H&H’s Tokyo rider of the day: Kelly Layne on her ‘rockstar who just wanted to hide’

  • Kelly Layne was magnanimous in Tokyo today after finishing bottom of the field in the Olympic dressage grand prix on a score of 58.35%.

    The Australian rider had a made a decent start with her 12-year-old gelding Samhitas (Siggy), when he reared up during the piaffe in front of the judge at C, Francis Verbeek. After that, Kelly nursed the horse round without asking too much from him, finishing with a rueful smile.

    Kelly, 46, reported that the Samhitas (Sir Donnerhall x Abanos) had been outstanding in training and in the warm-up, but lost confidence in the ring on his own for the first time.

    “Outside I had a rock star, but when he came in [for his test], he realised he was all alone,” she said.  “He was training beautifully [in the arena] but you never get a chance to go in alone. Before he was like, ‘bring it on!’, but when he went in, it was like, ‘I just want to crawl under a rock and not be here’.”

    Kelly said she had to do some “quick thinking” to salvage some marks.

    “For me, it’s all about getting on to the next movement,” she said. “The judges do not want to see you school your horse in there. I told the horse he had to keep going, and he was like ‘OK mum, I’ll keep going’.

    “You have to recover as well as you can and move on. The next [piaffe] I was probably too fragile with him, but he is sensitive. Was that the right or wrong decision? You can only learn by doing.”

    Australia's Kelly Layne maintained her composure to nurse her inexperienced Samhitas through the Tokyo Olympics grand prix.

    Kelly Layne successfully coaxed her inexperienced ride Samhitas through the grand prix after he become upset during the piaffe. Credit: Peter Nixon

    “I’ve learnt so much from the Tokyo experience”

    Kelly’s presence in Tokyo is a step forward from five years ago, when she was forced to withdraw her ride Udon P from the Rio Olympics due a splint issue. This time, she was pulled off the reserve list just three weeks before the start of the competition when her compatriot Kristy Oatley withdrew Du Soleil.

    “It’s amazing how the universe works,” she said. “In Rio I was the person who had to pull out, and somebody replaced me – this time somebody pulled out and I replaced them. Rio pushed me to make it here, and you get that Olympic fever. We’ve had the most incredible experience over the weeks leading up to this. It was a quick preparation and the horse is still a bit green, which showed tonight.”

    The pair’s personal best is 71.93%, but Kelly says the whole experience in Tokyo has given her plenty to build on.

    “To do this championship and see everything behind the scenes, you learn so much,” she said. “For me and for the future of this horse – I think it can just catapult you forward.”

    And as for Tokyo’s notorious hot weather – that was the least of Kelly’s concerns. Born in Australia, she now lives in Florida and said she’d be happy with it “10 degrees more”.

    “This is my everyday feeling – I’m used to being drenched,” she said. “From morning to afternoon riding 10 horses a day and teaching lessons in this weather. It’s a little crazy, but it’s where I choose to live in the world. I really can’t do cold – nothing works and my brain freezes.”

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