SI Vault
Martha Duffy
September 24, 1973
Princess Anne's favorite mounts have been letting her down lately. This time, in Kiev, it really hurt
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September 24, 1973

Her Kingdom For A Horse?

Princess Anne's favorite mounts have been letting her down lately. This time, in Kiev, it really hurt

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Anne's own approach downhill was too cautious. Goodwill did succeed in clearing the fence, but he nicked a hoof and, off balance, flung his rider over his head and stumbled down himself. The princess had an undeniably hard tumble, but among the Russian crowd camped on the hillside—and from some of her own party, too—there was criticism that she did not remount and finish the course. Only minutes later teammate Janet Hodgson got her horse's hoof in the face. With three teeth hanging loose, and dripping blood, she slammed back up on her mount to finish.

Though it resembles hunting, the origins of cross-country are military—the competition was begun as a test to be sure that riders could carry dispatches over any terrain—and after Anne quit the joke around the stables was "Don't send Anne with the message!" But there were arguments on her side. Since she was competing as an individual, not as a member of the British team, she had the option of protecting her horse when it could not hurt the team's chances. And she could be excused for wishing to go down the aisle at Westminster Abbey next November unencumbered by crutches or a cast.

Still, there was talk that her decision meant simply that she was "cheesed off" with international competition and the pressures of being a common celebrity. For a young lady reared in the public eye, Anne is already known for an aversion to the press that would do credit to Frank Sinatra. Limping slightly after her fall, she glared at photographers and snapped, "Well, you've got what you came for." Then she went back to the barn and cried.

The affable, attentive Mark Phillips, who had run around all day with Anne's white purse, tried to explain his fianc�e: "On a day like this, with people getting hurt, can't you understand the tension, why she snaps? This is not an outing, or something for the geriatric set."

It was certainly not either of those. But when everything was over—the team title taken by the West Germans and the individual prize by 26-year-old Alexander Evdokimov of the U.S.S.R.—it was hard to assess just what kind of occasion this had been. There was an undeniable, and often entertaining, picnic aura about it, and the British, who dominated everything but the results, were the cause—all their girls, for example, in cutaways and black top hats for the dressage, managing to look both poignant and ludicrous under the hot, empty sky.

Britain does still have some top men riders, including Mark Phillips, but the amateur male rider there is currently a victim of depleted fortunes and rising taxes, and his age is coming to a close. Nonetheless eventing is growing in Britain. Princess Anne has done a great deal for the sport, and the jumping has proved effective on television. At last summer's meet at Badminton, held on the Duke of Beaufort's estate, 130,000 people watched the cross-country.

The girls on the British team are young, mostly in their early 20s, and though none showed consistently good form in Kiev, the future of a sporting tradition may rest with them. Princess Anne's influence cannot be counted upon to continue, with her own riding career at a crossroads. Her fianc� is as horse-crazy as she, but her ceremonial duties are expected to increase after marriage.

Still, if someone would just find the poor girl a really good horse, it is difficult to visualize her leaving it moping in the stables while she went around snipping ribbons at suburban shopping-center openings.

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