In the same week that the dressage medals should have been decided at the Tokyo Olympics, top British dressage rider Spencer Wilton joins H&H dressage editor Polly Bryan on episode nine of The Horse & Hound Podcast, to relive some of his favourite memories from Rio 2016.
The Rio Olympics, where he rode Jen Goodman’s Super Nova II and helped Britain bring home the team silver, was Spencer’s first championship, and the moment he found out he had been selected for the team is one that sticks in his mind.
“I remember exactly where I was when I got the call from chef d’equipe Dickie Waygood to say I had been selected,” says Spencer. “I was in the car – on hands-free – on my way to the yard, just getting on to the M4. The phone rang and I thought, ‘This is it, this is it’, and then I was trying to negotiate roadworks while Dickie was talking to me. It was an amazing moment.
“From that point onwards, it was just the most magical experience. If I never get the opportunity to do it again, it will be one of the most amazing experiences of my life.”
Spencer rode on the British team alongside Charlotte Dujardin on Valegro, Carl Hester with Nip Tuck and Fiona Bigwood on Atterupgaards Orthilia.
“Having never been to any of the big championships before, I don’t know what I was expecting, but I had the best time – it was just so much fun, and what a great team to be a part of,” says Spencer. “Everyone has their own individual pressures of course, but we had the best time. We had an amazing back-up team and Dickie made the whole experience as much as you can have at an Olympics where you also have to be serious and represent your country!
“I hadn’t twigged that we would all be sharing an apartment, and that we would be all together 24/7 for the best part of two weeks,” adds Spencer. “In between being very serious and trying to win a medal, we had lots of laughs.”
Many Olympians report spending lots of their time in the Athletes’ Village trying to work out what sport everyone else competes in, and Spencer says he and the other Brits were no exception.
“The food hall in Rio was like a huge aircraft hangar and I think it sat 5,000 people at a time. We spent hours trying to work out what sport other people did. Of course there are people from all around the world, from lots of different cultures, and looking at what people had on their food trays was particularly fascinating, especially at breakfast time!
“The first time I saw Usain Bolt was quite a moment – he is physically quite an imposing person, but he also just has this amazing aura about him.”
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Although the coronavirus pandemic has pushed the Tokyo Olympics back to 2021, Spencer is looking forward to campaigning Super Nova for team selection. The De Niro gelding will be 18 next year, but Spencer reports that he is feeling better than ever.
“Our vet Andy Bathe said, ‘We’ll just pop the old boy on ice for six months and keep him ticking over, and then we’ll thaw him out and get him going again in the autumn’. I said that if Andy takes care of his body, I’ll take care of his mind, which is like that of a six-year-old most of the time. He’s hacking out and having a play in the school from time to time, and he feels fantastic.”
If you’d like to find out more about Spencer’s plans as he looks ahead to Tokyo, and hear him chatting about his stunning new yard, listen here to episode nine of The Horse & Hound podcast or search “The Horse & Hound Podcast” in your favourite podcast app