We flew out on 6 August, dressed in our team kit, which was made us feel like a team straight away, with lots of people wishing us good luck. While we were watching TV at Heathrow, they reported the typhoon in Hong Kong and I could see Corlato [Ruby] being led across the screen.
I had my first chance to sit on Ruby the next day, and rode her in the indoor school. I’ve never ridden in air-conditioning and it felt strange. Though it is a constant 22 degrees, it feels pretty cold. It was raining a lot outside, so I put my wet weather gear on, but immediately felt like a boil-in-the bag chicken. I soon realised that you just have to get wet here.
By the Friday (8 August), we’d got into a pattern, getting up early and riding. The first thing that hits you is the security — there are six checkpoints before you even get into the stables, and if you haven’t got your accreditation, there’s no way you’ll get through. This makes you appreciate that it’s not a horse show, it’s an Olympics. Everyone is unbelievably friendly; there are lots of “good mornings”, and it’s genuine.
At the weekend, I started introducing evening riding, to get Ruby into the idea that the main performances will be in the evening. Because I know her so well, she felt a little sluggish when I first arrived, and Sunday was the first day she felt really good in herself – she had that edge again, which she does need to do her best.
We’d been keeping a close eye on the eventing and, on Monday, set out for Beas River to watch the cross-country. The course rode really well and I think we were surprised, as show jumpers, to see that; we walked every fence, but only saw one run-out, which is extraordinary.
By the time I came back to ride, I was so wet that it felt as if I was getting trench foot. We had a jumping competition that night and I was looking forward to seeing imaginative fences and spooky fillers, but it couldn’t have been a plainer course. I imagine the designer is saving his most imaginative ideas for the real thing. I wanted something to get stuck into, but at least it was a chance to get used to the flame, and also the big screen.
On Tuesday (12 August), we gave the horses a day off, to try and create a bit of normality. There is always a risk of over-training because you’re at an Olympics and it’s everything you’ve ever wanted, especially when it’s your first one. It’s important not to put too much pressure on yourself. I’ve got to try and remember that I’m jumping a few coloured sticks in front of people, just like I do 52 weeks a year. You need to raise your game, but not over-ride.
The whole thing is really close now, and I’m just longing to start. I’ve never been away for so long with just one horse to ride. Every day, Corlato has been saying to me ‘Is it today that we do something?’, and I’ve had to tell her ‘Not quite yet…’
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