The British groom working for the German team at the Olympics in Rio who was injured in the team dressage prize-giving has assured Horse & Hound that he is “really fine”.
Robbie Sanderson was taken to hospital immediately after the incident, but was discharged within an hour and a half.
“I’m phenomenally well,” said Robbie. “It really looked a lot worse than it was. It was just the wrong place at the wrong time and a shame it had to happen in front of everyone.”
He was leading Cosmo, Söneke Rothenberger’s horse, who had just won team gold for Germany.
“Cosmo never does things like that; he’s the most adorable horse in the world,” said Robbie.
Grooms were required to lead horses off the right hand side, which most are not used to.
“Basically I wasn’t very comfortable that they made us walk on the right-hand side of the horses, out of our comfort zone,” he explained. “The horses got excited and Cosmo’s very sensitive.”
The nine-year-old gelding — the youngest in the field — struck out and caught Robbie on the top of the head.
“Everyone around me was amazing,” he continued. “My rider asked if I was OK; the British grooms all helped. Söneke’s dad Sven came straight there and said he’d got Cosmo.”
As a dedicated and experienced groom, Robbie’s first thought was for the horse.
“The only thing I care about is the horse,” he insisted. “And [Valegro’s groom] Alan Davies, who knows me well, thought I would insist on just having a patch on and doing the rest of the ceremony.
“I could hear Charlotte Dujardin shouting, “Ambulance for Robbie! He needs an ambulance now!”
“All I was thinking was that I didn’t want to miss the ceremony. It’s not every day you get gold, and it was the proudest day for me. It’s the only medal I haven’t had in my whole career. I was the proudest groom in the world. Having that happen and then having to leave the prize-giving really killed me.”
He praised the reaction of the Rio organisers in getting the cut treated.
“Within an hour and a half I’d had the 10 stitches and the German team doctor was with me the whole time,” he explained. “Rio did an amazing job and really took care of us.”
In the local hospital an MRI showed that Robbie had no blood on the brain.
Crash hats for grooms
Does Robbie think grooms should wear helmets in ceremonies?
“No, we don’t need hard hats,” he reasons, “but we need to be in our comfort zone on the left side. It was a freak accident, but I’ve done more than 100 prize-givings and never had a problem.
“It was just a little moment that went wrong. Cosmo is the most loving animal in the world; just a big baby and this was not his fault. He’s my best friend — the most amazing horse — I’ve never had a relationship with a horse like this in my life.
“It wasn’t his fault, so there’s no forgiving to be done at all.”