Laura Tomlinson: ‘I’m backing the Brits to win Olympic gold in Paris’


  • The world, European and Olympic medallist, who won team gold at London 2012, shares her plans for the new year, the importance of doing your homework and some special Olympic memories...

    I always begin the new year with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. It’s the fear of the unknown: what will happen? Do I make detailed plans, knowing that things with children and horses never quite go to plan or do I fly by the seat of my pants knowing that the chaos is then bound to be too much to cope with?

    I suppose, as with all things, balance is key. I take things as they come but try to keep life as organised as possible so that productivity isn’t hindered whenever I am required to adapt. I also tend to have a plan B and C in mind too.

    The start of a new year means the opportunity to make some changes, set new challenges and break bad habits. My children will start school again and my youngest starts nursery this month so there will be some order returned to life and after a long and wonderful Christmas holiday, I’m certainly ready for some routine again.

    My family was away for Christmas and New Year’s Eve so before I left I wrote a morning and afternoon plan for my seven horses for each day that I was away. The more I can control, the more relaxed I am when I’m away – it’s the nature of most dressage riders.

    My horses had an easy time over Christmas and I’m now picking them back up and building up the workload ready to start some national shows over the next month. I’m trying to get wiser and more patient as I age, no longer diving into things completely unprepared.

    I prefer to be ready for things now – competing for the sake of it no longer has an appeal. I want to be able to give myself and my horses the chance to succeed when we go out to bigger shows so I’ll do my homework this time.

    I’d bet on gold

    The beginning of an Olympic year is special. The Paris 2024 Olympic Games are soon and yet, from an equestrian point of view there is so very much that can still happen between now and the summer. It’s not just a game of who is competing the best closest to the time but who gets their horse management just right.

    Getting good enough results to be selected and to be on the selectors’ radar without creating extra injury risk or straining the horses physically and mentally is a skill in itself. Having the horses fit enough to find their jobs easy is also key. Of course, this looks different for each horse depending on various factors such as age, sex and temperament.

    All horses need to cross-train – their work shouldn’t solely be dressage in an arena. Top horses, like all others, need hacking and turnout but we also use polework, the water treadmill and the gallop track to give them variety to help both their bodies and minds.

    As it stands now, Britain has the potential for a gold medal-winning team. In fact, I would place my bets on our team to win gold but we have to hope that the best horses are on form come the summer, with just the right amount of preparation.

    The two times I have ridden at the Olympics were very different experiences. The first time, in 2008, I was young and underprepared for what was coming and Alf (Mistral Hojris) was very fit but still too feisty and inexperienced for the kind of person that he was and for what was required of us.

    The second time was the opposite and although Alf was 17 by this time, he was fit as a fiddle and at his peak in the season.

    The feeling you get when you arrive at an Olympics and you can tell that you got it just right, your horse is in the sweet spot and your confidence is fully intact is the ultimate dream. Riding down the centre line with that feeling is what I imagine superheroes feel like.

    ● What are your Olympic predictions and how are you approaching the new year? Write to us at hhletters@futurenet.com, including your name, nearest town and county, for the chance to have your thoughts published in a future edition of Horse & Hound magazine

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, in shops from Thursday 18 January, 2024

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