Rio is a vibrant city, a tale of two halves, with the extreme poverty of the favelas contrasting with beauty and wealth. The views over the city are the most breathtaking I have ever seen.
Years of preparation and debriefs had all of us, at one stage, wondering whether it would all be worth it; what not to eat or drink, being on guard 24/7 and the in-progress roadworks on the way to the equestrian centre. My old eventing friend Ruy Fonseca commandeered my Facebook after my rather nervous column in March (ref H&H, 10 March) to rebut all my fears and boy was he right.
The after-party life
Chef de mission Mark England (jolly appropriate name by the way) gave us our first briefing on arrival, and his incredible team of support staff catered for our every need. We were, of course, ably led by Dickie Waygood, who had us up and out of bed bright and early — that is until after a couple of far too early calls for Fiona, when he realised he’s a civvie now.
This team quite simply had the best spirit and friendship you could want. Although London was a spectacular success, I had very little time to enjoy celebrating until way after the job was done. However, in Rio we really took the job of after-partying to task. And although we were realistic about silver, it didn’t stop us thinking of gold, and rather like the Germans, we’ll be fighting to get it back.
It’s exciting times, with Super Nova and Orthilia yet to reach their peaks. With Spencer and Fiona, they are part of the future for Team GB dressage, and I cannot express how proud I am of their performances. It’s so interesting finding out how different characters work in preparation for their tests. Whether you’re over- or under-confident, confidence comes from all those around you and what we were all able to give was wildly exciting.
I’m so happy for Nip Tuck and his owner Jane de la Mare. “Barney” surpassed expectations to finish seventh in the individual freestyle and I can’t believe, for such a great big horse, how easy he was in that test (apart from the whiplash I was still feeling after his spectacular spook in the grand prix).
People have poured praise on Valegro for years, and having had him in my care for 12 years and being used to seeing him every day I sometimes don’t see how great he is. But, after that final music test, I had to go and sit in a corner and let my emotions drain out. Also, I don’t need to tell you how incredible Charlotte is under pressure. The pair will be talked about as greats a century from now.
Although I’m not entirely sure about his retirement yet and a decision will be made in the coming months, Valegro is enough of a superstar in his own right. He’s easy enough to cheer people up, strong enough to do demos, or perhaps he’ll just come and sit on your sofa for a night of telly!
At the after-party between the grand prix silver and the kür, Charlotte and I ended up in the pool fully clothed with phones in our pockets, hence no communications. So for once I was able to focus on performance, with no texts or calls. Between the team and individual competitions we took a trip to the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer, and I did think “Christ Almighty”, as it takes your breath away. We went to say a final prayer, just to give us a bit more assurance, and our prayers were answered.
Ref Horse & Hound; 25 August 2016
For some years, the elephant in the room has been that the Olympic Games has ceased to be the pinnacle of our sport in terms of difficulty, but this could not be said of Rio. Course-designer Pierre Michelet should be commended for bringing cross-country back to being the chief influence and USP of our sport.
So how tough was Rio compared to previous Olympic courses? In Rio, 41% of riders jumped clear across country, which is in line with previous Games — from 1964 to 2000 the percentage of clear rounds was consistently around 40%. However, three “soft” courses in Athens, Hong Kong and London followed, with an average of 69% jumping clear. So Rio was not unusually influential, it simply put the sport back to where it used to be: a conventional and exciting three-phase competition rather than a combined-training event with an uninfluential exhibition of cross-country.
Michelet’s interesting course tested the best, but allowed less experienced riders to put in good performances; 11 out of 13 teams completed and riders from China, Japan, Chile and Zimbabwe finished in the top 35. Importantly, it achieved the right result; no one could fluke a medal and the world’s leading nations came through.
Understandably, there was an assumption that the trend from recent Games would continue in Rio, but it is not entirely surprising that it didn’t — Michelet is never one to dumb things down and this was a classic Michelet creation.
