Olympic gold medal-winning New Zealand event rider Blyth Tait has a new four-star ride and is back on the UK eventing circuit. His sights are set on selection for 2012.
Blyth, 49, returns to England this week and will be based at fellow eventer Eddy Stibbe’s Lavender Hill Stud, Glos.
He retired after the 2004 Athens Olympics and returned to New Zealand to breed racehorses, after a 15-year career in the UK.
Blyth told H&H he’d been thinking about a comeback for a “number of years”.
“It is now or never,” he added. “The Olympics being in London is a huge draw. I’ve also had a nice break, so I am starting again, fresh and keen.”
Blyth, who won individual gold at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta with Ready Teddy, plus team silver and individual bronze at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics with Messiah, will be riding 12-year-old gelding Santos, formerly ridden by Jenna Mahoney.
Santos was eighth in the four-star at Adelaide in 2009 and has been placed regularly at three-star level in Australia.
“He is proven at four-star level,’’ Blyth said. “I didn’t want anything high-risk as I haven’t got time to waste. I need to get back into full swing quickly.”
Santos will arrive in the UK on 27 March and the pair may make their debut at Withington Manor (30 April-1 May).
“I would like to head towards Burghley, but will have to take it one step at a time. I want to have a couple of horses capable of campaigning for London 2012,” he added.
Since his retirement, Blyth has remained involved in the sport — as a coach and as team manager for the New Zealand eventing team at the 2006 World Championships and 2008 Olympics.
Blyth appreciates there have been changes — when he last competed three-day events they generally included roads and tracks — but he’s looking forward to competing again.
“I’m confident I can adapt. I have to be really committed for 16 months. If things go horribly wrong, I would then review whether I carry on or go home.”
Find out what fellow Kiwi Mark Todd thinks of Blyth Tait’s decision to come out of retirement in the current issue of Horse & Hound (10 March, 2011)