I know it has been a few days.....but that does not mean that I have been on holiday. I am currently in Belgium at Moorsele watching the horses being presented at the Horse Inspection for the Para-Equestrian Dressage Championships. I believe Great Britain still exists but I have not been back to the homestead having travelled directly here from Luhmühlen.
Reflections on the Eventing Europeans........ In the days of UK Sport Lottery / Exchequer funding should it still be acceptable to say that things did not quite go our way or that we did not quite have the “rub of the green”? I have thought long and hard about last week and I do believe that there is little we could have done differently and also that winning a Bronze medal when things do not go well is not a bad achievement: Often when things do not go well in Eventing, Teams do not even post a finishing score. This view is not based on complacency and we are very aware that we need to do much better next year (when we will have not just the Germans & other Europeans but also NZL / CAN / USA / AUS going all guns for medals).
The GBR has proven year in year out that it can win medals and I believe we have, through the World Class Programme, solid systems and “world class” staff to support the riders. Onwards and upwards. The eventers are now at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.....and yes Burghley, Stamford, is still part of the United Kingdom and has not been annexed by New Zealand....although looking at the entry list you would be forgiven for thinking there are an inordinate amount of Kiwis trying to take home the Pounds (stirling); also a strong representation from USA and CAN; an interesting competition me thinks. Reports state that the cross country course is a classic, so Saturday should be very interesting as we see many 2012 potential tested to the full. One thing we will be investing is new Satellite Navigation systems for our Performance Programme riders; it would seem that the “navigational embarrassment” virus is spreading........
But back to Belgium, where the British Para-Equestrian Dressage Team are most certainly going to have its work cut out to keep the Team Gold. Both our top Grade 1b riders (Lee Pearson and Ricky Balshaw) are sidelined with injuries (and to the same part of their anatomy.....suspicious). Sophie Wells represented Great Britain at the (able bodied) European Dressage Young Rider Championships this year on the horse she won Grade IV Golds on at WEG last year – Sophie brings the exciting (and occasionally excitable) Valerius to Belgium for his first Championship appearance. Deb Criddle (who has been on the Team many times before) brings her new ride, LJT Akilles; Natasha Baker is the new kid on the block and our two 1a riders Anne Dunham (perhaps one of the most experienced riders in the sport) and Emma Sheardown complete the squad.
OK, take a seat....yes, I groomed a horse yesterday...I had to refer to the manual but I did manage it.....almost unaided. I do not like grooming horses.....I do not intend to repeat this. This unfortunate situation occurred due to a rather bumpy landing as one of our coaches (doubling up as a groom) excited the horsebox in England just prior to departure – the novice pilot did not quite position her undercarriage correctly and badly twisted one of her lower struts......Karen Robertson is performing miracles with laser, ultrasound and good old ice.... I have been relieved of grooming duties....phew.
I can report that all GBR horses passed the horse inspection and competition starts at 0830 hrs tomorrow. This will very much be a week of building for next year although of course the riders and support staff are all focused on winning as many medals as possible. The standard across the Grades has risen tremendously over the last few years....it will be odd not seeing the Union flag being raised in the Grade 1b prize giving ceremonies but I hope this will just be for 2011....
A certain Chief Executive arrived in Belgium last night; with press officer in tow; during dinner (fondue), said Chief Executive regaled us with stories of h?? cooking skills – or lack of cooking skills. We all doubted that someone could have such a low self esteem when it came to culinary expertise....that was until we witnessed the piece of chicken being withdrawn from the fondue pot by said Chief Executive...........burnt to a crisp, moisture free, unrecognisable......... self appraisement of cheffing prowess proven accurate.