Value four-star results
An average finishing score of 56 was enough to win the team gold medal — for example three results in the region of a 48 dressage, four time-faults and a fence down.
It’s easy to be clever in hindsight, but different nations planned for different events. I gather that from the outset the Australian plan was to have three experienced four-star horses and one wild card; Britain did the opposite, sending three with great three-star form and Chilli Morning.
Australia’s “wild card” came off — Chris Burton was outstanding on a nine-year-old — but, when it comes to the championship crunch, there is a massive gulf between three- and four-star experience.
In eventing it matters less what diet you’ve been on, or how perfect your technical skills are in an indoor school in January, it’s how you ride under pressure, particularly when it’s raining and the fences are growing; you need technical skill but you also need “instinct” and a “going to war” attitude.
But there weren’t lots of four-star pairs to choose from — Britain’s four-star results have been relatively thin recently, whereas the French, Germans, Australians and Kiwis have looked strong. They proved it in Rio, finishing 73 marks ahead.
Everyone wondered when the Germans would crumble after their run of team golds, and at one stage it looked as if they wouldn’t get a team medal at all. But, crucially, they recovered quickly from errors; Sandra Auffarth and Ingrid Klimke had run-outs yet were among the fastest riders. In the end, Germany came within 3.8 penalties of team gold.
Britain will come back — we have too much heritage not to — but perhaps we need to value four-star results more than those at three-star and CICs. We have relied for too long on William Fox-Pitt, who rode out of his skin — what a shame he couldn’t give Britain the full set of individual equestrian golds.
The road to Tokyo begins now. Let’s hope that eventing did enough to showcase talent, excitement and diversity in Rio to keep us in the Olympic movement, with another true three-phase competition.
Ref Horse & Hound; 25 August 2016
For once I write to you with news that someone else is in more trouble than I am, which, let’s face it, is a very rare happening indeed.
You know I mentioned last week that Dolly had “marked” my face? Well I might have underplayed the severity a fair bit. What I should have written is that Dolly had attempted to rip my face off my skull and pretty much had nearly succeeded. I’m not sure who looked the most concerned — the boss lady that mother was going to blow a gasket, Aunty H that the Hovite Army might hunt them down and publically stone the pair of them for damaging such a celebrity or Dolly that mother was going to turn her into a lasagne on the spot.
Needless to say mother had steam coming out of her ears when she came back from Scotland to assess the damage. Not only was there no way on earth that I could wear a noseband this past week, but also I am likely to be scar face for some time to come. This is not good news when the photographer is supposed to be due imminently to take the shots for the new book. Mother was last seen stomping about with a phone glued to her ear talking about something called “Photoshop”? I have no idea what she was on about but she wasn’t best amused.
As a result of the quite impressive damage ‘Queen carnivorous’ inflicted upon my features I have had to be in all week during the day and into the early evening to prevent flies infecting the wounds. Not only this, but I’ve had to have my hay on the floor so as to stop me rubbing my face on the haynet and getting the wounds full of hay dust and fibres.
The flip side is everyone has felt very sorry for me and I’ve been getting lots of cuddles and, more importantly, compensation carrots from a very guilty Aunty H. It should be noted that Dolly herself is showing no signs of remorse and has been renamed “Hannibal” (as in Lector).
I’ve now got a double set of fencing between me and the face eating witch and the other lads are keeping a nervous distance away from her. The question has been asked quite how she inflicted so much damage and did I just stand there a let her do it? I can assure you the answer to that question is no and trust me, that girl can strike like a viper on steroids — if there was an Olympic sport for “lunge and bite” she’d be up there with the world’s best.
Talking of the Olympics, sadly the party is now over but didn’t Mr Helter-Skelter do well? But are we surprised? I mean his horse is called BIG star and so he clearly got the memo about us larger horses being the way forward. The orange dude says that despite his name, Big Star is actually only a warmblood but the guy is ginger and an Arab so like I’m going to pay any attention to him.
