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Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Armchair Cross Country Commentary

I caught only some of the cross country rides yesterday from the NZ team. I was leaving the dentist and saw Heelen Thompkins and Sugoi begin their run. Sugoi showed the same temperament as he did in the dressage, eager to do his own thing periodically meaning Heelen had to bring him back to focus on her instructions. Given this, I was not surprised to see his refusals as the Olympic course is technically difficult meaning that horse and rider have to balance speed with focused precision. Sugoi just wasn't listening or focused from what I could see at crucial moments which led to the refusals. I still think he is a great horse though, he just needs to get over himself.

The only other ride I saw was Andrew Nicholson and Lord Killinghurst. It was a spectacular ride, the stuff of real professionals, both horse and rider knew what they were doing, were focused and ripped through the course. The commentator seemed surprised that Andrew was cutting corners and taking risks to cut down his time faults but I wasn't as you could see the harmony between horse and rider. Lord Killinghurst was focused, his experience shone through. Andrew clearly knew him enough to know how much warning he needed and the horse was solid and true and rose to the occasion.

Their fall right at the end of the course was not the fault of either horse or rider, it was just an accident brought on, from what I could see, by Lord Killinghurst simply tiring and maybe Andrew relying just a bit too much on him knowing what he was doing and not telling him clearly enough they had a tricky double approaching.

When you are physically spent but still have the last bit of the race to go you just start blindly hurling yourself to the finish line, the precision and technique you had at the start of the race starts to go, you can see the end, you are nearly there. It seemed like that for Lord Killinghurst, he looked really tired but he just kept going, his ears were still pricked forward he was giving it everything but his feet were getting just a little sloppy and that combination right at the end was a tricky one as the lines of the jumps whilst parallel had to be approached from an angle, making the timing of take off just that harder to calculate, the jump was narrow and solid at one end which invites a horse to veer to the side and skip the jump (as I saw a few horse do on that jump) and there was only one or two strides between the two which proved to be their downfall as the they cleared the first one messily but had no time to recover before the next. The fall looked awful but thankfully both horse and rider appeared unharmed. It was a real shame as Andrew was on target to have one of the fastest clear rounds and they had all but nailed it too.

I did not see any of the other NZ riders but I hear that Gandalf and Mark Todd jumped clear but were slow which maybe says more about Todd's break from competitive eventing than anything negative about Gandalf who clearly jumped well. I found after a 15 year break from eventing that when I got back into it my nerve was the slowest thing to come back. My knowledge was still there, I knew exactly what to tell my muscles and body to do, my fitness and muscles strength was slower but before the accident it was getting there but my nerve is shocking and has been the hardest thing to counter. Prior to the accident I still had momentary freaks as I approached high and technically difficult jumps and I especially had trouble taking them at the speed that is needed to beat the clock. I heard Mark Todd say in an interview that in the past 8 years he hadn't really jumped anything much less the height and complexity of the jumps at his level of competition.

I was not surprised to hear that Joe Meyer and Snip had the best cross country round. I said previously that Snip looked like he could jump. Snip retains his position as my favourite NZ Olympic horse.

1 comment:

  1. What high and technically difficult jumps against the clock are these? Attempting to complete pre-intro (50cm) does not put you in the same league as Mark Todd. You can't even imagine what it would be like for a rider at that level. Please dont compare your "break" off low level competition to Mark Todd's break off world class events.

    As shown by your picture "clearing the last jump of the cross country" (well, stepping over it) in the event you so proudly won, you have a long way to go (roughly 110cm more, give or take) before you can begin to understand what Mark Todd might be going through. I cannot believe that that photo you uploaded endorses your credentials for even commenting one word on our Olympic team.


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