drills working on construction, which was never really finished.
Lots of positives
I think you can look at this WEG in two ways. Some of it was a complete fiasco — the endurance, the loss of the dressage freestyle. And is hosting a WEG just too much to expect? Certainly for a new venue it poses too many demands. It’s a romantic idea that spectators will watch several disciplines, but do they? Or do they just watch the one they are interested in? I think you could successfully have the Olympic and Paralympic disciplines at one venue, but I’d let the others have their World Championships at a place that suits their individual needs.
But we should remember there was some truly great competition in Tryon. In eventing, nations such as Japan — and thank God they were automatically qualified for the 2020 Olympics as host nation, or the New Zealand team wouldn’t have qualified — and Spain did well. Ros Canter’s gold medal-winning performance was solid all the way through, and especially her excellent showjumping round under pressure. There were a lot of positives throughout.
We were very lucky with the weather on cross-country day, which was almost ideal. The conditions for my dressage test on Thursday were as hot as I have ever ridden in with really high humidity levels.
I think everyone got nervous about the hill at the end of the cross-country. But we knew about it before the event, we trained for it and teams were selected with it in mind, so the pressure put on while we were there to cut the distance from 10min to 7min 30sec was unnecessary. To be fair, most of the principal teams were against the reduction — I think only the Australians and the Belgians argued strongly for it.
The decision to keep the length and the hill was a good one, and people rode to get their horses home, rather than going off like rockets. Most horses finished very happily.
There were more clear and inside the time than ever previously at a WEG, which was down to three-star technicality and ideal conditions. Take away that extra element of horsemanship — preparing a horse for an endurance test — and eventing really does become a different sport to the one we know and love.
Ref Horse & Hound; 4 October 2018