It is coming up to that time where Team GB will be selected to represent the hopes of a nation in Rio. The official confirmation nod of who will be going is around the 8th July which is the latest date by which selectors can recommend to the British Olympic Committee.
This year the selectors are Mandy Stibbe, Bridget Parker, Chris Hunnable and Jonathan Chapman. All of these selectors are vastly experienced and will be looking for a horse who ‘scores consistently under 40 in the dressage, has a high percentage of clears in the showjumping and the ability to be consistently clear cross country within or close to the optimum time.’ So who are the forerunners for GB? Up to recently there were supposedly 12 on the long list but we have to assume a few of those have fallen away with injury such as Emily King and Brookleigh.
Mark Todd recently wrote an interesting comment in his regular Horse and Hound column asking ‘When Britain has so many riders, such a superb network of events and the best owner structure in the world, why aren’t there more British riders showing form and influencing the top levels of the sport?’
It is perhaps this conundrum that will face the selectors because so far this year there has only been one rider who has stood out and that is Gemma Tattersall. Gemma currently goes into the next few months with a strong hand of horses.
For me the choice horse will be Chico Bella. Looking at the last two years Chico Bella’s average dressage is 39.7, Chico Bella is an excellent show jumper with just 1 time fault at FEI is the last two years and an average cross country time of 4.3. This mare is owned by Chris and Lisa Stone. Chico Bella recently won the CIC3* at Bramham which was used as one of the key trials by the British selectors. You might be thinking, why not Arctic Soul?
Arctic Soul is an impressive horse and was amazing round Badminton but this is where his forte is, big galloping tracks. The Olympics is notorious for being tight on space and not close to a 4* in technicality and size. If this was WEG then absolutely would this horse be going, but it’s the Olympics. The dressage needs to be red hot and the cross country asks a different question. There are also two rounds of Sjing and though Gemma conjured up a super clear, in this round you want to be sat on something more likely to go clear than have a pole.
Next on my list is William Fox-Pitt. Despite all the health issues from his fall last year I think Williams two
wins at Tattersalls will give the selectors confidence in his performance. Chilli Morning has been carefully campaigned with the Olympics in mind and he has proven his cross country round both Badminton and the tough WEG track where he finished 3rd. Chilli Mornings dressage was better at Chatsworth with a 37 but he looked to be back on form at Bramham. I think that come the Olympics Chilli will be at peak fitness and prowess. It will be another couple of months further on for William Fox-Pitt and they deserve their spot. This horse is also owned by Chris and Lisa Stone. It would be a pretty amazing feat if they owed two horses on the team.
The next few on my list are tricky. Nicola Wilson, Pippa Funnell, Tina Cook, Kitty King and Izzy. We only have three slots left. Two for the team and one reserve. Personally I feel like we will take a shot on a proven 4* horse and another 3* horse in order to make sure the team has a fair shout at having a good completing score. In this scenario I choose Nicola Wilson with One Two Many. One Two Many is owned by Gary & Mary Kemp and Janine Shewan.
This pairing has had the occasional blip in an excellent record. The horse has proven himself at 4* and up to the insane long shot Nicola saw at Badminton this year which triggered the pin, he looked to be going well. Their average dressage score is 42 which is pretty good and at Blair they scored 34.6 so they are capable of strong performances. They are strong show jumpers with an average of 1.25 faults and strong cross country. They had the blip at Blair but I feel they have since made up for it with strong results. Nicola Wilson is an out and out campaigner and has experience of riding on teams before and getting the job done.
So who does the final slot go to? This is a tough one! My gut instinct says Kitty King and Ceylor Lan. Ceylor Lan is owned by Jacqueline Owen, Diana Bown and Samantha Wilson.
Technically Billy the Biz has a better average dressage score but he has a few blips on his record from last year. Ceylor Lan has been groomed for this since the start of the season. He won Tattersalls last year and then was 3rd at a competitive Blenheim beaten by leading USA Olympic contender Clark Montgomery and Australian Chris Burton with a horse he will be likely aiming at the Olympics. There is some talk about his delayed start at the ERM masters at Chatsworth but I think that was a small blip and something which has never happened before. Also it’s probably better for something like that to happen in a run than at an event where it really matters. Ceylor Lan scored an impressive 32 in the dressage at Chatsworth though his average score is around 43.
This leaves my reserves of Pippa Funnell with Billy the Biz, Tina Cook with Billy Red and Izzy Taylor with Allercombe Ellie.
Do you agree or do you think there is someone who should be considered and who is not?