Oliver Townend: what I think of being under new management *VIP*

  • Opinion

    The whole feel of the British team out in Poland at the European Eventing Championships was fantastic. I mean no disrespect to anyone involved previously, but I have never been to a championships where the atmosphere was so positive from start to finish.

    The organising team at Strzegom did a brilliant job. But courses in Europe now are so different to the biggest British events — the Badmintons and Burghleys — that it is like two completely different sports. Of course, a properly first-class superstar of a horse can win both, but you are asking two totally different jobs of that horse.

    The technicality of the cross-country courses at championships and the major European competitions — and the Event Rider Masters series — are like 10-minute Express Eventing competitions: hard and quick, more like CICs than CCIs.

    I thought the dressage judging in Strzegom was, once again, not great in parts. One example was the Polish judge putting Michael Jung first, on a horse that anyone, regardless of how much or how little they know, could see was nowhere near as good as Bettina Hoy’s or Ingrid Klimke’s. Something like that can make a considerable difference to the results, and the FEI really has to look at this, because it is becoming embarrassing for the sport.

    The quality of event horse is so incredibly high at every major European competition and championship these days. It used to be the case that you’d look at a horse like Blyth Tait’s Ready Teddy and think, “Wow.” Now there’s not one stand-out — there are five or six. The French and Germans, and probably the Swedish too, have so far overtaken us in terms of breeding quality horses with the ability, the temperament, the trainability — everything.

    Being cannon fodder

    I had a disappointing weekend. But in my mind I was there to do a job for the team, and was sent out first as “cannon fodder”, so that things could be learnt from my cross-country round. I wasn’t against that at this moment in time on that horse, and I went out to do as well as I could but also to try to unravel the course for the team.

    Things didn’t go my way on Saturday — but they didn’t for a lot of people. Cooley SRS made exactly the same mistakes as Upsilon, who I consider one of the best young horses in Europe. They were both caught out by inexperience and perhaps both became a little overawed by the whole thing.

    My round painted a clear picture that the time was achievable and that it wasn’t necessary to go all the straight routes to make it — I was three seconds over with two run-outs. I hope that helped the Brits who came after me, who did their jobs unbelievably well.

    Our team is going through a massive transitional period, without doubt, in all areas — horses, riders and personnel. But things are going in the right direction. Dickie Waygood, our new performance manager and chef d’equipe, is top-class. If I work under him as performance manager for the rest of my riding career, I’ll be happy. He is so determined to win, and fills you with such confidence to go out there and do your job.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 24 August 2017