I’m certainly backing Mr Helter-Skelter for Sports Personality of the Year — anyone who can win a gold medal after a broken neck and hip replacement is pretty awesome.
My jumping practise is clearly currently on ice due to my horrific injuries but I intend to be back practising as soon as I can get a bridle back on. Mum did smile at all the suggestions about riding me without a noseband but decided I was better having the time out and healing up. She’s currently looking at products to get my fur to grow back and minimise the scarring — if that black equine witch has ruined my pulling powers ahead of Your Horse is Alive I’m not going to be best amused.
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Mind you, mother wasn’t looking too chuffed either when the saddle fitter came last week and suggested the time was now right for a new saddle. In fact I’d go so far as to say that she turned a whiter shade of pale and looked in dire need of a lie down in a darkened room. The lovely saddle lady is currently searching for a second hand one for mum to attempt to minimise the assault on mother’s bank account. Rumours that mother was seen wailing as to why she didn’t buy a “normal sized horse with less muscle and more brain” are vastly untrue. I think. I hope?
Anyway, I’m off to try and will my wounds into healing faster so I can get back to jumping and staying a suitable distance away from witchfink. When I wanted her to eat my face this wasn’t quite what I had in mind…
Hovis “Scarface” Thompson
A horse was “terrified” after the roof of a temporary stable at Equifest was ripped off by strong winds.
11-year-old coloured gelding Raskel was being stabled at the competition last week (17-21 August) when the showground was hit by stormy weather.
Raskel’s owner Denise Smith has been regularly checking him due to the strong winds on Saturday (20 August).
On one of her checks she arrived to find the roof gone and Raskel nowhere to be seen.
“The roof had lifted off and there was a metal bar in his stable that had fallen off the roof canvas,” said Ms Smith’s friend Jen Lightfoot, who had travelled to the show with her own horse.
“We found out another competitor had lifted out the roof and got him out before putting him in another stable.
“The canvas had been wrapped around his head.”
The stable was one of a number that had been damaged by the extreme weather.
Ms Lightfoot said Raskel was “beside himself”.
“Thankfully he wasn’t injured,” added Ms Lightfoot.
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A spokesman for Equifest said the show was hit by very strong gusts of wind on Saturday afternoon.
“During this time, roofs were torn off several of the stewards’ huts as well as some of the temporary stables, plus many of the trade stand marquees were destroyed,” he said.
“Luckily, there were no injuries to either humans or to horses.”
Russia’s para dressage riders will not be allowed to compete at the Rio 2016 Paralympics after an appeal was dismissed.
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) suspended the Russian Paralympic Committee on 7 August in the wake of a report that exposed wide-scale state-sponsored doping in Russia.
This meant that all Russian athletes were barred from competing in September’s Games.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) today (23 August) rejected an appeal by the Russian Paralympic Committee to overturn the ban.
Russia had three para dressage riders entered — Natalia Martyanova, Natalya Zhavoronkova and Marina Vinogradova.
“We are of course disappointed by today’s dismissal of the Russian Paralympic Committee appeal to the CAS because it means that our three Russian para equestrian athletes cannot compete in Rio, even though they are clean,” FEI president Ingmar de Vos told H&H.
“We are now assessing the impact of today’s CAS decision and, together with some of the other international federations that govern disabled sport independently, looking at what options are available to us to protect our clean athletes’ right to natural justice.”
IPC president Sir Philip Craven added the organisation has “enormous sympathy” for the athletes who will miss out on the Games.
“Today’s decision underlines our strong belief that doping has absolutely no place in Paralympic sport, and further improves our ability to ensure fair competition and a level playing field for all Para athletes around the world,” said Sir Philip.
“Although we are pleased with the decision, it is not a day for celebration and we have enormous sympathy for the Russian athletes who will now miss out on the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
“It is a sad day for the Paralympic movement, but we hope also a new beginning.
