India’s sole Tokyo Olympic eventing competitor Fouaad Mirza has given the top 10 leaderboard a surprise shake-up with a beautiful test in Tokyo aboard his Asian Games medal-winning ride, Seigneur.
The pair, who took home team and individual silver at the 2018 Asian Games, stormed the first phase, earning a score of 28 to slot into provisional seventh place on their Olympic debut.
The 15-year-old gelding was formerly campaigned by Germany’s Bettina Hoy to multiple three-star (now four-star) victories before joining Fouaad.
“I think I could have done better, especially with that horse,” said Fouaad.
“At the end he was very calm in there; he can get a little bit nervous and a bit hot. I had all the opportunities to ride him better, but I maybe I just rode him a bit too quiet thinking he was going to be a bit hot and nervous, so not good enough for the better marks.
“[Seigner] did a good job, he did everything that I asked in a good way. I made a mistake with the first flying change, we did it a bit too late, so probably would have lost a mark there, but the rest was quite good.
“I’m very lucky to be able to ride a horse like him. He’s an amazing, amazing horse. He is a gentleman in every sense of the word you know. He’s very kind, very honest, and for somebody that’s not got so much experience to be able to ride a horse like him, it’s amazing. I mean he teaches me a lot, and there’s still a lot I can learn from him.”
The gelding, by Seigneur d’Alleray, was fitted with eggbar (fully circular) shoes. Fouaad explained they help give the horse a “little bit more stability and support”.
“It’s not super common with event horses,” he said. “[That’s] obviously because we have to go cross-country and the less complicated stuff you have, the better, because if you lose a shoe and you don’t have your farrier there, putting them back on can be tricky for the farrier on site, but I knew there were good farriers here.”
Fouaad, who is India’s first eventer to compete at an Olympics in two decades, has been based with Sandra Auffarth in Germany for the past two years.
“I studied psychology and business management in Northampton, and then we had a plan to try and get to the Asian Games,” he said.
“So I dropped out of university after doing two years – I was quite a good student and my parents didn’t like it… but anyway! I took a gap year thinking I’d go back after the Asian Games – I didn’t.”
The 29-year-old trained for the Asian Games under Chris Bartle’s guidance, before moving to Germany to base himself with Bettina Hoy, which is how he came to take over the reins on Seigneur. He has since moved to Sandra’s yard and says he has learnt a lot from his time with both riders.
Reflecting on what it means to ride at the Games, he said: “I think I would be lying if I didn’t say I didn’t feel any pressure, for sure. But of course, you know all these competitors here that are from mainland Europe – we compete against each other day in, day out, whether it’s the young horses or the older ones, so it’s the same faces. In that respect, it’s not a big drastic change [to that]. But of course we’re riding under these rings … and there’s a lot to lose.”
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