By Alan Fraser
PUBLISHED: 05:40 EST, 29 July 2012 | UPDATED: 15:18 EST, 29 July 2012
If Granny was game enough to jump out of a helicopter for the sake of the Olympics, then surely Zara Phillips could have answered a question on the subject.
But, no, with regard to Her Majesty the Queen, Team GB’s most celebrated Eventer let her horse do the talking at Greenwich Park.
Her failure to enter into the spirit demonstrated by her nana proved disappointing since debutants Phillips and High Kingdom, who does not boast the conversational qualities of the famous Mister Ed, had just produced the dressage performance she had hoped for but could scarcely have guaranteed.
Nay problem: Phillips enjoyed a steady start on her Olympic debut
A score of 46.10 penalty points neither threatened the individual lead nor counted in the top three for the team competition.
But it maintained momentum in the home challenge for a medal at the beginning of a day which ended with Britain in third place behind defending champions Germany and Australia.
‘I had a couple of mistakes but overall I was pleased with how he dealt with everything,’ Phillips remarked.
‘He’s bored with dressage now and wants to get out there,’ she added, referring to Monday’s cross country test, always the most glamourous and exciting element of the Eventing competition.
If High Kingdom was bored, what chance for the rest of us?
Dressage is very much for the cognoscenti — poetry to the purist, as someone once said, poison to the rest.
How else to view a discipline which awards high marks not for running fast but for, er, walking well? An Olympic motto that states ‘more controlled, higher and stronger’ would struggle to inspire a generation.
By royal appointment: Princess Anne and the Duke of Edinburgh were in attendance
Occasionally, a horse would break into a trot, even a gentle canter, but every movement is carried out at such a soporific speed that a television slow motion replay borders on farce.
All against background music that is specifically chosen to calm the horse and, as an unwitting by-product, nudge the heavier lunchers into the land of nod.
Ave Maria had just drifted away from the magnificent arena next to the National Maritime Museum across Queen’s House and towards such London totems as Canary Wharf, O2 and The Shard — all visible from the upper reaches of the stands — when Phillips made her entrance.
Robbie Williams had taken over by the time she moved into the field of play, as they call the 60 by 20 metre area.
‘She’s The One,’ he sang. What else!
She was certainly the one as far as the cameras were concerned, though with Royalty among the spectators too, lenses were also required to point in the direction of the Duke of Edinburgh.
Strutting her stuff: Zara Phillips competes on High Kingdom as she made her Olympic bow
The first storm broke just as Tina Cook, the bronze medallist from Beijing, began her exercise on Miner’s Frolic.
‘We are used to it, we live up on the South Downs getting blown away,’ Cook commented. ‘But the noises when the judge’s roof looked as though it was going to come off just as he was doing his extended trot! I really hoped he was not going to spook.’
Her score of 42 proved highly commendable in the circumstances.
William Fox-Pitt, the current world No 1, missed the worst of the weather but ran into some foul judging with his 44.2 a harsh reflection of an excellent routine.
‘You can account for your own horse, but you can’t account for judges,’ he stated.
Fox-Pitt and Mary King, whose 40.9 on Saturday top scored for Britain, now fervently hope that today’s cross country proves tough enough to negate the importance of the dressage.
The tougher the better, as far as Britain is concerned.
What about the parachuting monarch?
‘I’m not going to answer that,’ Phillips said in naff-off mode.