William Fox-Pitt answers questions in his first diary for Rolex, in a series of three between now and Badminton 2013.
Q. “You’ve had a tremendous season with wins in Kentucky, Team Silver at London 2012 and now a victory in Blenheim too. How do you feel it’s gone?”
A. “It’s been a difficult season for eventing to date mainly due to the weather, so I feel personally very fortunate to have had a successful season so far. I’ve been taking some good horses to all of these events which is ultimately what we aim for and also why I’ve had the success I’ve had this season.”
Q.“And what’s been the highlight of the season for you so far?”
A. “London 2012 is undoubtedly the highlight, nothing can compare to it. It was a unique experience that Team GB and all of the Olympians will never forget. To get a silver medal there was a fantastic feeling, and it is certainly the most memorable Olympics that I have ever competed in.”
Q. “What was it like winning your 50th three-day event at Blenheim in September?”
A. “It was exciting and I was especially relieved to have won the 50th before I’m 50! You start the season with your hopes and ambitions of what you’d like to win, but three-day events are always the difficult ones as there are lots of differing factors in play and so many things can happen. I’ve now won 4 three-day events so far which makes it a very good season for me. After a not so good start at Burghley for Seacookie, to bounce back and go so well round Blenheim was a great feeling.”
Q.” Your owners must be thrilled too?”
A. “Catherine and David Witt have had a fantastic season as well. They own three of my four winning horses – Parklane Hawk, Bay My Hero and Seacookie, so it’s been a successful time for them.”
Q.“How are all of your horses as you come towards the end of the season?”
A. “You always touch wood when you get asked how your horses are faring. They have all done well and I hope to have an equally strong team of horses for next year, however I’ve now been in the sport long enough to know it’s unlikely to be exactly the same string of horses as the previous year; you never know how it’s going to work out.”
Q. “Were you satisfied with your Burghley Horse Trials performances after having to pull out Sea Cookie?”
A. “Going into the Burghley Horse Trials, Seacookie was slightly underprepared and hadn’t really had the necessary runs he might need but I thought his previous experience there would make up for it, but he was actually not on top of his game which is why I pulled him up. Parklane Hawk though was fantastic even though he hadn’t had the best preparation either, so I was delighted with him to perform so well and finish third.”
Q.“How are your younger horses doing, such as Bay My Hero?”
A. “Bay My Hero is on good form and he ran particularly well in the Blenheim eight and nine-year-olds event. I’ve always really enjoyed riding him but it’s a great feeling to know he’s coming along so well and stepping up to the mark.”
Q. “Do you have any other horses coming through who are like Bay My Hero?”
A.”I don’t currently have anyone else that is at the same stage as Bay My Hero. There is a horse called Chilli Morning who is new to me and is a very exciting prospect. I also have a very nice young eight-year-old horse called Freddie Mac who is aiming for his first two star event so coming along very well.”
The Games are over, and it is time to sit back and reflect on an amazing summer of sport. I predicted that by the end of the season we would all be sick of the words ‘inspiring’ and ‘proud’, but I think I speak for most people in saying we are most certainly not.
As I mentioned in my previous blog, the Olympics was an unforgettable experience but it has been beaten hands down by the Paralympics, which were nothing short of epic. It all started with accreditation - a simple pass that meant editor Victoria Spicer and I could actually be there, part of the event itself. To be in the stadium working was immense and I will admit I was a little worried that days of solid dressage would bore me – come on, we've all thought it... dressage can be a little on the dull side if you're a spectator.
But I was not expecting Para-dressage to be so emotional and intense. The silence that fell over the stand during each test was mesmerising, the first time you see 10,000 people applauding through sign language is extraordinary, and then there is the wait to clap. The build-up, can we cheer yet? You want to tell the riders how proud you are, but you can’t until the horse is back with its groom and then when you are encouraged to let rip. The build-up of emotions and respect is almost palpable.
So back to this accreditation lark... what myself and Victoria quickly realised was that this was a pass not just to the Greenwich venue, but to all venues. You heard it right, we had the golden ticket and yes we did make use of it. In the athletic stadium we were handed results from every sport which we industriously collected, and I can tell you that Cuba is remarkably good at shot put!
Another highlight was interviewing our brilliant Para equestrian team for the next Rudall’s Round-up: Greenwich, out on 17 August at 8.30pm. The squad, Tash, Sophie, Sophie, Deb and Lee, certainly know how to handle themselves on camera but it was Sophie Christiansen’s comment that makes me chuckle while writing this. “I have run out of adjectives to describe these Games.” I am starting to know how she feels.
