US eventing’s horse of the century dies

  • Karen O’Connor’s 1996 Olympic team silver medallist Biko died on Wednesday, aged 30.

    The giant 17.3hh bay with a big white blaze is one of the all-time greats of American eventing. His best placings include third at Badminton in 1995 and fifth at Kentucky CCI4* in 1998.

    Biko was retired after an injury at Burghley in 1999 and named US Eventing Association horse of the century.

    Owned by Dick and Vita Thompson during his competitive career, Biko was by the thoroughbred Beau Charmeur.

    Karen O'Connor and BikoHe was originally found in Ireland by William Micklem, who also produced Zara Phillips’ London 2012 silver medallist High Kingdom and Custom Made, 2000 Olympic champion with Karen’s husband David. On his website, William names Biko as 1 of the 4 best horses he has sourced.

    “My brother John spotted Biko in Jack Deacon’s yard in Co Wexford as a 3-year-old,” says William’s website. “I bought him in partnership with Ronnie Duke, father of my student Sonya Duke, before selling him on to Karen O’Connor… He was a giant of a horse but Karen O’Connor showed her versatility by developing a wonderful partnership with him.

    “As she said, ‘He had the grace of a ballerina and the strength of a giant, along with the eye of an eagle, the greatest heart and elegance. There wasn’t anything he couldn’t do; he was a hero, and everything I always dreamed of in a horse.’

    “I score all these young horses with a mark based on brains, brawn and beauty and he scored the highest of all these top 10 horses in the brawn department but he took a long time to learn to accept and trust his riders. Luckily Karen O’Connor gave him this time…

    “Everyone loved Biko with his big white blaze and huge charisma and he brought a new audience to horse trials…”

    Earlier this week, Karen told American website eventingnation.com: “He was the only horse I ever rode that needed extra pages in his passport because of all the places I took him internationally. He was part of my life for 26 years. He was an incredible horse.”

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