Sir Mark Todd rode McClaren at what was an incredibly hot part of the day in Tryon, and which saw the stands relatively empty as spectators chose the shade rather than melting in the sun.
After the test, Mark was positively glowing – not with happiness about his performance, but because riding in tails and top hat had made him work up quite a sweat. “I’m too old to ride in that heat,” he says.
“I am pleased, but also a bit disappointed as we know he can do better, but in the circumstances for his level of experience… you had to expect he would make a few little mistakes, and he did. He is a horse in the making, he has amazing presence and movement and everything else, but he is only in his second year of proper eventing and training, so he still has a long way to go.”
McClaren, an 11-year-old Holsteiner by Clarimo, hasn’t been in many atmospheres like this and he was a little tense. Once Sir Mark let him have a loose rein at the finish of his test, he stopped concentrating on his rider and had a good look around the stands, with his eyes on stalks.
“He has never seen anything like that,” Sir Mark says. “I felt when he went in there, although he stayed with me, he was a little bit distracted and that is when those little mistakes creep in. He would never normally skip in his extended trot but he just put in too much effort into it and lost his balance. The changes are his weakest point at this stage, and they are a bit hit and miss. He was doing quite good changes outside but when he got in there, the atmosphere…”
Overall, Sir Mark is pleased with his score of 31.4, considering the mistakes that were made, and which leaves him in individual 14th place at this stage.
Looking forward to the cross-country, Toddy is optimistic. “Everything we have asked him to do so far he has done really well. This is another step up, it is a big test and again it is that whole atmosphere thing, but he is a really brave horse and he is a super jumper. He is normally dead honest, so I am hoping he is going to have a good run.”
As to the ground, Sir Mark thinks it’s “anyone’s guess” as to how it will ride. “It depends what it does between now and then, and as we have seen in the last few days, it can change within the hour. Hopefully, we don’t get any more horrendous downpours like we did yesterday. Hopefully, it can dry out a bit. Hopefully, it won’t be too hot. There is a lot of hoping going on.”
And is it just as exciting and motivating to be at the World Championships in 2018 than it was, way back in 1978 at his very first ones? Sir Mark laughs, and says it’s quite a different feeling. “At my first one, 40 years ago, it was a whole new experience. That was my second-ever three-day-event at Kentucky, and I have been around the block a few times now since then! It is still amazing to be here.”
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