So interviews in the bag, we then received two tickets to the closing ceremony (huge thank you to David Hunter). Again, this was a night to remember... It was simply – new adjective saved for this – awesome. I even looked up the definition of awesome to ensure it went far enough to describe the experience: Awesome - inspiring awe or admiration or wonder. I’m still not sure it’s enough, but it will have to do. After this summer I think I may have to invent some new words for our super human athletes and our country's endeavours. Well done Great Britain - you have done us proud… And how could we ever get bored of saying that!
Cassie James was a Games Maker at the London 2012 Olympics, along with her partner Simon, a Partner at Fyrnwy Equine Clinic. She tells H&C about their experience.
"It's hard to believe that it was two years ago that we applied to work as part of the London 2012 Veterinary Team, but from the moment we saw the advert we knew it was an amazing opportunity we couldn't miss out on.
After submitting our applications, we waited for what seemed like ages before getting the exciting news that we had interviews. The interviews were held at the London Excell, and consisted of a group talk and then one-to-one chats. It was exciting to see other Games Makers already in their roles at the interviews, and to see some of the plans for the Games and the Olympic village.
A short wait and then the good news came - we'd been accepted! I was offered the position of Vet Technician and my partner Simon was going to be a Vet Field Team Member. With so many applications we never imagined even one of us would get it, so we were very shocked we both had offers.
Next was the introduction event at Wembley Arena, where along with thousands of other accepted Games Makers we were shown exactly what we were in for and what was expected of us, through videos and celebrity guests. It was quite a show and we left buzzing.
Then we were invited to our role specific training at Hackney College in London. This was the first opportunity we had to meet the other vets and techs. After this we had our venue specific training at Greenwich Park, and it was at this point that reality set in... We were going to be part of London 2012 and we were helping to make it happen!
With accommodation booked, we headed off to Greenwich apprehensive and excited. The first shift was cross-country training day, where we were able to familiarise ourselves with procedures and roles and again to meet the rest of the team. Over the next few days, Simon was extremely fortunate to have shifts based in the arena so got to watch the likes of William Fox-Pitt during dressage.
Cross-country day came quickly. Simon was based in cross-country warm up areas, while I was on fence 12 - the chess fence. Each vet was supported by a technician in the arenas and on the course. Every fence had a vet, tech, doctor and three fence judges, and there were also clinic based vets and techs.
Cross-country day was quite possibly the best day at work we have both ever had, it's so hard to describe the experience but I'm sure you have already heard the riders describe the roar of cheers that followed each combination around. After that we had a variety of shifts throughout the equestrian events, and returned again for the modern pentathalon. This time I had night shifts - the vet clinic was staffed 24/7 with a vet and technician as well as other vets being on call.
To top off our fantastic experience on our last day we were able to watch the modern pentathlon showjumping. Being part of the Games was something neither of us will ever forget. We have both previously given up many weekends working at horse trials in order to build up our experiences and it was most definitely worth it and this is something we will continue to do.
We are both proud to have been part of what really was a fantastic show put on by our country and to see our best equestrians at the top of their game. It really was a truly unforgettable experience to be there and even better because of the fantastic results from the British teams. We are both now looking forward to Rio 2016 which we hope to be a part of, even if it’s just for a holiday…."
The last few weeks have been incredible and very busy. Between keeping the horses fit and well, I was asked to comment on the Olympics for Horse & Country TV and also by the BBC. I was absolutely thrilled to be involved in the Olympics and the atmosphere at Greenwich was fantastic, and I was delighted to be a part of it.
My last few entries have been focused around the lack of events that I have been able to attend, though on foot, my attendance at the biggest competition to grace London, perhaps ever, was outstanding. The 2012 London Games showcased the sport to its highest level and I was thrilled to be at Greenwich, watching the action live. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate William, Nicola, Mary, Tina and Zara on their Team Silver Medal – they all put in amazing performances and did Team GB proud. I was also in awe of Michael Jung, his Gold medal winning efforts were incredible.
The build up to the London Olympics brought back so many memories for my experience with Tankers Town at Beijing in 2008. The road to Greenwich has been tough for so many riders. Many have been selected for their national teams and had to withdraw for a variety of reasons, which must be such an incredible blow after years of preparation. This makes me appreciate my own Olympic experience so much more, I feel incredibly lucky to have been part of the team in 2008.
I attended Keysoe BD on the recently which, despite being another very wet event, was a successful day. Rubin won both Novices with 71.4% and Maisie won the Elementaries with 70% and 67%. I was thrilled with these scores as it proves that my relentless hard work is paying off! Of course competing is wonderful, but producing horses and moving up the ranks gives me such a great feeling of satisfaction.
