Laura Tomlinson: Tokyo could throw up surprises *H&H VIP*


  • After an exciting start to the year with the arrival of our new baby, I also moved my horses to my new yard at our home, which was a little nerve-racking but satisfying, too. Driving 30 minutes to my old yard at my parent’s house every day, between feeding the baby, was a bit full on. Now I can walk out of the kitchen door, down some steps and into the yard. Not a bad commute.

    We organised everything ahead of the horses arriving, making sure all was ready, from feed, hay and bedding arriving in bulk to machinery, such as the arena harrow and tractor. There were lots of things to think about, from first-aid supplies to coffee cups and a kettle for the tack room.

    Luckily, my groom of 11 years, Clare Swain, did all the legwork to make sure the horses could arrive without wanting for anything and my grooms had a seamless transition.

    The horses have settled in well, although moving them was quite emotional for my dad and also for me, as it was a tie to my childhood home. Luckily, Dad enjoys the drive in a classic car, so I still get plenty of training from him.

    Facing Challenges

    Since being back in the saddle, I have also been put through my paces by World Class physio Ash Wallace and the new strength and conditioning coach Stephen Breisner. They are testing squad riders to see if there is a pattern in elite riders’ strengths and weaknesses and to develop training programmes to improve riders’ all-round capabilities and longevity.

    Ahead of Tokyo, there is already a lot of talk about the challenging conditions riders and horses will face out there. The long journey is just a small part, but Tokyo will be hot and extremely humid. This means the combinations selected will need to be super fit to perform to their best. Horses will need to be in different shape to how they might be for a typical championship and, as we can’t mentally prepare them for what is to come, riders will need to be good at adapting their game plan according to how the horses are coping.

    It will add an exciting element and means that come day three of competition, there may be some upsets with the less fit riders and horses starting to underperform.

    Saving our top horses for summer

    The World Cup final is upon us and there are no British riders competing in it this year. This seems like a real shame but, historically, we are a country whose riders tend to save their top horses more for the summer season. We cannot compete abroad through both the winter and summer as it involves too much travelling.

    Unless you have more than one top horse to campaign, it’s logistically challenging to get qualified for the final — unless you are good enough to win two qualifiers.

    Those Brits with hot horses also tend to shy away from the World Cup series, although this is a shame as the World Cup shows do allow combinations to practise in front of big crowds and serious atmospheres.

    We will watch with bated breath to see how the qualified riders get on at the final in Gothenburg (3-7 April), and maybe next winter more of us will get our acts together to represent Britain at this big showcase event.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 4 April 2019