Olympic team boost for Bumble and Branston

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Former Jersey College for Girls student Marie-Louise Thomas (31), known to all as Bumble, is a successful three-day eventer who runs her own yard in Buckinghamshire and is one of 14 riders from all over Britain to have been selected for extra preparation and training in the run-up to the Games.’It’s brilliant!’ she said of her selection.

‘I was tenth at Burghley last year and that got me onto the list.

We are all undergoing training and preparation through the winter, and we get lottery funding to help us with that.

Then I have to do the Badminton Horse Trials in April and after that the selectors draw up a short-list of six.’The horse she rides for eventing is a 12-year-old called Tsephologist – ‘A tsephologist is someone who studies elections and voting rolls’, she explained, ‘and he’s called that because the owner’s husband is one! Fortunately, he has a nickname too, it’s Branston, as in the pickle.’Thomas and Tsephologist – or Bumble and Branston – have been a team for two years.’When I took him over he had been ridden up to advanced level.

He is brilliant at cross-country and he’s quite good at dressage and showjumping but is not always consistent in those two disciplines, so we are working on that up to Badminton.’Thomas, who came to live in Jersey when she was five, said: ‘Mum’s parents lived here, at St Ouen – they died only recently – and I went to school at St Michael’s and the Girls College, but I left at 16 to go to school in Switzerland to get my French A level.

In Jersey I did a lot of show jumping for the Jersey team, and I used to ride ponies for Tess Phillips at Multina Riding School.

I was originally taught to ride by Kate Warner.’At the end of her schooldays Thomas moved back to the UK and went to the Yorkshire Riding Centre to take her teaching exams, then moved to a yard in Norfolk where she was trained by Ruth McMullen.’She also taught Pippa Funnell (last year’s Grand Slam winner, European individual and team gold medallist and Olympic silver medallist).

I know Pippa quite well because we are both sponsored by Toggi and compete in Team Toggi with Blyth Tait (Olympic gold medallist).

I was at Ruth’s for six years and did all my eventing training there.’She has competed in several teams representing Great Britain against other ‘national’ teams and she was long-listed for the World Championships in 1997.’It’s just so brilliant to be in the squad.

I’ve got my fingers crossed for Badminton and afterwards.

A lot of the team members are very strong and some have been in the team for the last four years so it will be difficult to get in.

Everyone is expecting British gold.’But I’m not daunted at the thought of what I have to do.

I have nothing to lose and I am just going to go for it,’ she said.

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