There’s keeping cool under pressure – and then there’s keeping Kiwi team cool with a broken stirrup and a ticking clock.
The phrase “teamwork makes the dream work” has perhaps never been quite so fitting as to how the New Zealand eventing side secured a podium finish in Boekelo last month.
Amanda Pottinger and the aptly named Good Timing were warming up for cross-country at the final leg of the FEI eventing Nations Cup series, when a tack malfunction struck.
“I was the second rider out for the team and I had already spoken to Jonelle [Price], who was our first to go, about the course when she came back,” Amanda told H&H.
“Everyone had gone in to watch the screens, so there was no-one in the warm up with me at the time.”
She added she had done about 90% of her warm-up, but there was a corner brush she particularly wanted to jump as there was a tough question involving a similar fence out on course. But as Amanda turned to it, her stirrup snapped.
“I looked down and it took me a while to realise what had happened. I looked around and there was just no-one – there were lots of other people there, but nobody I recognised as part of my team or my mum, who was grooming for me.
“I cantered back down towards where I knew our stables were, and there was a big high security fence around them. Just by chance, Dan Jocelyn was going into the yard and I yelled to him, ‘can you grab Jonelle’s stirrup?! Mine’s just broken.’ I couldn’t take anyone else’s as nobody else had gone yet.”
Dan threw Jonelle’s stirrup over the fence and Amanda, who had jumped off, tried to switch the tack as quickly as she could with her adrenaline running and the clock ticking.
“A person, who I don’t know and want to say thank you to, appeared and said, ‘look, you hold the horse, I’ll sort your tack’.
“Dan asked if I wanted Jonelle’s other stirrup, so I wasn’t riding in odd ones, but I didn’t have time.”
After making sure she was about level, Amanda whizzed back to the warm-up – arriving in the collecting ring with two minutes to go.
“I was a bit stressed,” she said, adding that she didn’t want to come straight to the corner, so popped a few other fences then jumped it – taking the flag out.
By this time, the Prices were at the collecting ring, with Tim coming to the rescue by “bolting over” to put the flag back on just in time for Amanda to have one final, ideal shot at the corner. Jonelle told her to breathe and Amanda had 30 seconds to collect her thoughts before she was off, producing a clear round inside the time.
Amanda and the 11-year-old gelding, owned by the Volunteer Syndicate, followed up on their cross-country performance with a faultless showjumping round, finishing on their dressage score and helping the New Zealand side to second place.
“It’s part of the sport – there’s pressured situations and things don’t always go to plan,” she said. “You have to learn to adapt to get the job done.”
After Amanda’s clear, the Kiwis joked that perhaps everyone should ride with Jonelle’s day-saving iron.
“When you think about it, I was very lucky as it could have happened as I was approaching the first fence. The horse also pulled a shoe off in the stable that morning, so when the stirrup broke as well, I was thinking, ‘should I be running today?!’,” she added, with a laugh.
“It’s one of those things where if you pull it off, it’s pretty cool – but it was very stressful at the time!”
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