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“We hope this decision acts as a catalyst for change in Russia and we can welcome the Russian Paralympic Committee back as a member safe in the knowledge that it is fulfilling its obligations to ensure fair competition for all.”
The IPC is now working with international federations to redistribute the 267 slots that had been allocated to Russian athletes.
A “Wobbleberry” challenge aimed at raising money for Willberry Wonder Pony has gathered support from riders inspired by Hannah Francis to try eventing.
Described as “a challenge for middle-aged, wimpy riders” the aim is for participants new to eventing to compete at a BE80 in the autumn of 2017.
The idea is the brainchild of Sally Barr, who thought up the idea as a challenge that she would give herself to raise money for the charity. However the idea took off and now hundreds of riders have got behind it.
“It was just going to be a personal challenge,” she told H&H, adding she has been “overwhelmed” by the response.
Now has about 1,000 followers on Facebook and 250 people have so far shown an interest in taking part.
“The more people we get involved, the more money we can raise,” she added.
Ms Barr has given the Wobbleberries an overall target of £50,000.
The challenge has taken off as funds raised for Willberry Wonder Pony hit the £200,000 mark.
Young event rider Hannah passed away on 1 August, 15 months after being diagnosed with bone cancer.
Since her osteosarcoma diagnosis on 1 May last year, the 18-year-old wrote a blog of her experiences from the point of view of her cuddly toy, Willberry. She also raised significant funds for various charities.
All funds raised will go towards bone cancer research and granting horsey wishes to those with serious illnesses.
A message shared on Willberry Wonder Pony’s Facebook page this week shared the charity’s latest fundraising news.
“It’s been a really difficult few weeks, but Hannah’s friends and supporters have reacted with amazing generosity and spirit.
“On 1 August more than 3,000 people and groups donated more than £25,000 on Just Giving. This support is incredible and will go a very long way towards getting started with our support for research in to bone cancer and granting Willberry’s Wishes.
“This means that the charity now has around £200,000 in the bank for its brilliant causes — thank you to every single one of you who has donated and raised funds.”
Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony is also Event Rider Masters’ charity for 2016.
“This is brilliant news and we are really grateful to them,” said the charity spokesman.
“It will mean that the charity gets coverage on their live-streaming of major events, as well as entry and bucket donations from Gatcombe, Blenheim and Blair Castle.”
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The spokesman also thanked Christa Dillon of Blackhill Eventing in Ireland, who has raised around £8,000 through a clinic and auction.
The charity has also launched a Friends of Willberry scheme so supporters can donate regularly to the cause.
For more information click here
To find out about the Wobbleberry scheme click here
Here are a selection of saddlepads that combine technology and style to ensure your horse’s comfort and well being. All or any will be a welcome addition to your yard
Nuumed HiWither half wool close contact saddlepad
This HiWither style half lined saddlepad from Nuumed is made with 100% natural British wool that wicks sweat away from the horse’s back and holds 30% of its own weight in moisture. Great to keep your horse comfortable and performing to it’s best while at a competition.
CATAGO comfort diamond saddlepad
This elegant and timeless diamond quilted saddle pad features a revolutionary IQ comfort lining which transports heat and sweat away from your horse. With strong, dirt repellent fabric of the highest quality it is no wonder that this is the official saddle pad of the Danish National teams.
Fleeceworks bamboo-lined GP saddle pad
A brilliant high-wither saddlecloth from Shadow Horse is quilted with bamboo fibres to give superb cushioning, excellent breathability and wicking properties. The bamboo fibre also provides extraordinary shock absorption relative to its thickness. Not only that, but this well shaped pad is machine washable and comes out beautifully every time.
Rhinegold wave saddle pad
A well-designed pad that features a cotton outer, wave stitching pattern and wickable waffle fabric lining that ensures your horses comfort. The velcro closure girth placement straps allows a secure fit and the twin satin finish rope bindings give this pad a very chic look.
