Success at last in search for a perfect partner

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Leslie Law has waited a decade for his first call-up to the British three-day event squad. It was scarcely a surprise when it came on Sunday (he was, after all, the highest-placed British rider when finishing fourth at Badminton), but he still found it a great pleasure to have his place in the Olympic squad confirmed.

Law has long been regarded as a talented horseman. He won a section of the Windsor three-day event back in 1989 and came first in two sections there the following year. But he was then riding for Revel Guest's Cabalva Farm, where young horses were trained and then sold on.

"It was a shame to see them go, but I knew the score when I went there and I just accepted it," Law said. "Revel gave me the opportunity to work with quality horses and I'm grateful for that."

She had also given him the chance to work with show-jumping horses during the two years he spent in the United States. It was an ideal preparation for eventing, in which contests can be won or lost on the drop of a single pole.

Law was patient ("you have to be with horses") while he waited for potential equine stars to arrive in the yard that he now rents to the west of Gloucester, at the foot of May Hill. The first of them, New Flavour, came on a temporary basis in 1994. His rider Nicky Coe (the wife of Sebastian) was then expecting her second child. Law rode the horse into fourth place at the Boekelo three-day event in the Netherlands that year.

Happily for Law, the horse returned permanently last autumn, when a third Coe baby was on the way. He had already welcomed Capitano, who was sent to his yard on the recommendation of Bridget Parker, chairman of the selection committee.

Both horses ran at Badminton in May and it was New Flavour who made the bigger impression, finishing fourth. He was seen as a star by his three joint owners: Sebastian Coe, his father-in-law Roger Elliott and Diana Fitzroy. "He's a lovely little horse, and very laid-back," Law said. "You can rely on him not to blow up in the dressage. If anything, the crowds help by giving him a bit of a lift."

New Flavour acquired many more fans at Badminton, where he jumped clear in the cross-country and show jumping. Afterwards the horse stood quietly in the midst of the collecting-ring hubbub. It was Law's 31st birthday and fourth place at Badminton was a wonderful present.

For the first time there will be separate team and individual three-day event competitions at the Olympic Games. Law does not mind which one he rides in. "I'm just very pleased to be going," he said, in the accent of Hereford where he and his brother Graham (also an event rider) were born and brought up.

Extensive research by the Animal Health Trust has shown that small thoroughbred horses are best equipped to cope with the heat and humidity of Atlanta in mid-summer. New Flavour, just 16.1 hands, fits the bill perfectly.

"He's small and wiry and he has loads of stamina," Nicky Coe said of the horse she acquired for the joint owners six years ago. She thinks that New Flavour is "fabulous". Now, having gone to Law, the little horse might prove it to the rest of the eventing world at the end of July.