To ride for your country at the Olympics when it is hosting them is probably the number one biggest dream you could possibly aspire to!
Last month I did a high-performance training program — or roughly outlined one — which focused on the Australian three-day event team. Eventing in Australia is red hot and has historically won both team and individual gold medals. Actually, lots of them! My goodness, the Australian eventing riders are indeed red-hot good!
So, what about the dressage riders? As individual gold medallists we are a long way away. Well, 11 years is also a long way away and individual gold medals are definitely something we could do if we plan to do it. When I say we, please don’t think that anyone other than you — yes, I mean you who is reading this column will be motivated enough to put a gold medal plan into action. Honestly, you cannot wait for Equestrian Australia or the Australian Sports Commission or the Australian Olympic Committee to start marshalling and training our superstars for 2032. That is a nice dream but that is guaranteed not going to happen.
Right now, the Australian dressage team is ranking around No. 9 in the world and our individual performances are ranking from mid-20s to 60s in the world. A little bit depressing when you look at the big picture with ideas of gold medals. However, there have been in recent times countries that have engineered miraculous turnarounds in 11 years. At the Sydney 2000 Olympics where Australia performed exceptionally well and came 6th in the world, England on the other hand came 8th.
Twelve years later England hosted the Olympics in 2012 in London and guess who won the individual gold and team gold medals? Yep, you got it. England. What’s more an unknown English girl called Charlotte Dujardin not only won the individual gold medal but went on to dominate dressage at the top end ever since, winning the individual gold medal again at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016. Team Great Britain had to settle for silver team medals at the Rio Olympics. Gee whizz! What a disappointment! Not! What a fantastic story for a nation that not so long ago was seriously more in touch with hunting and chasing foxes across the countryside and sipping lots of gin from their hip flasks rather than riding dressage. Don’t tell me that we Australians cannot win dressage Olympic gold medals in 2032.
The secret… the secret is “if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”. You have to make a plan. A realistic plan. This means lots of hard work, but believe it or not there are going to be a lot of people who do work hard and who do have the potential to make a difference to the Australian results in 2032. The problem is that they will forget to plan. Hard work is something we Australians can do, but planning, especially in the equestrian disciplines, is just something we Australians don’t do. We especially don’t do this at our administration level. So, it’s up to you.