Nuumed HiWither half wool saddlepad with collars
Here is another great HiWither pad from Nuumed that benefits from 100% British wool half lining that wicks sweat away. This super stylish dressage pad comes with real wool collars for extra style.
WOW supercool saddlecloth
The 3D spacer fabric of WOW Supercool Saddlecloths holds a layer of air between saddle and horse, allowing sweat to wick away. Easily rinsed clean under a hose, there is only the occasional need to machine wash. The material also has antibacterial properties. A truly innovative pad that will surely be a valued addition to any yard.
Bucas max saddlepad
This is a high-performance pad provides ultimate breathability through it’s layered design and stay-dry inner. Any moisture will be wicked away from your horse’s back giving rise to a comfortable and protective fit — perfect for jumping or dressage.
WeatherBeeta performance jump saddlepad
The jump saddlepad has a durable polycotton outer with wick away lining to help keep the horse cool, dry and comfortable. A breathable mesh spine has been added for extra airflow. Available in a number of different colours and shades and is great for hacking or schooling at home.
LeMieux ProSport Lustre GP/Jump square saddlepad
This luxurious brushed cotton saddle pad from LeMieux is of high quality. The towelling flannel underside, absorbs sweat and minimises friction, providing your horse with ultimate comfort. Available in Teal, Mustard & Blueberry, colours which are perfect for this coming autumn.
Felix Bühler Aurelia grip saddlepad
A perforated air-mesh material underside provides great wicking elements to this pad and an extra thick filling gives perfect cushioning to your horse. Not only that, this pad has an excellent hold without the use of saddle straps due to the innovative FB Grip-System. With nine brilliant colours to choose from, this pad is well worth a place in your tack room.
A close friend of a rider whose face was “shattered” when her horse fly-bucked after a cross-country round wants to warn others of the potential dangers in similar situations.
Sarah Stokes, from St Austell, Cornwall, had recently returned to riding after a “freak accident” in 2014, when a horse slipped on the road, landing on her and breaking both her hips and her pelvis, when she took part in an unaffiliated event at Chyverton Park, Truro, on 7 August.
She dismounted after her cross-country, having come second, and her mother was leading her seven-year-old horse Archie, when he was spooked.
“Sarah stepped in to help and he spooked again,” Sarah’s friend and trainer Sally Gentle told H&H.
“He fly-bucked and caught her directly in the face. He still had his studs in.
“She’s got a cut under her bottom lip but the impact lifted up her whole face and broke more than 30 bones – for a while, her upper and lower jaws weren’t connected.
“The surgeon said her face was shattered.”
Sarah was taken to hospital, where she spent nearly three days in an induced coma. She underwent surgery that day, to repair the open wound and wire her jaw, then a further 12-hour operation the following day on the fractures.
An MRI revealed she had not sustained brain damage so she was gradually woken from the coma, and she was due to leave hospital yesterday (18 August),
Mrs Gentle said: “Sarah was conscious the whole time we were waiting for the ambulance.
“She was on her hands and knees, spitting out teeth – I can’t imagine the pain she was in.
“But the NHS is amazing. They asked her mum for a picture of her before the accident, and the surgeon said: ‘We’ll have her looking like that again’.
“They’ve done an amazing job of putting her back together.“
Sarah is not allowed “anywhere near a horse” for at least four months, and Mrs Gentle wants others to be aware in similar situations.
“If you get off your horse after the cross-country, it’s still pumped full of adrenaline,” Mrs Gentle said.
“I always slightly loosen the girth and ride back to the lorry park, by which time the horse has calmed down. People will argue with me and that’s fine, but this is a warning.
“She actually was lucky – the surgeon said two inches higher on her face and the impact would have killed her. I want people to be aware of what can happen.”
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Mrs Gentle said Sarah, who is likely to need more operations over the next two years, was worried about how she would be able to afford her rent, and to keep her horses, while she is unable to work.
So on 17 August, Mrs Gentle set up a JustGiving page, aiming to raise £15,000 for her friend.
