As soon as Danish dressage rider Anders Dahl trotted his Rio Olympics ride Selten HW 10m, he knew he wanted him.
“There was an instant connection,” he says, explaining he turned to his wife, British Rio rider Fiona Bigwood, and said: “We need this horse.”
That was at the 2012 Equine Elite Auction in the Netherlands and the Sandro Hit son duly made his way to the couple’s Sussex yard, with a price tag of €500,000.
But things didn’t go so smoothly once Selten was back home.
“He was very ill,” says Anders. “We weren’t sure if we were going to lose him. He had strangles and then a virus which meant that by law he would have to be put down if he failed a blood test, which he did, but luckily he had another which was clear.”
When the horse recovered, he was “very naughty” in his work after the long break. He had originally been bought by Fiona, but the couple agreed Anders would take the ride.
“But I made it clear that if I’m riding this horse, I’m keeping him,” he says. “I sold Bukowski, who is at Rio with Korea’s Kim Dongseon, and used the money to buy him off Fiona.
“He’s a lot more mature now. I think because he’d had so long off he was flying more than staying on the ground.”
As well as Bukowski, the couple also sold another Rio horse, Don Lorean, who is ridden by Japan’s Yuko Kitai.
Anders was pleased with Selten’s grand prix test this morning, which scored 69.9%.
“He was listening to me, although the first piaffe got a bit tense and was not as good as it could be,” he said. “In the second piaffe I let him go more forward to relax into it.”
‘We are always there for each other’
The 40-year-old Dane said that he and Fiona have things well worked out so they can support each other but also focus on their own performance.
“We do it so much, but it’s fantastic we can be at something as big as the Olympics as husband and wife,” he said, explaining they each have their own trainers, but will support each other in the warm-up. “We were a bit nervous about the draw and whether we’d be a bit close together, as we are always there for each other.
“I feel almost part of the British team and Fiona is almost part of the Danish team. Most of the time in the Athletes’ Village I am in my room and Fiona is in hers, but I have been over to hers.”
The couple have three children, four-year-old Lars, eight-year-old Morten and 10-year-old Mette and they are also out in Rio, staying in a hotel with other British supporters. They are being looked after by Anders and Fiona’s mothers, as well as a Danish guide who lives in Rio, and have been seeing all the sights including Copacabana, Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain.
“We didn’t want to feel we had to look after them as we wanted to focus on competing, but tomorrow we’ll be here [at the venue] with the kids and we’ll be with them on the rest days,” said Anders.
Full report on the dressage from Rio in H&H next week, out Thursday, 18 August, including full analysis of how the medals were won and comment from Richard Davison.