Opinion

All eyes are on Burghley and the World Equestrian Games (WEG) now. We’re in that horrible countdown time when you know you’ve got to do the final work with your horse; you don’t want to overdo it, but they won’t do a lot when they get out to Tryon for WEG, so they need to be absolutely fit to go. Burghley comes first, and both my entries, NZB Campino and Kiltubrid Rhapsody, are on good form. Campino went very nicely at Keysoe last weekend to win the open intermediate and, although he hasn’t run a lot this year, he felt very fit and ready to go.

I have been selected for WEG with McClaren, but Rhapsody is my number one reserve. The plan is that Rhapsody will run at Burghley — it would be a lot to ask owners not to run a horse at an event like that in case it is needed for a championship. Fingers crossed that nothing happens to McClaren but, if it does, I will rather have shot myself in the foot by competing Rhapsody at Burghley. Let’s hope that we can stick to plan A all the way through.

Comparisons to charisma

By any standards, McClaren’s rise through the grades is phenomenal; he was at novice in April 2017. But three seasons of low-mileage experience at BE100 and novice level has stood him in good stead, and has helped make him the confident, cocky character he is — he might be little, but he thinks he’s 10ft tall.

The dressage has been his steepest learning curve in getting him to the stage where he can do the CCI4* movements. He will still improve in the future, but he can do a very respectable test now. He is such a good galloper and jumper, and by all accounts those attributes will be needed at Tryon, along with the ability to jump a clear round on the final day.

It’s wrong to compare him with Charisma, with whom I won two individual Olympic golds, but it’s hard not to as they are alike in so many ways. They’re both feisty, look similar and I got them both at the same age. But, although Charisma had more experience, McClaren is probably the better jumper.

I had the same sort of feeling the first time I saw them both — nice little horse, but too small for me. The first time I sat on Charisma, that impression immediately changed. McClaren was in my yard for a week before I finally got on him — and when I did, that was it. I enjoy riding him so much.

It looks like a very even field for WEG. I don’t see a clear favourite; you can make cases for and against all the major teams. They all have strengths and weaknesses, and I think it’s the same with the individual riders — there isn’t one really stand-out combination.

It should be an excellent competition. There’s been so much talk about Tryon and we have built towards and prepared for it for so long that we are itching to get out there.

The New Zealand team may not be the youngest — our combined ages add up to well over 200 — but you can’t say we don’t have plenty of experience…

Ref Horse & Hound; 30 August 2018