Collins aims to fulfill Olympic dream
Annabelle Collins says she has been “blown away” by the talent of her young stallion Joyero VG and believes the pair have a strong chance of reaching the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.
The Bermuda dressage rider narrowly missed out on qualifying for the London Olympics in 2012 and admits her former horse Stern was not quite ready for the top level.
There are no such doubts about Joyero VG, however, with Collins excited about their limitless possibilities as she sets her sights on realising her lifelong ambition of becoming an Olympian.
“It feels like this could be the start of a great career together,” Collins said. “He's so young and could potentially have two Olympics in his lifetime.
“He just seems to get better and better. I'm very excited about the future. This horse has blown me away with how talented he is. I never expected him to be as fabulous as he is.”
Collins, whose brother Tim represented Bermuda in eventing at the Athens Olympics in 2004, has long dreamt of gracing the greatest show on Earth.
“I think every rider deep down dreams of being at the Olympics,” said Collins, who is based in Barcelona. “It's the most prestigious competition as an equestrian.
“It's something I've dreamt about since I was five years old. I used to watch reruns of the Los Angeles Olympics [in 1984]. It's about having the right horse and I think, hopefully, I have.”
Although ten-year-old Joyero VG is still relatively inexperienced, he had his first taste of international competition at the FEI World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina, in September, where the pair placed 57th.
In a sport where horse and rider are expected to perform from memory a series of predetermined movements, Collins believes the Purebred Spanish has the perfect temperament to be competitive at Tokyo should they qualify.
“There's something about this breed,” she said. “They have great mechanics for the higher movements because they're quite short in their formation, which makes it easier for them.
“They're so intelligent and they have big, big hearts. They're very reliable and I know wherever I go he will dance and run, and try his best. It's a wonderful attribute.
“He's very trustworthy and he gives me everything. He tries his little heart for me. We have a great bond. He's still quite green at this level, but I think in a year or two he can be quite competitive.”
The 41-year-old was pipped to the final regional qualifying berth for London 2012 by her close friend Emily Ward, of Antigua, but believes Tokyo is well within her grasp.
“The US qualified at the World Equestrian Games and the Canadians will most likely qualify at the Pan American Games [in Lima] next summer, which leaves me with one or two seats for our qualifying zone,” said Collins, who competed at the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro.
“If we get the qualifying scores, which I think we can, it shouldn't be too difficult to qualify.
“We need a score of more than 66 per cent twice at an international show. We've done that before without too much trouble. It should be quite possible to qualify for the Olympics.”
Also on the international horizon for Collins will be the FEI World Cup Finals in Las Vegas in April 2020, having deciding to skip the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, next summer rather than put Joyero VG through such an arduous journey.
“Lima is a long trip and there will be some difficult quarantining; I'm not sure I'd risk my horse.” she said. “I'd like to ride some more World Cups next year and improve my ranking . I'd sooner set my sights on the World Cup Finals.”