TALKING ABOUT TOKYO
By Adele Severs
At the beginning of 2020, Belgian Sport Horse mare Coleraine des Bergeries (Canturo x Overon Du Molin) — whom Amy Graham part owns with breeder Philippe Jadot — was in top form with Tokyo just around the corner. “She’d performed very well at competitions in America,” recalls Amy. “At that time I thought, ‘yep, she’s ready’ and I was happy to go and give [Olympic selection] a crack.”
The Games were then postponed for a year and at the beginning of 2021, Coleraine des Bergeries contracted EHV-1 (equine herpesvirus). While she fully recovered from the illness, the path back to peak fitness and form has taken some time.
“She was symptomatic with rhino (EHV-1 can cause rhinopneumonitis, a respiratory condition roughly equivalent to the common cold in people) at the beginning of the year and she has taken a long time to regain her condition,” explains Amy.
By the time selection came around in July, the 13-year-old mare was no longer symptomatic and back in full work, however, after quite a long break Amy wasn’t sure whether she’d be at her absolute best. “I said all along ‘I am happy to have my hat in the ring if you do need me, but she’s not at her 100% best form as she was at the beginning of 2020’.”
It’s of course hard for Amy to say what she would have done had the call came through for her to step onto the team for Tokyo. The mare was sound and well at the time of selection, however, having since been out to competitions over the past month or two, Amy now says that in hindsight she knows her mare wasn’t quite ready for the Games. At that level, even the slightest loss of form can make all the difference.
“At the time, I didn’t know how quickly she was going to rebuild her condition; it was the first time she’d been out of work for that long. Having been to a few shows over the past month or two and knowing what I do now, in hindsight I know she wasn’t quite ready [at the time of selection]. She’s more than capable, but at the that time she wasn’t ready.”
In terms of the issues that befell the Australian jumping team in the lead up to Tokyo, Amy’s not exactly sure how it ended like it did — but she believes it’s a situation we can learn from. “It appeared almost every other team had at least two reserves. And it was strongly encouraged that these reserves were ready and if not both at Tokyo, at least one was. You could see how much they used them, how much they were interchanging, and how vital it was,” muses Amy.
“One thing I do believe is that the selection criteria and the whole system needs to be a lot more transparent, and there needs to be better communication with the qualified riders. The selectors from some of the most successful showjumping countries, they are constantly in touch with their potential rider and horse combinations about how the horse is going, how they are feeling, and what they think.”
Amy makes it clear she’s not interested in pulling anyone down; she just really wants to see the system improve. “Being over [in Europe], and seeing how the best countries in the world [manage championship teams], it’s important to learn from that. As riders, that’s what we do; we look at the best riders in the world and think, ‘what is working for them and how can I take a piece of advice and make it work for me’.”
After speaking with Equestrian Life, Amy and Coleraine des Bergeries joined Hilary Scott on Oaks Milkyway and Jake Hunter on Jativia as part of Australia’s Nations Cup team in Drammen, Norway, at the end of August. The team finished in equal second place after all three produced outstanding performances; it seems Coleraine des Bergeries is finding her form once again!
The World Championships for jumping are set to take place in Herning, Denmark (10-14 August), and while the official schedule is yet to be released, the program currently denotes a return to team medals being decided ahead of individual medals (a reversing of the Tokyo format). The number of combinations per team — and therefore how selection will play out — remains unclear, yet with the Championships less than a year away Amy won’t have to wait too long for another chance to possibly represent her country! EQ