It hasn’t been the smoothest of build-ups to the Olympics. I was supposed to be competing NZB Campino at Aachen, but the Home Office have had my passport for the past five weeks to sort out a visa issue — and they’ve still got it. I don’t seem to be able to get hold of anyone — and with two weeks until I fly to Rio, things are getting a bit tense!
And my Olympic horse, Leonidas II, had a distinctly “off” day at Barbury. In hindsight, because of cancelled events, he hadn’t run since Badminton, and he is a horse who needs to let off steam. He was way over the top and wild in the jumping phases, although his dressage was surprisingly good, all things considered.
In the showjumping, something caught his eye in the middle of the treble and he froze and stopped, which then rattled him. And cross-country all he would do was fight me. Not the ideal Rio prep, but both he and Campino are now going to Aston-le-Walls for the advanced. I’m not worried. I know Leonidas, he’s very fit and I know exactly what we’ve got to knuckle down and do now.
I remember what Charisma was like before the Seoul Olympics in 1988. At Castle Ashby he was appalling in the dressage, skittled the showjumping and ran away with me across country. I then ran him at Gatcombe, which he won — and he won the gold in Seoul too. So I’m hoping history might repeat itself!
Change that water
Barbury was the first time the Event Rider Masters (ERM) TV production has really been ramped up. They say there are still things to improve, but it certainly looked great and worked very well as a competition.
In non-Olympic years more foreign riders will aim for the ERM, and fewer people will save their best horses for a championship. Riders are embracing ERM; I don’t think it will detract from our top CCI events, but it lets riders and owners get a tangible reward for their work and dedication.
On the subject of Barbury, it is time the main water fence was altered. I know Mark Phillips said that the problems were down to bad riding (comment, 14 July), and yes, that is a factor. But every year, particularly in the novice, too many horses fall there. The new direction of Barbury’s course worked well, but that fence needs to change.
Alright on the night
Because of my role with the Brazilian team, this is the first time I have been an Olympic team selector. It’s not a nice job. You know about everyone’s hard work and sacrifices, but someone has to be left out.
My job with them is more or less done. Of course I will be out in Rio with them, and I will probably walk the course with them — in eventing we are all used to helping each other out — but I am confident it won’t detract from my focus on my performance. They have dressage and showjumping trainers and a chef d’equipe after all. And if the Brazilians all go as well as they could, they could be competitive.
People ask me if Rio “will be ready”. My experience of the Brazilians is that it will be alright on the night. They do everything at the last minute, but they do pull things together.
Ref: Horse & Hound; 21 July 2016