London 2012: A few GBRs to watch out for…..

The Olympics may be more than two years away, and I know we have a WEG & Euro Champs before then, but this is the first year to really start watching out for new horses and riders, and I often find the best year to see real talent (next year we’ll see too many nerves taking affect). Rather than do this retrospectively at the end of the season I thought I’d see if I can predict some of the best events to see some of the best performances.

For this post I’m just going to cover the British potentials, I’ll cover a few other nations as the year progresses.
So the events I think worth watching this year are:
  • Luhmulhen
  • Barbury Castle
  • Blenheim
  • Burghley
and here’s the young pretenders I think are worth watching out for:
Nick Gauntlett is a very talented rider with a stable of high class horses. He’s won at a number of levels except 3 and 4 star, however he has proved he can compete at this level, just not be a big enough threat yet. I remember watching him go around Badminton a few years ago on a big grey horse (Arthur’s Word I think), where he fell in vicarage fields and thinking to myself he just ‘attacked’ the cross country course rather than riding it. Having watched him a few times since at various places I think he’s perhaps a little too enthusiastic on his horses when the pressure is on, and perhaps he just needs to relax, let the horses do more of the work (his horses are, after all, pretty decent). This is where sports psychology really helps.  I do hope he is able to build on the  success he is having as I think there is a lot to like about this guy, and he certainly seems to think he’s going to London, according to his own website.

Ruth Edge is by no means over the hill in terms of her eventing career, although it seems like she’s been around forever, and her pure dressage campaign is certainly getting her noticed, so you couldn’t question her overall talent. I do wonder whether she is able to deliver consistency at the top 3 day events though, as her best results seem to come in one day events or during olympic years, and this again, is why I think sports psychology plays such an important part of success. Ruth has been selected previously as a reserve for the olympic squad and does also have a chance of being selected for pure dressage. A talented rider with plenty of opportunity to get to London 2012, she’ll be on the selectors radar for sure.

Francis Whittington has also produced a solid set of results at 3 & 4 star over the last few years, and can be forgiven for his unintentional dismount at this year’s Badminton where his horse almost tried leaping up the Alterian Staircase in a single bound. He has, however, proved he can produce a dressage score in the low 40s at 4 star, and both his cross country and show jumping are improving so getting into the top 5 at a four star should be within reach before 2012. He faces stiff competition though and may just need to get another 4 star ride to gain more experience and fine tune his talent over the next 2 years. 

Emily Llewellyn is one of those riders that doesn’t seem to be surrounded by a lot of noise, but she is my big tip for stardom. At only 20, I question whether she will be able to elbow her way into a 2012 squad, nudging out some of the more established riders, though.

However, in a short space of time, she has managed to stock an enviable trophy cabinet including 8 medals (5 Gold, 1 Silver, 2 Bronze) a CCI*** win, and numerous 3* placings. She is perhaps our next Mary King or Lucinda Green. Her cross country style is a joy to watch, leaving the horse to do what it does best, and notching up sub 50 dressage scores in a 4* certainly helps her cause. I’m sure it won’t be long before she has a long line of sponsors courting her too (clothing ones probably), she’s a bonny lass, and for one so young seems to have her head screwed on and her feet firmly in the stirrups.

Having a solid, dependable mentor for these up and coming riders I think is very important, and has a bigger impact than we probably realise, in many ways its an important part of sports psychology. I’ve always thought one of the risks of our current selection and team training process is we start introducing ‘team’ trainers over the top of regular trainers and fudging it all. Having only third party experience of this selection and training, albeit close, I can’t really talk any more authoritatively about this aspect (yet!).    
 I have, by design, ignored talking about William Fox-Pitt, Oliver Townend, Tina Cook et al, as they have far less to prove at this stage and other more immediate championships to aim for, but if anything earth shattering happens at Bramham, I may start writing about Piggy French, Emily Baldwin, Georgie Spence or Matthew Wright.

What fun, lots of exciting competition is bound to ensue…….

I’m off for a 2012 olympic tour in a few weeks so shall be interested to take a closer look at Greenwich to compare a few notes.

ps. if you’re wondering why the top image says Walthamstow, it’s because use of the official logo is vorboten, so rather than spend millions on an unreadable motif or suffer the brand police I thought I’d spend a few hours minutes coming up with an alternative, let’s see George Osbourne save that much in as little time. snazzy huh?

Amateur event rider, aspiring photographer. Technologist by day.

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