‘I rode at the Olympics with a dodgy hat cover – then found out where my real one had gone…’

  • Have you ever come away from spectating at an event with a keepsake? A competitor’s rosette thrown into the stands, perhaps? One young rider left cross-country day at the 2012 London Olympics in Greenwich Park with a special token of the day, a hat cover – but it caused Italian rider Vittoria Panizzon some problems.

    “I lost my hat cover on the cross-country – there were lots of low trees that they couldn’t cut the branches off because of park rules,” reminisces Vittoria in an interview on this week’s Horse & Hound Podcast (episode 94).

    Vittoria was riding as an individual, without a team, so after the trot-up on the final day, she discovered she would be one of the first riders into the ring for the first round of showjumping.

    “You’re worrying about your horse’s legs and getting through trot-up and all of that. I wasn’t really thinking about my hat cover until I went to get ready to showjumping,” she says. “Suddenly I was being told that I’d be in the ring really quite soon and I realised I had no hat cover.

    “We were in the middle of London, there were no shops, you can’t really borrow one from someone else because everyone else has a team hat cover, so I couldn’t just go and wear a different flag.”

    Vittoria Panizzon managed to find an old spare hat cover, but it had logos on it – which are not permitted at the Olympics.

    “We had to stitch it up to cover the logos and we were ready in time to go in the ring,” she says. “So we went in with my very dodgy-looking hat cover – that’s one thing I hate in the pictures, it looks so silly.”

    A dodgy hat cover certainly didn’t put off Vittoria or her horse, Sally Bullen’s flamboyant home-bred grey Borough Pennyz.

    “She jumped fantastically around and had the first clear of the day, so she got a huge cheer,” says Vittoria. “What I really remember is riding into the ring the second time – she got a huge cheer before she even jumped, because everyone had so enjoyed her first round.

    “That felt amazing, I could never forget that. And then she jumped clear again and moved up the ladder.”

    Pennyz was only a nine-year-old at the time and her dressage was green, but she added just one time-fault in the second showjumping round to her dressage score and finished the competition in 11th place.

    And as for Vittoria’s hat cover, she eventually learnt where it had ended up…

    “Years later, photos were shared online of me jumping around the course without my hat cover and somebody piped up on Facebook and said, ‘Oh yes, we found a hat cover, my daughter uses it for Pony Club’. I thought, ‘Well, that’s great, I’m delighted she does, but it would have been quite handy to have it for showjumping, I would have given it back to you afterwards…’”

    Hear more about Vittoria’s three Olympic experiences by tuning in to episode 94 of The Horse & Hound Podcast here, or search “The Horse & Hound Podcast” in your favourite podcast app.

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