Day 1 of show jumping at the Olympic Games in Rio.
If you were Germany’s alternate rider, Meredith Michaels Beerbaum, you’d be looking forward to a relaxing day of cheering on your teammates and grazing your horse. But at 7 a.m., that all changed.
“I was going to take a day off from riding, watch everything, give my horse some grass, give him an easy day and I got a message on my phone, do you have your white riding breeches with you?”
Her teammate Marcus Ehning had withdrawn from the competition just an hour before the deadline of 8 a.m. His horse Cornado NRW wasn’t 100 percent in his left front.
“Tears came to my eyes because this was something I really, really wanted,” said Michaels-Beerbaum. “There were a lot of emotions I must say, but I had to quickly turn them down low and try to get organized.”
But if there was panic and rushing in the barn before the class, it didn’t show as Michaels-Beerbaum and her 11 year-old-gelding Fibonacci handily delivered a clear round for Germany.
Not bad for a horse and rider team that almost didn’t make the trip to Rio in the first place. “The first reaction (Fibonacci’s) owner had when the horse was nominated as reserve was ‘well, he doesn’t have to go to Rio.’ But together we all slept on it, discussed it and realized as hard as the decision was for us, that this is sport and we didn’t want to be bad sports,” she said.
“Of course I’m delighted I came, can you imagine if I was sitting at home?”
Fibonacci, stable name Nacho (given to him by Beerbaum’s daughter) has “incredible talent but is mentally fragile,” saidMichaels-Beerbaum. “He’s a sensitive horse and takes a lot of work and time and he needs a group around him that he knows and he doesn’t like other horses, in the warmup ring, or people, or movement.”
Otto Becker, coach of the German jumping team, said the decision was a hard one to make, but ultimately the right call. “The risk was too big that the horse can compete here for another four or five rounds,” he said. “I feel very, very sorry for Marcus. He’s a fantastic rider and horseman.”
“It was also not easy for the team to have a decision at the last moment like this, but they all stick together,” said Becker. “For Meredith to have just a couple of hours to ride like this it was fantastic.”
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