Zara Tindall shares her training regime for the Tokyo Olympics

By Rachel Ingram | 21 Aug 2017 | Sport

Royal equestrian Zara tells Tempus her plans for eventing success as she readies for her next big challenge

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Zara Tindall MBE is the one of most famous faces of British equestrianism. For years the Queen’s granddaughter has dominated the British eventing circuit, winning accolades such as BBC Sports Personality of the Year and a silver medal at the London 2012 Olympics – she’s even been awarded an MBE for her services to equestrianism, further solidifying her great legacy.

Now widely known for her marriage to Rugby Union star Mike Tindall, with whom she has daughter Mia, the 36-year-old royal no doubt inherited her love of horses from her family. Her mother Anne, Princess Royal, was a celebrated eventer who became the first member of the British monarchy to compete in the Olympics, while Zara’s father Captain Mark Phillips was a gold-medal-winning horseman. As the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing enters its final phase with the Burghley Horse Trials in September – following the Kentucky three-Day Event in April and the Badminton Horse Trials in May – Zara opens up about sporting achievements, her passion for all things equestrian and the nature of female ambition…

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Tempus: What do you feel has been your greatest sporting accomplishment to date?
Zara Tindall:
Defining just one moment as my greatest sporting accomplishment is difficult, because I’ve been lucky enough to have had a lot of really incredible moments during my career. Winning the Europeans and the Worlds was a huge moment, that is for sure. But winning silver at the Olympics was unreal. Winning an Olympic medal on home soil, overlooking your country’s capital is like nothing else I’ve experienced. Every time a British rider was on the course you could just hear the roar of the crowd. And to have my mother presenting my silver medal [as President of the British Olympic Association] rounded off a truly amazing experience.

How long have you and your stables been based at Gatcombe Park?
I have had my stables based at Gatcombe Park for nearly all of my competitive career, as I lived at Gatcombe – it made the early mornings to get up to do the horses a bit easier! However, I have recently moved to Aston Farm and the horses and yard are here too now.

What are the necessary qualities needed to succeed in world-class eventing?
The most essential quality needed to succeed in world-class eventing is physical and psychological dedication. You must be whole-heartedly committed to achieving excellence. This of course incorporates a devoted physical regime – I ride up to eight horses a day and I also work hard on my own fitness. So, I work out a detailed plan to make sure I am in shape. My choice is predominantly swimming and cycling as it’s good for fitness, strength and endurance which are essential to eventing.

On average, how many hours do you spend riding every day?
Virtually every day focuses on the horses in some way or another but no day is ever the same. I ride eight eventing horses; most days I ride out on all of them in the morning. Although exercising the horses is an essential part of my career, it is also definitely for pleasure. I am very lucky that I love what I do and that we have such a fantastic setting for keeping horses.

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Can you explain how you cultivate such a successful partnership with all your horses?
Equestrianism is such a unique sport due to the relationship between horse and rider. So much of what we do is about the relationship between you and the horse and getting all the elements right on the day. Precision and preparation are key parts to being able to do what I do – with the partnership between a horse and rider it is very important that both are in top form for the key moments and events.

T: What sporting ambitions do you have in the long and short term?
I am hoping to have [my horse] High Kingdom back to full fitness for this season. In the longer term, I am also trying to bring up a few of my younger eventers to that standard too, which is a big commitment. I want to continue to compete to the best of my, and my horse’s ability. There is a lot of work to do but I am certainly looking to Tokyo and competing at another Olympics too.

How do you feel the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing prize has helped promote and elevate the sport of eventing?
The Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing has established another level to the top-tier of professional eventing. Winning any of the four FEI events is an enormous achievement, but the prospect of winning the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing – Kentucky, Badminton & Burghley – in succession just takes it to the next level. The thing is at each event in itself the competition is absolutely fierce – the events are iconic in their own right so everyone competing wants to win. So, to put horse and rider through the whole season and win all three of those pinnacle events is something very special.

What impact do you think Rolex has had on the sport of equestrianism?
Rolex, both as a brand and as a sponsor, has been a mark of success in so many sports over the years, particularly equestrianism. The brand really is at the pinnacle of the sport and has done so much through its support of both top-level riders and iconic events. We are very lucky that they continue to do so much for our sport.

What does it mean to you personally to be working with Rolex?
It is extremely important to me to be linked to a brand that has such deeply rooted values like Rolex. Rolex is also synonymous with equestrianism, so it has always been a very natural fit for me to be associated with them. I am very proud to be a part of the Rolex Family – it gives me confidence knowing that they believe in what I can do and that they stand behind me whatever the outcome. I feel really honoured that they wanted me to be one of their Testimonies and that I have such a long-term relationship with them.


Read more from Zara and other amazing women in sport in Tempus Magazine issue 51, available now