By the following morning, donations had reached nearly £3,500.
“People have been so generous,” Mrs Gentle said.
“It could have been any of us, at any time. She wasn’t being stupid, she was just in the wrong place and she took the full force of it.
“Anyone who knows Sarah knows that if this happened to anyone else she would be the first to dip her hand in her pocket to help out a friend in need, a dedicated equestrian whose love for the sport has sadly been paused by a life-changing accident.
“She’s not giving up though. I said: ‘Shall we sell the horse?’ and she said: ‘No, I’ll be back.’”
A sick pony who was given a 10% chance of survival after being rescued from Bodmin Moor has made a miraculous recovery.
Arthur, now dubbed Redwings’ Horse Sanctuary’s “miracle pony”, was among seven equines to be taken in by the charity following a two-day round-up in June.
Redwings, with Bodmin Moor Commoners Council, the RSPCA and the Animal and Plant Health Agency, helped rescue 14 suffering ponies from the moor on 16-17 June. This was the third large-scale round-up in the area this year.
Arthur had a severe worm burden and was “incredibly weak” when he arrived at the Norfolk-based sanctuary.
“There were a couple of times when I thought he wasn’t going to pull through, but he has this feisty, fighting spirit that failed to falter and made me think he had a chance at survival,” said Redwings’ welfare vet Nicola Berryman.
The colt was unable to stand for any length of time and needed 24-hour care. He was given steroids and a blood transfusion, and began to recover.
However, in mid-July he was found to have a high temperature and suspected infection, so was given antibiotics and a plasma transfusion.
Arthur pulled through again and on 10 August was reunited with his six Cornish friends as they were turned out together for the first time.
“His recovery continues, but he is now off all medication, which is unbelievable considering his condition even just a couple of weeks ago,” added Ms Berryman.
“It’s great to see him enjoying life with his friends and in a field with lots of lovely grass, which will help boost his recovery even further.”
The charity is planning to help the council with a three-day microchipping and passporting operation on the moor this autumn.
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“Formal identification of horses will ensure those with grazing rights can do so and those who do not can no longer view the moor as a dumping ground – which has exacerbated the issue of overstocking,” said Nic de Brauwere, Redwings’ head of welfare and behaviour.
“Native ponies on Bodmin Moor should be allowed to thrive in their natural environment, but they cannot do this alone – that is, without effective management of the moor and timely interventions as required by the ponies.”
Four-time Olympic gold medallist Ludger Beerbaum has jumped in his last Games for Germany.
The 52-year-old, who helped his team secure bronze in Rio this week on Casello (17 August), has announced his retirement from the national team.
Ludger, who has also won two gold medals, one silver and one bronze at world championships and six gold, three silver and two bronze at European championships, “had always planned to stop with a success”, said a spokesman.
“It was a tough decision,” said Ludger, adding that he is not completely quitting the sport.
“I do have a lot of projects going. I will focus on my stable at home and training and selling young horses.”
FEI jumping director John Roche described Ludger as “a legend in his own lifetime, a complete horseman and a man who is deeply involved in the development of the sport“.
Ludger will still compete as an individual, the spokesman confirmed, adding that as president of the Longines World Equestrian Academy, the rider will “support the development of the showjumping market in Asia”.
Ludger will also be kept busy with Riesenbeck International Equestrian Centre, a joint venture with Baron Constantin Heereman and his son Philipp, which offers national competitions, clinics and international seminars.
“I won’t get bored,” Ludger said.
“I’m grateful that I was able to represent Germany as a rider. Now this job is for my younger colleagues.”
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Ludger had qualified for today’s (19 August) individual Olympic final but the rules only allow the top three riders from each country to take part, and as he was the lowest-placed German rider, he will not jump.
Ludger’s first appearance on a senior championship team for Germany was in 1987. Next month’s Nations Cup final in Barcelona (22-25 September) will be his last appearance in the red German team jacket.