Tuesday, August 26, 2008

horsemart interviews Simon Laurens

I was just about to go home as by now I was quite wet, I went to the lovely new café at Oldencraig and was queuing for a cup of tea when I noticed the two gentlemen in front of me were wearing Team GB jackets. I had just run into Simon Laurens our Para Olympian and self confessed ‘Oldest Olympic Virgin’
We are going to follow Simon over the next few months and keep you informed of the highs and lows of this amazing man and his team.

Major Achievements:
Having become a Grade III para rider in November 2005, he won all four para trials he contested with his partner John Gamlin’s former show horse, Ocean Dream, and qualified for the Winter Para Regional Championships. Ocean Dream was retired after going lame the day before the regionals.
Simon has competed Ocean Diamond since, winning all the competitions he has entered on British soil, three para trials as well as the final selection trial and the BD Winter Paratrial Championships. He competed at his first international in Germany in 2006, finishing second in his first test and third in the freestyle. At the 2006 Hartpury International he won the grade III individual championship test and the grade III team test and was a member of the winning British team. That same year, Simon won the Grade III Disabled Dressage Rider Championship at the National Dressage Championships. In 2007 Simon won a team gold and individual freestyle gold (III) at the World Championships, Hartpury.

When are you off to Hong Kong?
Going to Hong Kong on the 22nd August

How excited are you?
Relaxed at the moment & excited but nervous & I feel cautious about what it will be like.

How did your life change when you were diagnosed?
It wasn’t just me, my partner John Gamlin was diagnosed with parkinsons the same year ! What a tough year that was! Everything changed, Simon laughs ‘what a bloody year that was!!’ But, we just stuck together and said sod it – I’m not going to let some disease beat me and here we are. I always say, I’m not ill just ‘ slightly impaired’ I wont be beaten by the bugger!

I’m now totally focused on the Games and cant wait.

Ocean Don Jon has just won the Novice today and third in the Elementary with Ulrick Molgaard with just under 70% you must be thrilled? Tell us some more about him

My trainer Henrietta Anderson found Don Jon in Denmark chosen for temperament, he really is MR unflappability. He is by Donahaul and has a lovely laid back brain. He will be my reserve horse and is off to quarantine on th 18th August.

Ocean Diamond is your main horse, tell us some more about him?
Ocean diamond is by Rubenstein, we have had him two & half years, he is a tiny little horse with big personality and attitude who has never let me down, I adore him. He is quirky and suits the para games. He was an advanced horse and went Grand Prix in Holland but found the pressure hard to cope with. The owner thankfully recognised this and decided to sell.

John & I started to look and we advertised on the internet. I wrote up a list of wants and needs, John then said ‘seeing as I am paying I want one thing, I want a black one!!!!’
I laughed and added it in but that’s exactly what we got!
It was obviously meant to be.

Tell us some more about your Trainer?
The horses are based at Henreitta’s yard so I practically train every day! Henrietta is always around and keeps an eye on me – she is really strict but I love it, I can’t bare trainers that say ‘that’s nice’ or ‘that’s good’ when it isn’t really! She says ‘Again, again not good enough!’ she is a good hearted bully and gets the very best out of me!!

Where’s home for you?
Home in Jersey, it’s just a livery yard, we have lovely facilities there but I can’t run it anymore, due to my condition some days it can take me hours to get out of bed and I’m just not reliable. The main boys are with Henrietta and Ulrik permanently which just takes the worry out. I love it there, I get in everyone’s way and make the tea and have a lovely time!

Will Quarantine be a problem for you?
Quarantine is the last week in Aug and the base which is really close to the yard makes it all very simple. I will stay at home as we still have dogs and cats to look after.

When do you fly out?
We fly out on 26th and will meet up with the horses there.

What are you expecting?
I am going completely open minded with the objection of winning!
Horses are not machines, you have to stay open minded when competing, anything can happen, they are living breathing thinking things – the conditions apparently are tough and will take time to adjust.

What are your chances?
On paper really good, but the other factors are there. It’s going to be the one that survives on the day and produces the best four & half minutes!

Do you have a groom going?
Michelle Tipper is my Groom – she is freelance now but was with Nikki Barrett – I was asked and I choose Michelle & Jenny Ellis is head girl – grooms are so important and must not be forgotten.
Richard Davison, Nick Skelton and I nominated Jenny for Groom of the year and she won. Well deserved. They really are the unsung heroes, so much work goes on in the background. I have lots of little quirks – He must have sugar lumps, 4 before bridle, 3 after the bridle goes on, girth must be on one hole then four, and so on and so on… The girls know all these and just get the job done I don’t have to worry about anything except my performance.

How long will you be out there?
3 weeks out there – The horses come home on the 14th, then going to Beijing for the closing ceremony which I am really excited about.

Will you bring us some photos back?
Of course I will!

Who’s in charge of the team?
Mr Hunter is our leader, he is charm personified! – His military style sometimes causes a stir, we have to remind him we have bits missing and spend most of time on wheels! Sometimes our bodies let us down, so when we need to pee we have to stop! It’s hilarious sometimes.

We have an amazing team, Lee, Debbie, Ann, Sophie, and the three new people, myself Rikki Balshaw Felicity Coultard. I am honoured to be with them.

Good luck Simon – I look forward to following you over the next few months.

Follow Simons Blog and don’t forget to purchase the Ocotber issue to read the full report.