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Showjumping is the sport I do, but eventing is the sport I follow. Eventing has a narrative: there are teams, and there are three phases (dressage, cross-country, showjumping) such that after three days of competition everything can hang on whether a horse taps a rail with a hind foot or not, and if so, whether that rail falls. It’s VERREH EXCITINGE. I’ve been enmeshed in its DRAMZ since reading KM Peyton’s glorious books about it at an impressionable age, and it’s why Princess Anne is my favourite Royal, because she rode on the British team in Montreal.
This year’s Olympic eventing offers up maybe the dramiest dramz in, oh, ever. Let’s see: the US coach ran off with his mistress, who he had made the showjumping coach. Scandal! The US coach is also the father of a member of the British team, which member is also the daughter of the abovementioned Princess Anne and therefore the granddaughter of the Queen. The dad says he might watch his daughter ride, if he can find the time. For these and other reasons, the dad is widely thought of in eventing circles as a gigantic tool. Two members of his US team are former Australian Olympians who have switched sides, leaving Australia to scramble for other riders. Those Australian-Americans rescued one of the Olympic horses from a burning barn last year, by dint of punching out the fire chief who was trying to prevent them from running into the flames.
It’s a Jilly Cooper novel COME TO LIFE. Me, I will be rooting for Ingrid Klimke, for sentimental reasons as her father Reiner Klimke is still my favourite equestrian ever; Mary King, a marvellous English rider who is best thought of as Helen Mirren on horseback; Boyd Martin, a punk kid who is one of the heroes of the barn fire; and Hawley Bennett, a Canadian who is based in California, because I saw her ride at Woodside last year and she was awesome.
Most of all, though, I’ll be hoping that everyone gets around with no injuries whatsoever, not even a loose shoe. Eventing has a filthy little secret: it’s sometimes fatal. So that’s my Olympic dream: that just this once, everybody lives.
ETA: Gold medal: German team, including Ingrid Klimke. Silver medal: British team, including Mary King. BOO YAH.