Tales from the eventing Euros: ‘my horse made me love eventing again’

Belgian rider Constantin (Tintin) Van Rijckevorsel is no stranger to championships. He made his debut on a senior Belgian team at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, aged 20, where he finished eighth. And this week, after a five-year absence from the Belgian team, he is back at the Longines FEI European Eventing Championships in Luhmühlen (28 August-1 September).

“It’s so nice to be back at this level — I’ve missed it,” confesses Tintin, who has lived in West Sussex for a number of years. “The Belgian eventing community is a small one, so actually some of the riders and support crew are still the same as they were all those years ago.”

Tintin, now 43, actually has a number of other championship performances on his CV, including Athens and Sydney Olympics. Plus a total of eight European and World Equestrian Games appearances. But it is his 2019 Europeans mount, Beat It, a 13-year-old gelding, who has helped reaffirm his place on a team.

“I bought this horse from Holland to have a bit of fun with when he was five,” explains Tintin. “We travelled with William Fox-Pitt to here in Luhmühlen and on the way home picked this horse up — and now we’re back, which is lovely really.”

Tintin says he “always loved” this horse but disaster struck in 2015 when the horse broke a bone behind his knee when contesting an intermediate.

“Vet Ian Wright did a beautiful job of fixing him, but he was off for 18 months and the prognosis for those types of injuries is often not great, but the vet was always confident that Beat It would return to competition,” explains Tintin.

From 2017 it was full steam ahead and the pair notched up some solid results at intermediate and CCI3*-S/L level.

“We then went to the CCI4*-L at Blenheim last September and that’s when I realised he was a proper horse,”says Tintin. “He’s been amazing ever since and, touch wood, has never had a lame day since his injury. He made me like eventing again after things hadn’t been as good as they could have been — to sit on a horse that just takes you across country is special.”

Tintin and his wife Therese have two girls, who are aged seven and 10 and he says that having children definitely puts a different perspective on life.

“You sort of realise that if you have a rail down, it isn’t the end of the world as you go home to your kids and suddenly the four faults doesn’t matter any more.”

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Tintin and Beat It got their European championships off to a good start, scoring 33.3 in the dressage yesterday (30 August).

“He’s always been a bit nervous, but he’s getting better thanks to some great help over the past three months from Sune Hansen,” says Tintin. “I’d love for us to jump a fast double clear — he’s a great jumper being by Quidam De Revel — but our number one aim is for Belgium to gain Olympic qualification, so I’ll be following team orders.”

Check back for more updates from the Eventing European Championships in Luhmühlen all week, plus full report in next week’s Horse & Hound magazine (dated 5 September).