Leicester City. At the start of the football ( soccer) season the bookmakers gave the team a one in five thousand chance of winning the Premiership in Britain. Yesterday they did just that. They won. This is a true story of the little team that could. They beat all the Big Boys; the teams with the star players, and the Big Money behind them. Leicester City was always an “also ran ‘ team. They were there but they were never where it counted at the end. But not this year. This year they started winning and they went on winning; beating the teams with the big bucks and the big players. The BBC today described it as something “unheard of in sport history”.
Could anything like this ever happen in the world of equestrian sport?
There is the story of Snowman. A former plow horse, he was bought for $80 by Harry de Leyer when he was on his way to the knackers yard. The two formed an incredible bond. Snowman would jump anything for Harry and they won the US Open Jumping Championship in 1958 and 1959. That is at least a 1000 to 1 chance. But could something like that happen today? Maybe if the backers would come forward to meet the huge costs of mounting an international jumping career. But it is not too likely in todays competitive jumper world.
What about dressage? Could an underdog team of horse and rider clinch a big championship win in the Olympics or the World Equestrian Games? Well…..dressage is a judged sport so the reality is that underdogs seldom get the big scores. Here is what I think would have to happen for an underdog to win the individual gold medal in the Olympics.
The seven judges would have been sequestered from all dressage competition for at least a year prior to the Olympics so that they would not have any idea who the current “winners” were leading up to the Games. They would have to be able to see each horse and rider as if for the first time. In fact they would need to have had all memory of previous competitions for at least two years erased from their minds but still retaining their judging capabilities. They would be seeing each competitor with fresh eyes
.Oh ….and of course the Judges Supervisory Panel , who monitor all the rides and look for any unobserved mistakes, errors of scoring or scoring discrepancies would have been sent home for an early tea for all three phases of the competition. After all the Olympic Committee couldn’t sequester them as well as the judges.
DAY ONE ……Our underdog competitor would do amazingly well and place in the top three in the Grand Prix despite the fact that the horse was not a flashy and fancy mover but correct in all elements and performing a seamless and perfectly executed test.
DAY TWO……Then in the Grand Prix Special our underdog would take second place and go on to the freestyle.
DAY THREE…..The freestyle would be marvellous with perfect music for our underdog and the choreography would be technically difficult and everyone would be surprised and thrilled at how amazingly well it was performed. The cheering at the final salute was deafening! The crowds were pulling for our underdog no matter what country he represented. Nationality no longer mattered. History was being made here! Tens of thousands of people in the stands were pulling for this horse and rider. Emotions were running at fever pitch. No judge in his or her right mind could not have given the underdog the highest score. Even the judges wanted them to win.
And they did win! They did it! They made history! The crowds cheered, even men were in tears as the underdog horse and rider took the victory round with the gold medal.
Well it happened in football with Leicester City. So…….could it happen in equestrian sport? Well it’s always nice to dream isn’t it?