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Shining silver

Posted by Tania Kindersley
Tania Kindersley
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on Tuesday, 31 July 2012
The sun shines gently in Scotland as I collapse in a heap after four days of watching the Olympic three-day-event. I rush up to the field and gaze at my own dear mare, who, despite her stellar breeding, would laugh in my face if I asked her to do a flying change. The discipline of three day eventing never fails to amaze me. The horses are trained to a peak of fitness, so that they can last four miles across country, but are then expected to dance into the ring and perform the delicate, controlled movements of dressage. After the hurly burly, the exhaustion and the mad dash of the event course, they must then take flimsy show jumps seriously. Even the best riders sent poles crashing at this stage, so much had been demanded of their concentration and stamina.

Dear old Team GB could not quite get past the mighty Germans, who were in danger of confirming all their national stereotypes with a performance of such efficiency and accuracy that it was hard to believe they were executing it on the unpredictable animal that is the horse. But the Brits were magnificent, and Olympic silver is a stunning achievement.

I got especially excited about Mary King, who is fifty-one years old, competing in the only Olympic event where men and women go up against each other on equal terms, and for whom age is no obstacle. Fifty-one is not old in life, but in any athletic sport it is positively geriatric. Yet there she was, glittering and shining for her country, showing the young ones how it is done. I found something inexpressibly moving and inspiring about that, especially when all the media tells the older ladies is that they have too many wrinkles and must rush at once to the Botox needle.

Mary King patently does not give a stuff about Botox. She is absolutely brilliant at what she does, and has more important things to think about than the lines on her face.  My suspicion is that her only vanity may come in the perfection of her extended canter. She should be driven round the country as a role model for young girls, a perfect example of why it is better to be a brilliant athlete, fulfilled in your chosen field, than to get your face stretched by a surgeon’s knife.

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The unsung four-legged heroes of the Olympics

Posted by Tania Kindersley
Tania Kindersley
Tania Kindersley has not set their biography yet
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 25 July 2012

I’ve decided that I shall officially get excited about the Olympics. There is, of course, a huge amount to grumble about. The car lanes stuffed with sponsors and bogus VIPs, the ghastly creaking corporate bandwagon, the idiocy of having a great sporting event sponsored by crappy hamburgers and sugary drinks, the security fiasco: all make one’s heart sink into one’s boots. But it would be sad to allow all that to obscure the human side.

This morning, Alice Plunkett, whom I watch all winter as she presents Channel Four Racing, tweeted that the lovely Lionheart had set off for Greenwich. He is the horse of her husband, the great eventer William Fox-Pitt. As all the noise is of the famous sprinters, the swimming hopes and the cycling heroes, the horse side of the British contingent is often overlooked. Eventing is the most minority of sports, after all. I always love the Olympic three day event, but now that I have a horse of my own, I feel it even more keenly.

It is one of the most challenging disciplines of any sport. It is, essentially, a triathlon with horses. First, they must do the delicate, controlled, precise test that is dressage. Then, they must go flat out across country, over terrifying fixed obstacles, with huge drops, shining water features, and any other kinds of novelty that the course builders may dream up. This requires strength, stamina, courage and accuracy. It’s about as far away from dressage as you can imagine. Then, they must go into the show-jumping ring, and tackle a completely different kind of fence, with fragile poles that can fall at the flick of a hoof.

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