Riders build instant partnerships not only with their teammates but also with their horses for the first equestrian event of the Games
Zimbabwe’s Brianagh Lindsay Clark spent 52 hours on planes and in airports to compete in equestrian at the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games. Her horse, however, arrived after a much shorter journey: the marvellously monikered mare, El Roblecito Malaika, is stabled local to the competition venue, Club Hipico Argentino. Every rider-and-horse partnership in the YOG events had just three training sessions to get to know each other before competition began on Monday (8 October).
“I have spent as much time as I can with the horse,” Clark said. “I spend a lot of time not jumping her, just on the flat (ground), adapting and learning about how she likes to move.”
The 17-year-old was among 30 riders at the YOG who are competing on ‘borrowed’ mounts - quality jumping horses provided by generous supporters of the sport in Argentina.
The teenagers were allotted mounts by a draw after arriving at the Games, then had to quickly get to grips - literally - with their new partners.
The event featured six continental teams of five riders and, after the first round on Monday, Tuesday’s second round and a jump-off between Europe and North America decided the medals.
North America emerged victorious following a perfect round by the final rider, Mattie Hatcher (USA), on Santa Rosa Valery.
“I knew I had to go fast and I knew I had to go clear and the horse was very willing and she was just right there with me,” Hatcher, 17, said after her team’s victory. “I didn’t really have much time to get nervous before my round, and when I got in there I just thought about how this is really fun. The fact people were cheering for me and I am not even from their country, that’s so cool.”
Clark’s team, Africa, won the bronze medal.
Among the interested spectators was celebrated equestrian Olympian Luciana Diniz of Portugal. Diniz is an Athlete Role Model at the YOG and is encouraging the young riders as they set out to establish themselves in the sport. “To become a better rider, to become a better person, to experience new cultures and meet new friends - that’s what an event like the Youth Olympic Games is all about,” she said.
Equestrian continues on Friday (12 October), when the individual jumping event begins.