New Zealanders don't know whether to? cheer or weep tonight. Cheer because their aging Olympic warrior Mark Todd sits in fourth place at the Badminton Horse Trials? The woman in third place wasn't even born when he was ruling the sport.
Or should they weep, upon hearing of the loss of one of the horses who made their country's name synonymous with the sport of eventing?
Ready Teddy, the plucky little chestnut who carried Blyth Tait to gold at both Olympic and World Games levels, died Saturday of complications from colic.
Sadly, Tait was in the United Kingdom when the 23-year-old horse died.
The news of the legendary horse's death quickly spread the globe and messages of condolences have been flooding toward New Zealand and Tait from all over the world. "He was certainly a very special horse," said Tait in a message via Diana Dobson of Equestrian Sports New Zealand. "He was a pretty important part of my career and a great favorite. He had plenty of character, was capable and very successful."
Ready Teddy is believed to be the only eventing horse to have ever won individual gold at both the Olympic Games (1996) and World Equestrian Games (1998). He also won the four-star Burghley Horse Trials in 2000. His Olympic win is even more impressive because the horse was just eight years old at the time - that's a very young age to be competing, let alone winning, at that level.
"He was always so keen and enthusiastic and meant an awful lot to me. He probably had more stamps in his passport than most people," says Tait. "He had seven good years of retirement and was never ill or lame."
In 2001, a Horse and Hound reader wrote? in and asked Blyth what television character would best describe Ready Teddy. His answer: "Ready Teddy would be an all-time great person with superstar qualities. He is self-assured without being at all condescending. All the other horses love and respect him, and he is fun to know. He would probably be a comedy character - maybe the best qualities of all three guys from Friends rolled into one!"
Ready Teddy, who retired in 2004, has been buried on Tait's property. Tait recently announced that he would be making a comeback in the sport with an eye to representing New Zealand at the Olympics in London in 2012. Reuniting him with Andrew Nicholson and Mark Todd would be something of a time warp but it would give them a chance to wrap up some unfinished business from 20 years ago and win the team gold medal for New Zealand that their nation has never won, in spite of all its' riders other successes.
Special thanks to Diana Dobson and Equestrian Sports New Zealand for assistance with the information for this post.