By Mark Etheridge
South Africa’s horse and rider combination have both settled into their respective lodging in Rio.And while one will be planning to make hay while the sun shines, the other is quite content to munch on hay before his big day
Tanya Seymour and her horse Ramoneur both jetted in from Belgium earlier this week to do Olympic dressage duty at the Deodoro centre next week.
It’s an Olympic first for the two, with it being the first time that a South African dressage rider has qualified for the Olympics.
And they’re going to take this opportunity with both hands.. or all hooves.
Getting to Rio is no simple task with immense organisation required. There were 12 flights from around the world all bound for Rio. Says Seymour: ‘There were three plane loads of horses that flew over from Belgium.
‘But it all went very smoothly, literally and figuratively. The plane climbs very gradually and they don’t do any steep turns or banking so the horses are all very comfortable.
‘Even the trucking vehicles were flown over by German company Peden, I think there were four in total. It’s an incredibly expensive task. The cost of flying each horse over around 15,000 euros.’
The good news is that Ramoneur was none the wiser to the fact that he’d just crossed an ocean and was in another continent. ‘He was very perky which is fantastic. He normally travels very well and he was eating and drinking straight away. He’s so used to the travelling that he probably had no idea he was in the air, probably thought it was just another truck.
‘He’s very fresh and excited which is not the worse thing, some of the other horses were quite stiff. We’ve got almost a week to go before competition which is plenty of time. I’ll ride him for between 45-60min a day now before competition and then he’ll probably have half an hour of “hand walking” in the afternoons.’
While in the equestrian village, Ramoneur will be watched over by Kirsty Taylor, Seymour’s personal groom in Germany and the SA equestrian managerial duties are handled by Johannesburg based Ingeborg Sanne.
A bubbly blonde, who speaks with a catchy smorgasbord of accents, picked up by having lived in South Africa, Australia and now the small town of Addrup in northern Germany, Seymour says that at 14 years old, Ramoneur is average age for a top dressage competitor. ‘He was quite a later starter but he’s made truly massive improvement in the last two years. I can honestly say that hasn’t really had a bad score since the last WEG (World Equestrian Games) in Caen, France back in 2014.
‘The exciting thing is that he is capable of so, so much more still and will be even better by the next Equestrian Games in 2018, although we’re not sure of where they’ll be hosted at this stage.’
Talking of scores and Seymour is well aware that she’s going to have to come up with the rides of her life in Rio. A total of 60 horses will start the dressage competition over the three days, starting with the grand prix, moving into the grand prix special and then ending with the freestyle (kur) competition.
After the grand prix, 32 horses will go through and that will be trimmed down to a final round of 18.
‘My best scores are around the 70% and I’m pretty much going to have to do that to get through to the next stage.’ What it will take to medal? ‘You’ll definitely have to be getting scores of around 80% to stand a chance of medalling. Germany’s three riders here are all doing those sort of scores as well as a British rider and there are others also in the mix.’
One thing’s for sure, South African dressage supports can rest assured that Seymour will be mixing it with the best from the get-go!