‘It’s a dream, isn’t it?’ Heike Holstein and her first homebred fly the flag for Ireland in Tokyo dressage

  • Irish individual rider Heike Holstein and her homebred mare Sambuca gave a solid performance to finish sixth in the opening group of the second day of grand prix dressage in Tokyo (25 July).

    Tokyo is Heike’s fourth Olympics and it is the first for her 12-year-old Irish-bred mare, owned by Jake and William Bell.

    The Samarant x Limerick mare produced a soft and consistent test to score 68.43% and finish sixth in group D. The top two in each group, plus the six next best tests go forward to the individual final (freestyle), so Heike will need to wait and see if she will make the cut.

    “She’s the first horse I’ve ever bred and it’s been great bringing her up. She’s very intelligent, likes learning and I’m delighted to get this far. It’s a dream, isn’t it?

    “You breed a horse, have a little foal running around, then you break it [in], you ride it and you get to the Olympics – I’m delighted with that!

    “She was quite a bossy boots when she was younger, but she’s got much better and she went in there and behaved so well. She’s been so good here every day.”

    The combination were part of the Irish side at the 2019 Europeans that secured a history-making team place for Ireland at these Olympics. But Horse Sport Ireland’s (HSI) dressage high performance director Johann Hinnemann decided not to nominate a team, a decision accepted by the HSI board and strongly contested by riders, meaning Heike is the sole Irish dressage rider at these Games.

    “I loved her passage. I was very happy with her piaffe – that’s improved as it used to travel a lot, I don’t think it did so much [today] and I thought the rhythm stayed the same in all of them,” said Heike, adding the mare’s walk was “really relaxed”.

    “She really listened all the time, there were a few little mistakes – and a few of mine. I took her back a bit much in the first medium trot – I went a bit too much then took her back and had a rhythm fault, obviously that was a bit expensive.

    “Probably a bit harshly marked by some of the judges – it was between 67 and 70, so varied a bit. But that depends on their viewpoints and where they’re sitting as well.”

    Heike and the Irish riders across the other disciplines are wearing yellow ribbons and badges (pictured, below) in memory of the young rider Tiggy Hancock, who died in June. Heike thanked the IOC and FEI for allowing them to remember Tiggy in this way.

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