Olympics-bound Canter almost quit eventing over fear of cross-country

One of Britain’s top equestrian stars has revealed she nearly quit eventing after a mental battle with her fear of cross-country.

Ros Canter, 38, will make her Olympic debut this summer and heads to Paris sitting third in the world rankings with four European and two world gold medals under her belt.

But there was a point in her career when Canter’s struggle with one of the most dangerous elements of her sport almost became too much.

She said: “When I first got up to the top level, I probably never told anybody, but I really dreaded the cross-country.

“I felt unsafe galloping to a fixed obstacle at speed.

“Everybody kept saying to me ‘Well you just gallop, just go really fast Ros and it will all be fine’. I really struggled with that.

“I got to the point where I wasn’t far off actually giving up on trying to be a top-level event rider and just produce young horses and sell them for other people to compete.”

Canter was in the unenviable position of being a travelling reserve for Tokyo 2020 but is now a favourite to take home a medal in Paris with her equine partner Lordships Graffalo.

Meeting GB’s eventing high performance coach, Chris Bartle, was the key to overcoming the mum-of-one’s fears.

Canter said: “My competitive nature took over. I decided I like winning too much so I better give it another go.

“That’s when I met Chris – he really helped me to create a system.

“Just like for the dressage, I would know exactly how to ride a movement, for the cross-country now I know exactly how I want to ride a certain fence and I make notes.

Canter is a mum to six-year-old Ziggy.

“It’s really a big mental game, I walk the courses in a very specific way to enable me to feel safe at speed.

“If I feel safe, I ride fast.”

Having shaken off her cross-country jitters, Canter enjoyed a record breaking 2023. She became only the fifth rider in elite eventing history to win three majors in a single season, including the Badminton Horse Trials.

She watched Britain win their first eventing team gold medal in 49 years as a travelling reserve at Tokyo 2020 and will now have the chance to help defend that title.

Canter said: “Going to the Olympics will be absolutely amazing. I have moments where I feel completely excited by it and very proud, and I have moments where I feel slightly terrified that something’s going to go wrong.

“The dream is to win a gold medal, first and foremost for the team.

“It’s all about the team when you do anything like that, the individual is a bonus.”

Canter trains and rears her event horses at her family’s farm in Lincolnshire and is sponsored by Agria, one of the world’s leading animal insurers, specialising in small animal, equine, and agricultural insurance.

She said: “Agria are absolutely fantastic, we couldn’t do this sport without our staff, our trainers, and our sponsors.

“They enable us to take the best care that we can for our horses and having their financial support allows me to concentrate on being an athlete.”

Agria, the UK’s only lifetime equine insurance, has been enriching lives with animals since 1890.

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