‘I knew how much he had to give mentally to be able to do that for me’: Laura Tomlinson on the ride of her life

  • When everything goes right, when there is total harmony and a horse gives his all – those precious moments are what a partnership is all about. Eleanor Jones finds out about one unforgettable ride...

    With a horse like the superb, multiple medal-winning Mistral Hojris (Alf), who did so much for British dressage, there are many tests Laura Tomlinson will always remember – but winning individual bronze at London 2012 is right up there.

    “I think the Olympic bronze in London is a standout,” she said. “An Olympic individual medal is probably the most special thing, and the fact it was the freestyle – historically the toughest thing to get right with him – made it extra special as I knew how much he had to give mentally to be able to do that for me.”

    Having already helped secure team gold for Britain, Laura and Alf pulled out all the stops to The Lion King music, raising hairs on the backs of necks of a home crowd in Greenwich.

    “I think it was that last centre line,” says Laura. “We were passaging, and I’d done everything I needed to do. Coming towards the final halt, you can see I’m welling up because that was the first time I allowed myself to think, ‘Wow. We’ve done it.’

    “At that point, you don’t know what marks or placing you’ll get, but the sheer fact he’d given me that performance was enough. The feeling that he’d given me everything he had to give was an emotional moment. He was an old boy by then and that he’d come out on the last day all guns blazing was testament to all the work we’d done together, and my whole team; it’s a big moment for everyone who has been a part of that horse’s journey.”

    2D0710M Laura Bechtolsheimer of Britain riding Mistral Hojris gestures after the equestrian Dressage Individual Grand Prix Freestyle at the London 2012 Olympic Games in Greenwich Park August 9, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT EQUESTRIANISM OLYMPICS)

    For Alf, it was definitely a journey, as although he had always been a “phenomenally willing horse with a massive heart”, and in possession of a huge amount of talent, he had struggled with big events and atmospheres. So, it took time for him to learn that he could perform as well on a big stage as he did elsewhere.

    “When your horse has given you that, it doesn’t matter whether it’s an unaffiliated show or the Olympic Games; it’s about the journey, and that moment with the horse is what we all do it for,” Laura says.

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