Why I could never be an Olympic Eventer

Megan Jones & Kirby Park Allofasudden, the newest members of the Aussie Olympic Eventing Team, image by John Lechner | ESJ Photo

Megan Jones & Kirby Park Allofasudden, the newest members of the Aussie Olympic Eventing Team, image by John Lechner | ESJ Photo

Hey EN, it’s ESJ remember me? I know it has been over a month since my last post on EN, it actually feels like longer.  It’s not that I don’t love you anymore, it has simply been the first time in a while I let life get in front of Eventing.  Well for a little over a week anyway on a family holiday and since then I have actually slept better and today is the first day in about six weeks that I have got up just after 3am to write.

So where have I been? Firstly I took a holiday with my family, I left Facebook, Twitter and EN behind.  We were in sunny Phuket, Thailand when they announced the Aussie Eventing team.  That alone left me a bit dumbstruck.  The fact that I was completely out of the loop added to the controversy that erupted at the time.

I actually thought about putting my fingers on the keyboard several times about the Aussie team and each time I was left with the feeling that I couldn’t write something completely positive so I didn’t do it . In the end no matter who ends up wearing the green and gold outfits this weekend I want to support them.

So anyway here comes the actual story I decided to write, Why I could never be an Olympic Eventer.

Lets get the obvious out of the way before you starting peppering the comment with sarcasm.  I am a crap rider and currently don’t even have a horse, so that makes it a little difficult to be selected.  However there are some other traits I just don’t have.

Dogged determination: While I don’t like being beaten and strive to do the things I do well, I do not get up every day with thoughts of a singular goal in my head.  That gold medal while nice requires a lot of sacrifices I am not sure I want to make.  Can I sleep in if I want?  Probably not for that chance at selection.

What about the heartbreak Shane Rose and Megan Jones have suffered in the last couple of days, as with many Eventers before them and into the future.  There are two athletes in every combination to keep at their absolute peak of condition.  Things go wrong, years of work can go awry in an instant. How do you face a media conference and say, we will be back?

I honestly wish I had the guts to know what that feels like because I know how horrible it felt sitting at home watching on my laptop, it was heartbreaking.

A strong dose of OCD: Working with horses is about building a relationship and routine.  You can’t change your training methods every day, you must be annoyingly consistent. C onsistency is something I struggle with, I get bored so easily it is not funny.  But can I work on perfecting my extended trot every day or jump a corner 50 times to make sure we have it down perfect?  Absolutely not.

A missed chance is a miss for another four years: Yes we all want win Badminton, Burghley and WEG but to be an Olympian is an honour, to be a gold medalist the highest honour.  Four years of preparation can fall apart in a moment and suddenly you have another four years to prepare.  I am an impatient bugger, I don’t like waiting 4 minutes let alone 4 hours.  I would simply give up if I had to wait 4 years. I know there are many steps on the journey in between but simply I couldn’t do it.

Shane Rose and Taurus at the Sydney Three Day Event, image by John Lechner | ESJ Photo

Shane Rose and Taurus at the Sydney Three Day Event, image by John Lechner | ESJ Photo

Self belief: Not only must you have a brilliant horse or preferably three or four, the determination, skill, patience but you must absolutely believe you can do it.  That means you need a strong and supportive team around you to help pick you up on those days when you do forget you are good enough. You must believe in yourself.

Your team: The team around you must be absolutely solid in their support for you achieving your goal.  They must be prepared to make hundreds of sacrifices every year to help you get to your goal.  Holidays are a great example.  I just spent eight days in Phuket, drinking cocktails by the pool and shopping in the tropical sun.

There is no way if I was chasing Olympic gold we could afford this either financially or in time.  So is your family prepared to  give up their dreams and aspirations to support your goal of Oympic glory, mine aren’t.  Don’t get me wrong my wife Kim and my boys are highly supportive of my aspirations and worldwide travel with my sport but not at the expense of being able to do things as a family.

Poverty: We all know that living with horses is an easy way to poverty.  Working with a horse or team of horses at the elite level is a costly exercise and unless you are lucky enough to marry into wealth or sold your last Olympic prospect for a cool million, chances are you throw every single spare dollar you have into your horses.  No fancy restaurants for you, in fact McDonalds becomes fuel for travelling long distances with a truck loaded with horses nothing else.  Holidays are days when you don’t work horses not actually going somewhere.  All your birthday and Christmas presents are horse related.  Besides what things can’t be fixed with baling twine??

You must ignore what people write and say about you: Everyone has an opinion, look at me, I write some crazy stuff.  For me it was brought home when I got a call from an Aussie rider about a story I had written in the lead up to selection.  The whole process to even get to the point of being considered for an Olympic team is an emotional roller coaster.  If you want to stay even remotely sane, do not read the stories written about you.  If you do not want to turn into a raging lunatic then you MUST NOT EVER read the comments about you.  Talk to the media, be nice, smile for the pics and then forget about it, otherwise you may not have the courage to get out of bed tomorrow.

Tim Boland and GV Billy Elliott, one of the travelling reserves for the Aussie Team, image by John Lechner | ESJ Photo

Tim Boland and GV Billy Elliott, one of the travelling reserves for the Aussie Team, image by John Lechner | ESJ Photo

Finally, you have to be the best: Every week, whether at four star or novice every time you get on a horse you must be thinking of being the best, taking the next step to Olympic glory.  Me personally I’d rather just fork over the cash and come and watch the best. Bring my trusty Nikon and hope I shoot some great pics of the best in action.

When I wrote my series on the teams that I believed would be selected for the Games I did it in full knowledge that I was taking a stab in the dark.  I upset people along the way, even though that was never my intention.  What I did learn however is how focused and determined the best are.  I admire every single one of them for all of the reasons above.  I know that I could never do it even if I had the skills. I just don’t have the fortitude, most of us don’t and that is why we admire these guys and girls so much.

This Olympic Games will be one of the most hotly contested Eventing competitions in a long time.  I wish our sport, our horses and our riders all the best.  No matter which teams and individuals end up on the medal dias, it will be exciting.  I just wish I was in London to witness it first hand.

Go the Aussies!

Yours in Eventing,


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