Tales from Rio: ‘We had no money; I did Polly Pocket commercials to pay for lessons’

  • Tiffany Foster might be jumping round huge tracks on Tripple X III now, but the Canadian Olympic showjumper didn’t grow up with a silver spoon in her mouth. When she was a kid, she acted in ads to earn cash.

    “When I was a little girl, we didn’t have any money, so my mum made me do commercials to pay for my riding lessons,” she says. Then she reels off a whole list of brands she worked for — at lightning speed.

    “They were little girl toy commercials,” she says. “Polly Pocket, Littlest Petshop, Little Petshop Zoo, Shampoodle, Puppy Surprise, Pony Surprise, Kitty Surprise — all of those. I’m multi-faceted over here!” she jokes.

    Tiffany is so engaging and bright; the only tough job for a journalist is writing fast enough to keep up with her supersonic talking speed.

    She’s now competing at the Olympics in Rio on Ben Maher’s London 2012 gold medal-winning horse, Tripple X.

    “I’m telling you; anybody could go in the ring on Tripple X and feel confident,” says Tiffany, as she bounces up and down with enthusiasm under Rio’s punishing sun.

    Is it strange for her to be riding Tripple X at a show, knowing Ben is here too?

    “No,” she says brightly. “Ben and I are pretty good friends and we’ve been to a lot of shows together. I’m used to him being around. All I’m thinking as I’m cantering round is if he’s thinking he’s wishing he was riding ‘Hugo’ — though maybe not!”

    She giggles in her charming, chirpy way.

    Ben Maher and Tripple X III win team gold at the London 2012 Olympics

    Ben Maher and Tripple X III win team gold at the London 2012 Olympics

    How does it feel to be riding an Olympic gold medalist?

    “He’s a double gold medalist — he won gold at the Pan-Ams too,” she admonishes, quick to praise the British-bred son of Namelus R.

    You honestly don’t think there’s a jump he can’t jump. When you feel that at the Olympic Games and you walk the course and you don’t even register how big the jumps are. It’s a great feeling and I don’t think everybody gets that. I feel really fortunate to have that.

    “I’ve come here with a ton of confidence in my horse — I can’t imagine being here on any other horse.”

    Continued below…

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    In the first round, Tripple X nudged out a single brick on top of the gigantic wall.

    “He jumped unbelievably,” she says with her customary enthusiasm. “He felt like he was having a good time.

    “He has a little bit of a left drift which I have to use to my advantage. I couldn’t be happier with him though, he tried his heart out.

    I can’t believe I had the stupid wall down, just the top brick flicked off! I’ve never had a wall down with him. What a time to do it!”

    Decked out support crew

    Tiffany’s mother Lynne is in Rio to support her.

    “My mum is my number one fan — she’s totally decked out and I just hope I get a clear so I can go and give them a wave.”

    And that precious clear came today. She and Hugo jumped a cracking round in temperatures touching 30 degrees. Canada was then tied in third with Germany and had to jump again. The pair put in another astonishing clear, with Hugo eating up the ground with his huge canter and Tiffany daring him on. It might not have been good enough for the team bronze, but the horse jumped his socks off, and Tiffany rode beautifully.

    Full 20-page report from the Olympic showjumping in Rio in the issue of H&H published Thursday, 25 August, including full analysis of every round of the competition and expert comment from Geoff Billington and William Funnell.

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