It’s the call-up you always dream of. But you never envisage having only a couple of hours to prepare to ride at an Olympic Games. That was exactly what happened to Germany’s reserve rider, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum when team member Marcus Ehning and his horse Cornado NRW were withdrawn this morning.
“I was on the way to the stadium this morning and I had my training outfit on,” she explains. “I was going to take a day off from riding today and just watch everything — give my horse Fibonacci some grass.
“Then I got a message on my phone: ‘Do you have your white riding breeches with you?‘ I was like ‘Oh my gosh!’ I had lots of emotions and tears came to my eyes, but I had to quickly turn the emotions down low. I really wanted this [to ride in Rio] and I thought I would have to give it up as a reserve rider.
“It was a shock and a surprise and thank my lucky stars that I’m able to compete on this fabulous horse.
“We had to rush around to get ready for this class at 10am. But it was fun rushing and here I am.”
Meredith nearly didn’t even make the trip to Rio when she and the 11-year-old Fibonacci were selected as the reserve combinations, rather than stright onto the team.
“The owner was reluctant to go as the reserve, but we slept on it. This is sport and we didn’t want to be bad sports. I’m delighted I came – can you imagine if I was sitting at home?”
Talented but fragile
Fibonacci is nicknamed Nacho at home. The horse is “an incredible talent but mentally fragile“, says Meredith.
“He’s a little particular about his surroundings,” adds Meredith.
Luckily her groom, Anu Harrita, knows exactly how to keep the horse — and Meredith — happy.
“She is the best braider [plaiter] on the face of the earth,” grins Meredith. “She used to do Shutterfly too and has been working for me for 18 years.”
In the first days’ jumping, Meredith and Nacho put in a spectacular clear round and are cleanly through to the next round.
Her team-mate Ludger Beerbaum — who is her husband Markus’ brother — adds: “Having Meredith as your reserve is a luxury.”