Lucinda Green is a legend in equestrian circles, having won the Badminton horse trials for the first time at the tender age of 19 and then claimed the title a record six times in total. She represented Britain three times in the Olympics, collecting a team silver in the 1984 games, and remains Chairwoman of the Great Britain Selection Committee.
So when she produces a video game that’s designed to help budding Eventers learn the finer points of Dressage, Show Jumping and Cross Country, it’s time to sit up and pay attention.
The first thing you do is choose your screen persona with fairly basic variations of hair, skin and eye colour (The Sims, this isn’t!) and one of three difficulty levels. Once Lucinda has shown you round the stables, paddock and tack room, etc., you can then decide on the size, shape, breed and colour of your horse.
Gameplay is divided between the general welfare of your horse, training and competitions. The welfare consists of feeding, stroking/brushing and providing water for your horse in the paddock, and a very simple system of clicking on the obvious buttons results in improved happiness and appearance. None of this will seriously tax an 8 year-old.
When you get to the training, however, the challenges definitely move up a notch in difficulty. The Show Jumping puts you in third person perspective behind the rider and it’s a matter then of controlling speed, direction and timing on a tight indoor circuit where you’re against the clock. The better you get, the quicker the time and the fewer the penalties.
The Dressage is the least fun as it’s essentially hitting the right keys at the right time to suit the rhythm of the movements – it’s the equestrian equivalent of a dance mat but without the funky tunes. Cross Country, on the other hand, is the one time you get to call on all of the horse’s stamina, speed, agility, trust and jumping ability while also having to steer him in the right direction.
All of these qualities can be enhanced after you complete successful training or tournaments and the ultimate aim is to rise from two-star to four-star status and take part in the four supreme competitions at Badminton (naturally!), Burghley, Adelaide and Kentucky.
Certain items such as ribbons, clothes and prizes are unlocked as the game progresses and by the time you get to the big four tournaments you can then compete with some of the stars of the Eventing world like Mary King, William Fox-Pitt, Andrew Scott and Wendy Schaefer.