But with his ribs carefully taped up, the 2017 European silver medallist and his 10-year-old ride who had never competed at a championship — and was making his debut in this Olympic competition — went into the ring and jumped a superb clear in the Olympic showjumping team final.
“It was very hard for me to go in there because this is the first class I’ve jumped [here], and straight away it was the most important one, for the team,” Harrie said.
“I’m very proud of my horse; he did an unbelievable job today – he’s very inexperienced.
“He was my second horse for the Olympics. My first horse got injured, and a few weeks ago I had a bad fall, and broke my ribs, so I came from very far.
“Then, to be here at the final moment, and to go clear, it’s a super achievement.”
Harrie Smolders said his ribs are taped and that last week, they “started getting much, much better”.
“[The fall] was on a different horse, then my first horse for the Olympics got injured about the same time, Murphy’s Law!” he said.
“Then they asked me to come with this horse, who’s never done a championship, this was his first championship round, so to perform like that is amazing.”
Harrie said he had taken the selle francais gelding to Wellington, Florida, early this year to accustom him to jumping at night under lights.
“I knew he was coping with it very, very well and he showed it today, he was in his element,” he said.
Harrie added that he used his experience to guide his horse, and “give him a split second of breath”.
“But you have to be a partnership and you have to be with both to achieve like this,” he said. “I cannot be prouder of him.”
And did his ribs hurt?
“Not yet, it’s the adrenaline now!” he said.
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