The Olympics was such a busy time for me, I was delighted to be asked to work for Horse & Country TV on each night of the eventing phase. I co-hosted the eventing four days on Rudall’s Round-Up live from a house in Greenwich. I was also asked to comment on the day’s events by the BBC, which was an amazing experience and something that I would love to do again.
After the Olympic Eventing, it was back to work as normal. Though I had only been away for four days, it was great to be riding again. I rode Jasper for the first time in months, which was fantastic. He may be eighteen but he certainly doesn’t feel it. He was on great form and was definitely happy to be back in work, hopefully this time he will return to work fully.
"Artemis is known to be spooky, but Richard has worked incredibly hard trying to acclimatise him"
After much deliberation I decided to take Mr Hyde to his first Prix St George (PSG). It certainly wasn’t his best test, but he didn’t disgrace himself either. The conditions were awful – it was sweltering and there was no air to take away the horse flies, which were horrendous. Mr Hyde can be so sensitive, so he didn’t cope with them very well, but we still scored 63.85, which I was really pleased with.
We would have scored higher, but had two points deducted as it turns out I was riding the wrong test! Simon was reading it out and suddenly the judge beeped the horn. I didn’t know what was wrong as I’d performed what he was calling, but the judge said we were doing the 2000 test, and it changed in 2009! That just goes to show how long it’s been since I’ve ridden a PSG!
By that point I had no idea where I was going, but we carried on and managed to finish the test. It was a bit of a wing and a prayer, but the main thing is we got all the changes and the pirouette work.
It’s given me confidence that Mr Hyde can go out and do it now, although I don’t know what I’ve worrying about. We’ve done around nine advanced tests now and he’s only ever missed one line of changes. But every time during the changes I’m thinking ‘come on!’
Both the boys have had a bit of break since then, as I’ve been on holiday with the family. You wouldn’t think the Northumbrian coast would be a sun spot, but we had our own little micro-climate there, and the weather was lovely.
It was nice to have a non-horsey week. Our house sitter Tally always looks after the place while we are gone. This time, as well as five horses and two dogs to take care of there were five puppies as Tinker, our miniature Schnauzer, has just had become a mum for the third time. Tally is going to Australia for a year – how dare she! I don’t know how we’re going to cope – but I’ve begged her to come and stay during the nationals before she goes.
They are just a couple of weeks away now, so we’re in full gear mode with Mr P. It was a bit of a shock to his system after our holiday. You could tell he was thinking, ‘God, this is hard work’ and he was grunting like an old man. I think I was as well!
I’ve got a couple of lessons with Richard [Davison] beforehand. I’m supposed to be doing a demo with him at the nationals, but I can’t do the dressage to music as well as it’s on the same day. Rules state you’re not allowed to do more than one FEI test in a day – it might be seen as an advantage as I’ll have already been in the arena.
I’ll see how we go in the grand prix, and then decide. We might not qualify anyway – which means I can definitely do the demo. I would like to do the music test though, as Julie Geraghty has put together some Fat Boy Slim music and I can’t wait to see the judges faces: ‘Right here, right now, right here, right now!’
I’ve spoken to Richard about his performance at the Olympics. He was disappointed as in the grand prix special Artemis spooked a lot – he said it was down to the whirring of the cameras. Artemis is known to be spooky, but Richard has worked incredible hard over the last couple years trying to acclimatise him to situations like that. He did the world cup circuit, which is very intense, but it still didn’t settle him enough.
A lot of horses were backing off going into that corner. Canadian rider, David Marcus, was disqualified as his horse also spooked at a TV camera, which meant the rest of his team was too. To fly all the way over to the UK and not even have a chance to compete is so unfair.
Nick Skelton said the same thing happened to him in the individual jump-off. When he came to the upright – all the cameras went off, and he had it down.
It’s an outside influence, so it needs to be looked at. I think there should to be minimum distance from the horses where they can set up the cameras. To make it worse they threw bits of fake grass over the top of the damn things to try to hide them. It would be better to leave them uncovered, so at least the horses could comprehend what they are.
I didn’t get to see the dressage, but took the family to cross-country day, which was just brilliant. It was a beautiful sunny day, and we had a picnic in park and the kids loved it.
Simon’s parents have got a flat in London so we stayed there. We got a boat up the Thames to Greenwich and went through the Olympic rings on Tower Bridge and we did the London Eye the next day, so it was a proper London experience.
