Fearless’ Bolt reminds me of me, says Tumbridge
M.J. Tumbridge, the former Olympian and Pan Am Games gold medal-winner, is coaching a “fearless” young Bermudian equestrian in England, who reminds her “a little bit of myself”.
Tumbridge was Bermuda’s Female Athlete of the Year in 1999 after winning the Pan Am title on Bermuda’s Gold in Winnipeg 19 years ago and is hopeful that Saskia Bolt, 15, can follow in her footsteps.
“I know her mother [Louise],” Tumbridge told The Royal Gazette. “We went to school together at BHS and used to ride in the days when you could ride on the trails all over without upsetting anybody and it was great fun!
“She moved and went to university in England and is a lawyer. And that was it; I didn’t really hear from her.
“One day, I got in touch with her and realised that she didn’t live far from me, so we touched base and from there she said that both of her children did some riding and eventing and I met them, and that was probably about six years ago.
“She lives in Chobham, and I was living in Hazlemere, in Surrey, and I didn’t realise we were so close. Now I live in Southampton, but she got in touch with me, it must have been about two months ago, and asked me if I minded giving her a dressage lesson and giving her a view of what I think.
“I did, and I thought she was a good little rider. She’s really hungry for it; reminded me a little bit of myself, and when I feel that from somebody I want to help them. I said to them, firstly, you need to become a member of the BEF here, or else I can’t take you seriously. And I said to the mother: ‘Look, I think she’s got something special there — that hunger.’
“I was teaching here and I’d say: ‘do this’ and off she went and she’s doing quite well in eventing. She’s just doing the pre-novice, but with the right coaching and stuff, I believe we can get her kicking forward on the right path.”
Tumbridge initially gave Bolt a lesson in dressage, which is one of the three disciplines of three-day eventing, along with cross-country and showjumping, and soon became convinced that she could be something special.
“I gave her a dressage lesson, because her cross-country and showjumping with her horse that she has, are quite good — it’s the dressage that isn’t,” Tumbridge said. “So they wanted my opinion on that.
“It’s tough because you’ve got that horse that you’ve got to do dressage, then you’ve got to put your other hat on and do cross-country, and change that hat again, after galloping and jumping and flying, you’ve got to be steady and jump these coloured rails and be just right; rhythm, horse’s legs up, they can’t touch anything. It’s hard to get it all right at the event, but when it does, it’s just amazing.”
Indeed, Tumbridge compares eventing to triathlon on horseback — and the comparison with what Flora Duffy does is obvious.
“It’s just like [a triathlon on a horse] and when I see [Duffy] it takes me back, because she’s going out there doing her cycling and swimming, then she does running as well, so, again, she’s got to get those three things right on the day.
“When it goes right on the day, she’s unbeatable; she’s amazing. She gets a lot of support. She’s probably had to work really hard for it and she’s certainly doing the business, which makes this country very proud, and it keeps us in the international light. We may be small, but we’ve got so much talent here. And in the equestrian world, I keep hearing people having to do things themselves.”
Tumbridge is not Bolt’s full-time coach, but is keen to help someone she considers a real talent.
“I’m not a full-time coach,” she said. “I will be coaching more. I live an hour away, and right now they’re looking to see if they can get more people to have lessons and see if that works cheaper for everyone, otherwise I’ll have to charge them quite a bit of money.
“What’s nice is, ask my opinion and I would like to be more involved with it, and that’s what’s working now, but it’s not about me any more, it’s about other people, other talents, and it’s about youngsters. So, even if she called me up and said: ‘what do you think about me doing this event?’ Or this, or that, I’ll do it. So I’m a part of their life, but I’m not right in it. And whether they get lessons from other people because they’re closer, at some point, she’s going to have to have different coaching to be as good as she can be. You can’t just get your locals, you have to get international people who have been and done it that can put you through the paces. So, hopefully, I will be that person.”
And Tumbridge is hoping her advice and experiences can lead Bolt on to similar heights.
“She’s fearless,” Tumbridge said. “Seriously. I had lunch with them after and it was great because we could just talk about some things and we talked a few things about what I did, in the sense of I was here, I left here, I went and trained in the United States for nine years, I had an opportunity to go to England, two horses went, I never came back.
“I never planned that journey, but you’ve got to take opportunities as you move. You can’t say ‘I want to be on this road’. You’ve got to say: ‘Ooh, opportunity! I’ve got to go to the United States’. You’ve got to go. And that’s what makes you be the best rider you can be, by taking these opportunities. I was able to give her that insight.”