Then the canter tour, we made no mistakes. It was a little bit too low on the forehand and a little bit stiff for sure, but we did good pirouettes and good changes. The sequence changes between the pirouettes felt very good and straight. The transition into canter was really nice. There were moments when I started to feel like it he was beginning to feel more comfortable in there and not like he needed to hide.
ROGER: And then there was the transition from canter to trot and then down the long side in extended trot near the end of the test…
LYNDAL: It was hard. I’ve never been in that situation and I don’t think you’re prepared for this sort of thing or plan for it. I came into trot and was like, ‘oh, thank goodness, we’ve made it through’. And I started to feel him breathe a little bit at that point, so I pushed him a little bit more in the extended trot, just to see if he’d feel a bit more confident and start to show himself.
And then the bell rang, and my first instinct was thinking, had I gone the wrong way? Had he nipped himself or trodden on himself? So I’m quickly looking to both sides. I was aware that the rhythm wasn’t ideal at times, but it wasn’t a consistent problem. I wasn’t sure what it appeared to look like versus what my feeling was. So I went up to the judge and she said, ‘I think you felt it, that there were rhythm issues at times?’ What can you say? Yes, there was. So I nodded and I left the arena, and I felt a very deflated little pony under me, it was a sad moment.
I actually would’ve understood (hearing the bell) more in the trot at the beginning, because that’s where I felt he showed some rhythm issues more, when he was tight. I felt that, so I would’ve understood it there. But I suppose the judge made a decision, and maybe she felt after the canter it was going to get better and maybe in her mind it wasn’t good enough. I have to accept that decision and that’s dressage; it is what it is.
At that point, the most important thing was to make sure that Ross was okay. I needed to be back in the stable and with the vets and physio just to check and make sure he was okay. Our team vet wasn’t concerned about the soundness of the horse because he watched him the entire warm-up; he and our Chef d’Equipe and all of us felt the same thing, that he just became introverted and lost power after giving his all the day before.
I would never want to put a horse in a situation that’s not ideal where he can’t perform and be healthy and happy. Thankfully he was fine, so that was a relief. The physio felt that he was a bit tighter in the neck, so we worked on that in the afternoon and then he had a day off and I stretched him the day after to make sure he was fine, and he was perfect. He was his total normal self: bright, alert, cheeky and really fresh on his feet. So I knew that it wasn’t a lameness thing or anything like that. It was more just a coping mechanism, and something that I now need to learn to address in the future.
ROGER: And how did you cope mentally with the situation?
LYNDAL: In a championship position, I’ve learned that you need to put your personal emotions aside quite quickly. Because first of all, it’s not about me. It’s about the horse. Second of all, once the horse is fine and everything’s okay, then my job is to be a supportive team member. In this case, it was for Simone, because she was going into the arena. I didn’t want my emotions or concern to affect her. And then after that, Patrik was going straight away to do his Special. My focus had to be to put my emotions to the side and be a supportive teammate and wife. That meant me being very there in ‘the here and the now’.
My focus then went to, what would I do differently? How will I prepare better in the future in these situations? I need to keep that in mind now for the future, if he does do a cracker of a Grand Prix, then the Special is a high possibility. When I’d ridden in Aachen he had a day off between the Grand Prix and the Special, and he was great. So I might prepare a little bit differently in the future… perhaps I need to give him another day off during the week if I need to prepare for the Special as well.
When I got back home, for sure I felt more the deflation of it all and the reality of it, but at the same time I look at him and he is happy and healthy and it’s just one moment in time when things didn’t go my way. But wow, we had a great Grand Prix and Australia is qualified for the Olympics. As long as he’s healthy and happy, then it’s just one moment in his career and it won’t be a defining one if I have my way!
ROGER: What’s next for Ross?
LYNDAL: At the moment he feels great, and I’m thinking about the World Cup season. I’m going to try and train him to better cope with the crowds. I won’t go straight away and throw him into one of the bigger World Cup shows. I’ll take him to something smaller and then just chip away at it, and make sure that every experience I’m giving him will be something that will help him develop his confidence.
Originally when people were clapping he would bolt, so at Herning I more expected that outcome, but instead he took it internally. So in one way I’m proud of him for coping better, but in another way, that gave me a whole other challenge that I wasn’t prepared for. He’s never reacted in such a way and it’s a massive learning curve… you can’t predict where and when you’ll get these learning curves.”