Ros Canter on being the Team GB alternate rider in Tokyo: ‘It’s managing being prepared – and not disappointed at the same time’

  • The three-to-a-team, all-to-count format of the Tokyo Olympics has been widely discussed since the competition finished, but how was the experience of being an eventing alternate rider at the Games, with the possibility of being swapped in for any phase? Ros Canter was called up as the British alternate with her world champion Allstar B when it was decided that Piggy March and Brookfield Inocent would be withdrawn from that position.

    “I was in quarantine anyway as a reserve, then the decision was made on Saturday and the horses left on Sunday night,” explains Ros in an interview on this week’s Horse & Hound Podcast. “We knew we had to be prepared anyway – I knew I was number five [behind the team of three and travelling alternate], so I was next in line to go. I knew Allstar B would have to travel to Belgium in that position in case something went wrong between here and the airport, so from the point of view of the packing that wasn’t too much of a nightmare.”

    Ros had also been organised and put arrangements in place at home, including for her daughter Ziggy, in case she was called up to travel.

    Once in Tokyo, Ros had the tricky job of being ready to compete, but knowing she probably wouldn’t be doing so.

    She explains: “I can’t say it as an easy position to be in, because it wasn’t – it was probably the most challenging position I’d ever had to hold from the point of view of getting myself mentally prepared. There aren’t quite the nerves you would normally have and trying to persuade your brain you’re going to be competing in a few hours time is quite a hard thing to do when you probably aren’t – it’s kind of managing being prepared and not disappointed at the same time.

    “I rode ‘Albie’ as if I was going to be going down that first centreline as the first team rider if something happened to go wrong that night before the dressage and that’s what I tried to do the whole time, the same for the cross-country and the same for the showjumping. It definitely was a challenging place to be, but somebody had to do it and it was my job to do it and I tried to treat it very much like a job. If I’d gone out there as a team rider, my job would have been to win a gold medal, but my job that week was to be the best reserve I could be, so those were the challenges I had to deal with.”

    Ros Canter: Tokyo cross-country day

    Allstar B travelled to the Tokyo Olympics cross-country course at Sea Forest the day before that phase with the rest of the horses. With cross-country starting at 7.45am, Ros had a very early start, travelling from the hotel to the course in the same car as British pathfinder Oliver Townend, so she was prepared if she was called up to ride before the deadline of two hours before the action started.

    “I got straight in and rode Albie early like I would have done if we’d been competing and I actually gave him a little bit of a jump over some of the warm-up fences – at that point I knew I wouldn’t be competing in the cross-country, but there was always the potential that I would be doing the showjumping and Allstar B tends to showjump at his best after a cross-country run so I was quite mindful of that,” she says. “So I took him for a bit of a canter on hacking route and then popped him over a few fences so that he got his blood up a little bit, enough that I could hopefully jump him at his best the next day if I was needed.”

    Once she knew she wasn’t competing that day, Ros had said she wanted to be “as useful as I could be” and she was given a job for the first hour of competition.

    “I ended up going down and clocking everybody’s two-minute marker, so for the first bunch of team riders, I knew where the second minute marker was so I could say whether they were eight seconds up or three seconds down. That was then inputted into a spreadsheet and then they could start to work out where our riders needed to be at minute two in order to make the time. And there were various other people doing that at different points around the course. So that was my job and then after that I had a radio and I was ready to help if anyone needed it, but everyone was pretty organised so I did that job for the first hour and then watched.”

    Ros and Allstar B will have their chance to shine for the British team when they start in the squad at the European Eventing Championships in Avenches, Switzerland, later this month.

    Find out more about Ros’s Tokyo experience, plus hear her thoughts on this week’s Bicton five-star on episode 66 of the Horse & Hound Podcast.

    You might also be interested in:

    Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.

    You may like...