Zara's good prospects are not for dummies

Don't mention the Family – it's strictly Games business only for Phillips as she prepares to ride in the Olympics at last. Tom Peck joins the Royal eventer on a walk in the park

"That's to shove in your mouth if you ask me anything I don't want to talk about," asserts the world's most famous equestrian eventer, brandishing a dummy while sitting in her riding gear in the boot of her brother Pete's Land Rover. The dummy is more commonly sucked by her baby niece Isla who, thanks to the extra Y chromosome between her and Her Majesty, is one place higher in the line of succession.

Not that it matters. The 14th in line to the throne is here to talk about horses, and that's it. Not jubilees, not Granny, and not her rugby-playing husband either.

The day after the opening ceremony, Zara Phillips, aged 31 and now formally but not commonly known as Mrs Tindall, will compete in her first Olympics. It has been a long time coming for the 2006 world champion. Injuries to her horse, Toytown, kept her out of both the Athens and Beijing Games.

"That's just one of the perils of the sport," she says matter-of-factly (she says everything matter-of-factly). "I'm very lucky I had Toytown; I won European and World Championships with him. But there's two of us; you need to get both of us there. I'm not the first person it's happened to. "

At the London Games Phillips will be riding High Kingdom, but it is Toytown, who retired last year, who is still regularly trotted out for the media. It was he, with his distinctive white markings, that she rode through Cheltenham races with the Olympic flame, and it is Toytown she was sat astride prior to our interview at Windsor Great Park, being photographed by the world's press clutching her sponsor's latest smartphone. Taking calls on horseback five weeks before the Games might not be altogether wise, given her previous bad luck, but it's a pretty sedentary affair. Her other commitment is to walk half a mile up and back a grassy stretch of the park, making small talk with a dozen 15-year-old girls from the local school. Even some of the kids seem to find it awkward.

The mile they have walked requires Samsung to donate £1 to charity. The company hopes to raise a quarter of a million - about one four-hundredth of what they have paid to have their logo splashed across the Games and their top executives running with the Olympic torch. Phillips doesn't like the extra attention she gets, but she tries to hide it.

"The focus on me is not an issue," she says. "The other guys in the team know me very well. Hopefully, all the attention we get we can use for the good of the team. I don't think we're the favourites going in. We need to try and get the best out of each other that we can; the best out of our horses. Hopefully, we can use the home turf, and the home crowds, to our advantage.

"We've had the European Championships at Blenheim Palace before, which was home turf. The crowd was amazing, and it was an incredible experience to ride there. I'm hoping everyone will get behind the British team and do the same again."

The equestrian events will be at Greenwich Park, with an extraordinary view over the city and the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf certain to become one of the Games' most iconic images. Tickets have been among the most sought after of all.

"The competition will be difficult because of the terrain, where the course is and where it's set out. It's set in a very small area so it'll be interesting to see what they do with the fences," Phillips explains. "When you come over the hill and you see the city in the background, it is an awesome backdrop, but at the end of the day it's a competition and we need to get on and do what we've got to do."

Competing athletes are given two tickets as standard for friends and family, though Zara's gang might just be able to blag a few extra. Her parents, both former Olympians, won't need one. Her mother, Princess Anne, is a member of the International Olympic Committee; having ridden at Montreal in 1976 she is, for a few weeks at least, the only member of the Royal Family to have competed in an Olympics. Zara's father, Captain Mark Phillips, won gold at Munich in 1972 and will be in London coaching the American team. Zara is not sure – or perhaps won't say – who is coming to watch her, but "Pete will definitely be there".

Her Olympic family have not been as much use as one might think. "Mum unfortunately had a fall when she went to the Olympics; she bumped her head and only remembers the dressage, so I'm not sure what she'd have to say. My father's coaching the American team so I think of him more as the competition right now, but my family are very supportive. I'm very lucky in that way. I probably would never have got on a horse had it not been for them and it's great that they can come and watch."

With her competition beginning on the first Saturday of the Games, Phillips will not attend the opening ceremony, but she is staying in the athletes' village, a rarity for equestrian eventers, whose Olympic arenas tend to be away from the host city.

"I don't know what to expect," she says. "It'll be great to be a part of it."

Zara Phillips is a member of Team Samsung and is supporting Samsung's Olympic Games charity initiative, the Samsung Hope Relay.

News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
filmIdris Elba responds to James Bond rumours on Twitter
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Wayne Rooney warms up ahead of the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at White Hart Lane
football
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
Danielle George is both science professor and presenter
people
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have previous experience...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015