Julie Brougham has again laid claim to another slice of New Zealand sporting history after notching the highest-ever score by a Kiwi dressage combination at the Olympic Games.
She and her German-bred Vom Feinsten today scored 68.543% in the Grand Prix, finishing in 18th spot at the end of the first day of competition. Tomorrow the second half of the 60-strong field will complete their tests. From that, the riders from the top six teams along with eight individuals will progress to the next round where they will compete in the Grand Prix Special.
The field is headed by Dorothee Schneider (GER) and Showtime FRH scored 80.986% and were the last combination of the day.
Brougham now faces a rather agonising wait to see if she will progress. “If we got through to the next round it would be just phenomenal,” she said. “It is a big deal just to get to the start line with a fit and healthy horse.”
But she had no troubles with her sometimes feisty chestnut who was every bit the professional today. “Overall he was such a pleasant horse to ride today,” said Brougham, the oldest rider in the equestrian competition at Rio. “I thought it was a really good solid performance. Sometimes he can be a little anxious but he is now maturing into a solid Grand Prix horse. He knows his job and is starting to deliver.”
Vom Feinsten, who is co-owned by Brougham and her husband David, had done lovely half passes, all his one and two times were clean and straight, his pirouettes were good, small, tidy and balanced and of course – his party piece – extended trots were gorgeous. And he was chilled. “It is . . . well, it is pretty wonderful really to have done that, said Brougham. “I just so enjoyed my warm up and he went in so well.”
She admits to feeling “a little hard done by on the mark” but was very pleased with the test. “I am a little disappointed we didn’t nudge a better score . . . for all those who have helped and particularly for (husband) David, (and trainers) Andrea (Raves) and Ton (de Ridder).” It had been a real team effort. Brougham was chuffed the eventers had turned out to watch her compete. “I just had all my team there and honestly, I thought, this is my second wedding day. I will remember every moment of it.”
And she didn’t feel any nerves at all. “We had gone through everything the night before and had a minute by minute plan that came off minute by minute. It all worked out perfectly. “We did our first halt, salute and away we went and I thought yippee!”
Vom Feinsten even caught the eye of Carl Hester who complimented Brougham on his “fabulous extensions”. “And of course the audience just loved him.”
With the test being televised and watched by many back home in New Zealand, Brougham admits to feeling a little pressure to put on a show. “My big hope was that I would please all the dressage fraternity back home,” she said. “I knew they would all be judging the performance and I am glad of that. If
I make them proud it means so much to me.” But she saved her biggest praise for her team.
“David, well, he has just been amazing. He has been there all the way. Andrea and Ton have too and there for me every moment. Each of them have done different roles and got us into that arena in the best form possible.”
Included in the competition for Brougham is 18-year-old Giovana Prado (BRAZ) who is also on debut at the Olympics. “Fingers and toes crossed we get through to the next round,” says Brougham.