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Imagine yourself, an England football fan travelling to the World Cup with Steve Gerrard and Wayne Rooney, or a Wales rugby fan following Ryan Jones and Shane Williams during the Six Nations.

Well that's what it's like for me this week. Except in my case, the World Cup or Six Nations is the European Eventing Championships in France and instead of chatting to Wayne et al on a BA jet or a team bus, I'm having a cup of tea with top British riders William Fox-Pitt and Tina Cook in the back of an 18 tonne lorry with £1m worth of horses in the back.

Yes I am officially embedded with the British team, the defending European champions. For seven days I will be privy to most of their activities from travelling with them to the event near Paris, to observing their training, going to dinner with them and of course following their progress in the competition.

Continue reading "All set for the European Eventing Championships"

Recent entries

Our accreditation may have changed to blue, the army of volunteers is significantly smaller and we seem to be the only TV crew in town BUT the buzz around the stables is the same as it was at the Olympics.

Here the best para dressage riders in the world have gathered for the biggest para dressage show on earth.

It's great to be back amongst equestrian folk, chatting about Hanoverians and halts; tack to tests and lots of chitter chatter about who'll bag the medals.

I've spent the last two days virtually stalking the British team. They have generously allowed us to film their training sessions and on Wednesday we took Lee Pearson and Ricky Balshaw down to the waterfront in Kowloon for a tour on camera.

Continue reading "Equestrian team ready to rock"

Once again we find ourselves talking about a drugs scandal at Olympic show jumping rather than the sport itself.

Yesterday afternoon four riders were suspended after their horses tested positive for a banned substance known as Capsaicin.

As I raced backwards and forwards to the media centre from our commentary position to file reports, the Hong Kong four as I've dubbed them, were positioned outside the offices of the sport's governing body (the FEI) looking very nervous as they waited to hear their fate.

"We have a problem," said one of the team bosses on his mobile phone. Too right you have a problem I thought.

Continue reading "Drug shame hangs over equestrianism again"

As the Dutch superstar 'passaged' and 'piaffed' her way around the arena to her specially-composed music, we all knew she was going to take the title for a third time.

She was in a class of her own and it was magical to watch.

The victory makes Anky van Grunsven the first person ever to win the individual Olympic dressage title three times. If she wasn't before, Anky is now officially an equestrian great.

Continue reading "Anky strikes again!"

It was a night of what could have been.

John Whitaker's forced omission from the team could well have cost Britain a show jumping medal.

John was said to be devastated to be sidelined after the appeal went against team GB.

He wanted to ride and had been led to believe that despite his withdrawal yesterday after Peppermill had a sore back, he would be allowed to.

Continue reading "GB show jumpers rue bad luck"

Thank goodness for a bit of R and R, after being told categorically last night that John Whitaker was out of the Games, he's now looking like he might be back in the team.

John rode Peppermill this morning and reported the stallion to be feeling a lot better.

The team only need to count three scores from each round so they managed joint
fourth without him but their job in tonight's final round would certainly be made easier with all four to choose from.

John is their anchorman and is generally regarded as
one of the greatest horsemen in the world.

Continue reading "A taste of home in Hong Kong"

While the rest of the world watched the fastest men on the planet go head-to-head in the 100m final in Beijing, I was in my usual spot in Hong Kong watching the best dressage riders on the planet!

I have to confess that just before the race I did my own 100m dash to the media centre to watch it on the telly and I wasn't the only one. The place was packed with journos and photographers enjoying Usain Bolt's record win. I guess we all love sport, whatever it is.

Continue reading "After Bolt, the horses"

Imagine a sport crying out for press coverage, a sport with a really great basic format, full of incident and excitement, a sport that used to be one of the most popular to watch on TV.

That sport is show jumping, so why therefore have the 'powers that be' made it so complicated? Why can't they stick to one team competition or 'Nations Cup' as it's called and then take the top 25 riders from that, zero their scores and qualify them for the individual a day later? Wouldn't that be simple?

Instead, it took three commentators, two text journalists, a TV executive and an actual rider arguing on and off for two days before we could come to a general consensus on the rules and format of this Olympics show jumping competition - and even then I fear some of us went away with the wrong idea!

Continue reading "Olympic rules need a rethink"

After being told by some well-informed American dressage journalists that I was mad to think Britain could win its first Olympic medal in the sport here in Hong Kong, I had tempered my aspirations somewhat and presumed they were probably quite right.

But after a disappointing American second score and as Laura Bechtolsheimer
began her test with 74% on the board, they actually came over to me to say: "Sorry, you were right!"

Continue reading "So near but yet so far..."

Sha Tin, Hong Kong

Horses are all about highs and lows - and the Olympic Games just magnify that fact.

We had them in the eventing where Team GB started badly, and ended up on a high winning two bronze medals.

We've just had them in the dressage as Jane Gregory did what was in her words a "disappointing" test only for Emma Hindle to pull out all the stops and produce a superb test putting Britain second overnight (more on that later).

And we've already had a blow with the show jumpers as Michael Whitaker's horse Suncal Portofino has been withdrawn from the games due to lameness.

So all I'm hoping and praying is that we're owed another high, ideally in the shape of another medal!

Emma Hindle hugs her horse after a great test

Continue reading "Medal looks unlikely for British riders in dressage"

Sha Tin, Hong Kong

Well it wasn't gold but I'll settle for two bronzes!

What a night it was here in Sha Tin.

The atmosphere in the stadium was electric and the huge floodlights dazzled and sparkled, really hammering home you were witnessing an Olympic final.

I've decided to leave out any mention of disappointment.

Sometimes we can spend too long talking of what would have been. Let's just all celebrate how a team of five Britons, two of whom were at their first ever Olympics, managed to come third in a competition that is always so hard to win.

Continue reading "Don't be disappointed with Britain's double bronze in Hong Kong"

''This is not a dressage competition.''

Those words, said to me on Monday by Team GB's William Fox-Pitt were ringing in my ears all morning as I reported from the cross country phase of the Olympic eventing competition.

Not only did Fox-Pitt greatly improve his own individual standing after a superb round, but many others who'd struggled in the dressage also found themselves rising up the order as several big names came to grief.

Continue reading "The thrill of the cross-country chase"

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