Blog September 20th 2011
Well what can I say – an absolutely heartbreaking week last week for everyone involved. We all went to the European Championships with such high hopes, expecting to return with a qualification for the Olympics at the very least and returned empty-handed.
Personally, I was shattered by my contribution to the team’s result. The mistake I made the first day was an upset for sure, but I knew that a strong performance in the team competition would more than make up for it and that was what I was determined to produce. I didn’t bank on the effect it would have on Pardy though. As everyone in this sport knows, horses are not machines and humans make mistakes.
I know there are many people wondering what could have been done differently – should we have sent a different team, could we have been better prepared, should I have been there at all…
To answer these questions, I’d like to point out that the Irish team lost a large number of top riders and horses throughout the year due to injury and horses being sold. Other combinations just weren’t showing form good enough to be considered for a place on the team. And so while Robert Splaine was limited with the choices he could make for his team, the one he did select was a strong one. And indeed was the exact one which had come breathtakingly close to winning the Aga Khan trophy for the first time in seven years, just a few short weeks ago.
Which leads me onto my personal selection – for more than a year Puissance and I have been close to foot-perfect at the many top level shows in which we’ve competed and, taking into account only international shows, these included the Masters at Spruce Meadows in Calgary, one of the biggest in the world, Drammen Nations Cup show in Norway, Bourg en Bresse in France, Falsterbo Superleague show in Sweden and the Dublin Horse Show two years in a row, with an Aga Khan team performance cementing our good form this summer.
As for preparation, I can speak only for myself as all horses are unique and have varying requirements. Pardy is a horse we’ve had for seven years and over this time we’ve had the luxury of developing a routine that keeps him jumping in the best form possible. This has always been to give him a big show with a couple of weeks’ break in between – a plan that has proven suitable throughout his career. He was in the best form he’s ever been heading into Madrid and was also the fittest he’s ever been. I included swimming in his preparation to complement the intense ridden work he was undergoing in recent weeks, not as a substitution for it. He really was in great shape.
The point in me explaining all of this is most certainly not to excuse our performance in Madrid, but rather to try to show that even the best laid plans of horses and humans often go astray. We did not qualify, but it was not for lack of trying. Ireland is fortunate to have two very highly ranked riders in Billy Twomey and Denis Lynch who will hopefully gain individual places for the Olympics next year.
I would like to thank all my supporters, friends and family, particularly those who have made clear their support post-championships. I realise that many have lost some faith in me and the partnership I have with my horse, but a true sportsperson is not necessarily the one who wins everything; so many of the top riders reminded me of that this week. It’s the one who fights to get back to the top after a disaster. And I can promise you that I will be doing just that.