Olympic debutant Bundy Philpott is quick to share the credit for her being named as the eventing travelling alternate for the Tokyo Olympic Games.
“I have trained with some of the best and been so lucky with some amazing coaches including Sir Mark Todd, Penny Pearce, Penny Stevenson and Greg Best,” says the Cambridge based rider, who now has input from Nicoli Fife and Jeff McVean. “They have all been hugely influential in how I ride.”
But her biggest shout out is for her dad Bryan. “He’s never been horsey but has always given me unbelievable support. If only every kid could be so lucky. He has never once not been 100% behind me for everything. If only all could have that opportunity and support, the world would be a better place.”
Fittingly, it was with Dad and her beloved dog Puppet – a nearly 12-year-old SPCA special – that she celebrated. Puppet is the light of her life – don’t tell Tresca NZPH that though.
“We had a very nice bottle of champers and a quiet conversation about how long it has all taken (to get to this stage) and how far there is still to go. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”
Bundy Philpott is no new name to the world of eventing. She headed to the UK for the first time more than a decade ago and in 2006 and 2007 had starts at both Badminton and Burghley. “Back then I very naively probably thought I was on the fringe of making an Olympic team, but you go further down the road and you know how much you don’t know! One thing though, I always wanted to represent New Zealand at 5* level and the Olympic Games.”
She’s had Tresca NZPH – or Pete as he is known at home – since he was rising four. “I’ve had him 11 years now. He was like an old soul from the start. The first time we did cross country, he jumped all the fences like he had done it before. He has never given me a moment’s concern . . . he is just a real natural.”
But if it wasn’t for Bryan’s insistence, Pete may never have joined her string. “We went to NZPH and looked at a lot of horses. We got back in the car and went over our lists. Dad said, ‘that one, whether you like it or not’. So despite my strong protests that he wasn’t suitable as a commercial purchase, he arrived.”
Bundy is absolutely chuffed to be named in the team. “It is a massive honour to be part of any New Zealand team and these are a fantastic bunch of team mates who are all world class. It is just awesome to be part of it,” she says.
She felt the nod could have gone to four or five combinations. “You just have to go out to each event and put your own performance on the table and at the end of the day, selectors will make their decision. I knew I had ticked all my goals off the list and that was as much as I could do. The luck of the draw just fell to me and I am really happy about it.”
Since being named Bundy says she has received so many messages of congratulations and support from all over the country from people from all sorts of disciplines. “It is just awesome. Some are people I wouldn’t have seen for years. Every single message is read and counts, and makes you feel good about the situation.”
She knows it will be challenging in Tokyo for a lot of reasons. She, Pete and groom Rosie Thomas left for Australia at the weekend where they will wait for 10 days before flying to Japan with the Aussie horses.
“It is a little unprecedented to be coming straight out of New Zealand, so it is a little bit of a guinea pig role. No one really has any idea how it will work!”
COVID adds another layer of complexity to the Games too. “You just put your faith and trust in those who run the sport and the Olympic movement really,” she says. She has had the vaccination and says that makes her feel a little more at ease.
“I am looking forward to everything,” says Bundy. “This is what anyone who sits in squads or has ambition to ride wants to achieve. The Olympic Games are on everyone’s mind and being part of the whole thing and being able to support our team is just incredible. If I get to play a role, then that’s great and if not, that’s ok too.”
Coming back to New Zealand is far more complicated. Horses can only go north after Tokyo so Pete will fly to Europe with the other Kiwi horses. “It presents an awesome opportunity to have another crack at Badminton and he is just the horse to do that on . . . so I will probably head back up there in early January for that.”
In the meantime, she will do two weeks quarantine post Games before heading back to the banks of Lake Karapiro where she lives. She grew up in Hawke’s Bay on a farm and went to Central Hawke’s Bay Pony Club before moving to the Waikato with her Dad in the 1990s.
“Look . . . I have made an awful lot of mistakes and wasted a lot of years, but it is good to be here (on an Olympic team) now.” And she’s not planning on giving that up in a hurry. “I hope I can stay here for a few years and then retire to the beach!”
By Diana Dobson – HP Media Liaison
Photos By Libby Law/ESNZ