When we got the train back to Victoria, there was a sea of pink and purple volunteers everywhere. You only had to look slightly lost and someone came to help you out. It was an amazing couple of days.
As I write this, Spencer and I are on a mini break to Annecy in France, where our owner and good friend Jen Goodman lives. We have had a busy few weeks and a three-day get away is just what the doctor ordered!
I can't write my blog without mentioning the Olympics. The Games were quite possibly one of the best experiences of my life. Although I initially thought that the whole idea of it being in Greenwhich was farcical, I have to eat my words. The backdrop of the Maritime Museum was incredible, and London itself had an amazing buzz from the moment we got to Paddington station. Being as controversial as ever, I am going to say that I am glad the Germans won the eventing gold, even though Team GB has some of the best cross-country riders in the world. The format of the Olympic Games aren't the same as a four-star competition, the cross-country is ran over a track that has dimensions more like a two-star, so obviously the dressage and show jumping phases are very influential. Anyone watching saw that the German team gave us a perfect example of being good in ALL three phases and not just one. Michael Jung is definately the most worthy gold medal winner I think the sport has ever seen. The man is just amazing.
The showjumpers were the biggest surprise, but while I think a team gold medal was a little unexpected, it was long overdue! Although I would have love to see my old horse Hello Sailor make the final team, the remaining riders pulled together to produce that special result. My hat goes off to the course builder Bob Ellis and his team, I have never seen such an cleverly-built track. It was a true Olympic test.
As for the dressage team, I think there results speak for themselves. The atmosphere in the stadium was electric. All three riders kept their cool and proved to the rest of the world that the British are a force to be reckoned with. I think a lot of the success of the dressage team is owed to the Bectholsheimer family. The B's has devoted their lives to the sport and have not only produced Laura but where influential to Carl Hester's career. Having a friend compete in the games was really special, so watching Laura was a emotional experience. The last group of riders in the individual final was intense, I don't think there was a dry eye in the house. Charlotte Dujardin literally has balls of steel! Well done her and what a fantastic combination between horse and rider.
My guys at home have been ticking over nicely, Master Eli and Andreas have been winning at Newcomer and Foxhunter level show jumping. They both won their first dressage competitions too - Eli scored a whooping 74% and 82% in his first unaffiliated competition and Alfie scored 72% and 73% in his BD tests. Both boys are entered for their first few events next month so let's hope they keep bringing home the red rosettes and more importantly the money! Anyway I must go, I have a speed boat and some skis with my name on them and above is a video of my first attempt water skiing. Over and out."
What an Olympic Games, especially the Team showjumping gold medal for Great Britain! The team was fabulous and many MANY congratulations to all involved, not just the amazing riders but also all the hard working support teams behind them. Gold was just what showjumping needed, and I am looking forward to more publicity about our sport.
Just watching the Olympics helped me up my game, and above is a video of Diaghilev and myself winning the 3* Grand Prix at Millstreet in Ireland. Enjoy! Eric is in tremendous form and I am currently having my best season yet - it's looking like Rio is a big possibility for us :)
I hope the Olympics have given you inspiration, like it has for me.
When we got the go ahead to make our Olympic chat show 'Rudall’s Round-up: Greenwich', there were a few things I didn’t realise would happen. Firstly the great response we would get from riders and guests - I knew people would be keen but we got some true legends on the show. Thanks to everyone who came on, especially my experts, Sharon Hunt, Andrew Gould and Trevor Breen.
Secondly, how much I would feel part of a completely new family. Frances welcomed me into her home, and I lived with her and her six kids for the whole two weeks. I am not going to lie, it wasn’t a stress-free time trying to get the show out every day with tight deadlines to meet, but the family were amazing and welcomed the team and every guest into their home. I actually think Caroline Breen –Trevor’s wife – was ready to move in and steal Frances' Labrador, and showjumper Jay Halim was one step away from asking Frances to adopt him.
The third surprise was how emotional and proud you become watching people you have met, know or have become friends with, win medals. When the eventers were going cross-country I was literally holding my breath, but it was in the showjumping when the screaming began. Victoria Spicer (H&C editor and producing legend) and I were hugging and screeching with every jump in that historic jump-off – well done boys. Later on, we met up with the team and those medals are surprisingly heavy, as were the glasses of champagne - well we needed a night off!
Then came the dressage, and could I have been more proud of our team? Quite simply, no! I think the whole Olympics make you so proud to be British, and it’s not over yet. The Paralympics are next and these superhuman athletes will no doubt bring in the Golds by the bucketload. We have so many fantastic riders representing Team GB, including the brilliantly talented H&C blogger Natasha Baker. Good luck everyone.