It seems so strange and sad that London Olympics is all over. After seven months of planning towards it, five years of travelling and campaigning my horse AJ for it, it's all done and dusted!
What an amazing experience. I feel so lucky to have had this opportunity twice in my life. The Olympics certainly are the most fantastic event to be a part of and of course the values and history of the Olympics makes it so special.
Seeing those who field teams from such war-stricken countries as Syria and Afghanistan is what it is all about. The Village is always a fascinating place – to see athletes training in all sorts of areas on bikes, walking, running and exercising. Being in the food hall and trying to work out what sport each athlete is from, as well as watching what they eat is always very entertaining. I was most upset that I wouldn't see Roger Federer in there for breakfast as because he doesn't get any privacy at the village so stays elsewhere!
London did such a great job of organising these Games. The equestrian facilities at Greenwich Park were great. There were so many arenas for training, including one indoor and all beautiful surfaces. The stables look great with all the flags and bunting from various countries.
AJ was very bad and managed to get both his flags into his stable and put his own version on the NZ flag!
The eventers were up first and that was a great competition with perfect weather conditions for the cross country and show jumping. It was a shame for Andrew Nicholson that the violent thunder storm came just before his dressage test and he was held up while they delayed the competition. Their work ins on these very fit horses are so finely timed.
It was so exciting being there when they won the bronze medal. A fantastic result and such a deserved one for all involved.
I had a few days in Greenwich before my competition, which was great. Even though I had the most wonderful groom in Catherine Scott, I ended up sharing her room rather than going to and fro from the Village for most of the time as I like to be close to my horse.
AJ worked well in the days leading up to the competition, except for the first couple of days when he had a skin problem and I couldn't put a saddle on.
It’s really not what you need, but one has to be prepared and philosophical for all sorts of things to pop up with horses – almost a case of expect the unexpected!!!
Team vet Oliver Pynn was great with getting this fixed up and we were soon back on board.
The flight had taken quite a bit out of AJ and he was good but not the 100% they need to be, to perform at their best, which was a bit disappointing. It did mean in the test I couldn't ask for AJ's normal sparkle, but was delighted with our test although somewhat mad at myself for some expensive silly mistakes – like losing my one times which has a co efficient, and throwing in some extra changes in between the pirouettes.
He felt more confident with the movements and stayed focused on me in that environment, which is always a big ask coming from New Zealand, where we don't have many shows with such atmosphere.
I did think we could have got a couple more marks, but that's the sport. It is hard when you haven't campaigned yourself in Europe. Talking to Patrik Kittel (top Swedish dressage rider) the other day, someone had asked him if it would ever be possible for an outsider to come into the arena and win. He said no – not with dressage.
The standard of horses and riders was so high. A few years ago, my mark would have very nearly got me into the second round. It is interesting watching Salinero, who won the gold eight years ago and is going better now, being well out of the medals although her tests were fantastic.
Dressage just seems to get better and better, and that was even without Totilas being there. It was such a treat to watch these great horses and riders train each day. They are true genius – the harmony with the horse, the "throughness" of the horses (throughness is an absence of resistance in the horse to the rider’s commands), and the light invisible aids from the riders. I was somewhat jealous of the big stallion necks on so many of them as it certainly is an advantage and helps with the picture – and dressage is a very visual sport. I also liked it that the medal winners and most of the top horses had been produced by their riders.
Finishing my test at "G" (the letter marker in the arena) was such a thrill. I got a lovely smile from (judge) Stephen Clarke and the noise from the crowd, which during my test I had conveniently forgotten were there, was so loud. I felt proud that I had just ridden at the London Olympics and represented my lovely country to the best of my ability under the circumstances. It was definitely one of the most special moments of my life.
The Olympics is about being the best in your country and representing it at the most special and biggest sporting event – there can only be three medal winners, but being there and doing the best you can, is what it's all about.
I hope having someone in the dressage competition from New Zealand (which is a huge achievement in itself) has motivated young talented riders coming up in the sport. When I started competing at this level, there was no way anyone would have got to the Olympics, so we would all sell our horses and start again. We have now had a dressage representative at three Olympic Games, and I hope this gives them a lot of incentive.
This year we had also qualified a team spot for the Olympics, which was exciting. It would have been great for me to have had some team-mates, and not been the "orphan" I called myself.
Maybe Rio we see a New Zealand Dressage team competing! It is not easy producing a horse for this level from New Zealand. We are very isolated from the stimulation of top level competition – and watching videos just isn't the same – trainers and horses. While the breeding of good horses in New Zealand is improving all the time, it's a slow process.
Europe has hundreds of years of history and we have about 30!
All the planning and focus has been on the Olympics itself, and it is a strange feeling when it's suddenly over. AJ was meant to go into quarantine on August 10, but it wouldn't have been a wise decision to fly him again that long distance until he was 100% right. I then had to find somewhere for him to go where he was in good hands and could do the month of treatment he needed.
I looked at a few places in England although they were expensive and not quite right. I had admired Patrik Kittel's riding at Munich and London, and spent many hours watching him. I like it that there is an Antipodean connection – his wife is from Australia. He has super facilities, is a great rider with lovely grooms and riders who live above the stables.
These things were important to me as I have had AJ since he was four, and he is more than a little "special" in his needs. Leaving him there so I can return to work was a very hard decision, but the right one.
I spent a week near Munster settling AJ into his new home and although I cried when I said goodbye to him, I know I've done the best I could have for him. Now I am back home and I hope I can find a way to pay for it all.
I would like to see if there is a way to keep him there to first get fit and well, keep him in training with Patrik and try and to and fro for training and competition as we look towards Normandy (the World Equestrian Championships in 2014).
I know there is a lot more in the horse and it was frustrating not being able to ride him at 100% in London. We will see how it all goes. It's important to set new goals and ambitions after one set has finished. I think it must be hard for some of the gold medalists who have trained years for that moment and now that they have achieved it. Imagine having to set new goals to do one better. At least that's one thing I don't have to worry about!!!