Blyth Tait may see himself as “the weak link” in the New Zealand eventing team, but he certainly didn’t perform like it today, with a dressage score of 29.7 on the relatively inexperienced Dassett Courage getting the Kiwi challenge off to a terrific start.
With just a handful of riders left to go in the first day of dressage, Blyth is sitting in seventh place, and the New Zealand team is third.
“I am very pleased, the horse isn’t very experienced at this level so it was a big ask for him. He let me really ride him,” Blyth says.
“On the whole I am really pleased; it was very regular, very even and very consistent. He doesn’t have the biggest trot in the world, he doesn’t have the strength and the movement of some of the others but he has an amazing canter. Quite often the judges get unimpressed with the trot, and then fail to be impressed by his canter, but hopefully they saw the good canter there today.
“Always when you come out, you wish you had done a little bit more but I guess it was sensible not to rock the boat too much going out as first team member.”
Speaking of that team, which is being tipped far and wide as favourites for the gold, Blyth says he’s thrilled that his dressage efforts have “kept them in touch”.
“I just didn’t want to be too far off the pace for them, so I am happy with that. At this stage I am possibly the weak link, so I am pleased to be with them. You do need strength in numbers for a good team result. You can’t just have a couple of superstars. We think if we play our cards right and do our absolute best then we could be in with a shot.”
Blyth is now eager to get out there and get into the jumping phases. “He’s sick of dressage and so am I!”
He thinks that Mark Phillips’ track will suit his horse, though he has yet to have a really good look at the course.
“We got caught in that torrential rain yesterday so we just whisked around. We’re going back this afternoon to walk it thoroughly and look at options. We just wanted to get a feel for it yesterday. We were literally drowned! We tried to shelter under one of the big tables but unfortunately after about 10 minutes, that leaked and we had to get out and brave it.
“But from what I’ve seen, I think it will suit him, to be honest. He is a very careful horse and a tiny bit spooky, and there is a lot to look at, so he will have to put his brave pants on. It is a good galloping course, and the going is perfect at the moment. I just guess it is luck of the draw whether you go in a monsoon or hot, hot sunshine and 30 degrees. We just have to wait to see what we are provided with and ride accordingly.”