|Zara Phillips and High Kingdom on top form for the dressage at Greenwich, Olympics 2012|
I have never seen such beautiful horses. Of course they’re all beautiful in their own way but these are a cut above – toned, muscled, immaculate and majestic sports powerhouses that effortlessly glided around the Greenwich arena.
Yes, Dotty and I were lucky enough to be at the dressage on Sunday and boy, was it brilliant. For those people not into horses or equestrian sport, dressage can look a bit tame – where’s the blood rushing excitement of the cross country fences or the sharp intake of breath when a horse clips a fence in show jumping? Dressage isn’t like that – what you see magically conceals the skill and physical effort of both horse and rider happening right before your eyes, the discipline of years of training, sweat and tears; it may look tame to you but that’s because the horse and rider are so fit and at the pinnacle of their sport, that they make it look easy. Believe me it’s not.
As anybody who has struggled to get their horse into extended canter, to execute a flying change, even to leg yield in my case – God it makes your thighs ache – will tell you, dressage makes you sweat. Using different parts of your body individually – legs, seat, hands, shoulders – yet together at the same time, in a series of movements that communicate to the horse what you want, is a feat of mind over matter and not easy at all.
Riding hats off to all those combinations taking part – they were all brilliant. High points for us were seeing Zara Phillips who is just fantastic, and Tina Cook who had to perform her test under lashing rain and wind – horrific conditions for any rider and the dread of many riding lessons.
Horses are not machines, they are flight animals and as such will follow their instincts if frightened, to flee, so it’s testament to the horses’ training and riders’ skill that despite the awful weather during much of Sunday spooking was kept to a minimum.
At one point the plastic roof topping one of the judges’ booths was flapping about in the wind, about to fly off – it was repaired otherwise it would have been chaos in the arena! The worse spook I saw was caused by a camera operator who turned one of the TV cameras towards a horse just entering the stadium and even then it was mild. I’ve suffered worse out on a hack.
|Tina Cook and Miners Frolic up for their test just as the heavens open|
|Tina Cook and Miners Frolic salute in the driving rain|
Despite the fact that Dotty and I were soaked to the skin – twice – we had a great day. It’s something I’ll remember forever and hopefully a day that Dot will look back on with affection in years to come. Her first Olympics and her special time with her horse-mad mum.