It’s that moment every rider dreads – you’re lining up for one of the biggest performances of your life and your horse decides the arena is full of terrifying monsters lurking ominously under the fences and she would rather be back in her stable. It’s happened to the best of us, but today Dutch rider Marc Houtzager demonstrated his outstanding horsemanship to turn what could have been a complete disaster into a success in the crucial Olympic showjumping individual qualifier at the Tokyo Games on Tuesday (3 August).
Marc’s 13-year-old mare Dante suffered an unexpected case of stage fright when she came into the Olympic arena, which caused her to whip round dramatically twice – thankfully before they crossed the start line. Her rider kept his cool and dealt with the situation with the utmost ease, coaxing the mare back on track, recapturing her focus and the pair went on to jump a foot perfect clear round, ensuring their place in the Olympic showjumping individual final on Wednesday (4 August).
“That wasn’t normal – she’s never done it before,” said the 50-year-old Dutchman, a team silver medallist behind Great Britain at the London 2012 Olympics.
“She was a bit nervous and fence number 10 was quite spooky for a lot of a lot of horses so maybe I went too direct towards that fence, but I didn’t expect it. So that’s why I also started very quickly, then she turned around again to the left, but I kept quiet. I always stay calm!
“I know the horse very well and I just felt she was a bit nervous in the ring with the lights and the flowers and everything. That’s why I kept quiet and in the end it worked out.”
The pair soared home without touching a rail, in a round the Dutchman describes as almost “perfect” otherwise.
“I was a little bit too slow to number two, I had not such a good rhythm into it, but afterwards the round was like planned all the way to the finish,” he said.
“Tomorrow’s a new day, a new round, but with one round and a jump off it is not so easy and I think the course-builder has a difficult job to do tomorrow. And we do also.”
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