Go behind the scenes at a former Olympic champion’s yard [PICS]

  • Enjoy pictures from Eventing magazine's photoshoot with former world and Olympic champion, Blyth Tait.

    Four years on from his comeback, former world and Olympic champion Blyth Tait is back in the Gloucestershire yard that for a decade witnessed the highs of his eventing career and housed his most influential horses, including Ready Teddy, Chesterfield, Aspyring and Welton Envoy.

    The quaint Cotswold surroundings foster many happy memories for the New Zealand rider — it is from here that he won the individual Olympic gold medal at Atlanta in 1996.

    The yard is owned by an old friend, Suzanne Van Heyningen, and was purpose-built as an event yard.

    “I know the place well, it has great turnout and I love it because it has a Kiwi-feel to it — it’s very relaxed, which suits me well,” he adds.

    Over the past two decades the yard has changed very little.

    “It is virtually the same as it was before, apart from the sand school has been resurfaced,” he says. “The horses are stabled in an American-style barn and each one has a window at the back to look out of 24/7 — they can all see each other and seem really happy here.”

    The yard doesn’t have an indoor school or a horsewalker, but neither has ever hindered Blyth’s ability to get horses competition-fit.

    For Blyth the hacking is one of the reasons he loves the yard so much.

    “We have private permission to exercise the horses on a nearby estate — we’re very spoilt to have access to it,” he says.

    Blyth heads home when the curtain closes on the British eventing season — residing at the property he owns with his long-term partner Paul O’Brien in Karaka, south of Auckland.

    While back on British soil, Blyth and Paul live in a pretty Cotswold cottage on the yard’s estate along with their dog, Scrumpy, having decided there is little point buying a house over here, as it would sit empty for half the year.

    “It is separate from the yard, which I like; it means we have some space,” he says.

    Blyth says he “doesn’t have a large number of horses at the moment” — with six to compete this season — but it is a quantity he is happy with, as he is not planning to expand and doesn’t intend to have any in to buy and sell. It therefore only requires a small team for the yard to function, resulting in plenty of one-to-one attention for the horses.

    “There are only three of us on the yard — me, Paul and my head groom Tess, who is also Kiwi and works for [New Zealand eventer] Dannie Lodder when back in New Zealand,” says Blyth.

    “Paul helps me with the schooling and hacking out of the horses — both he and Tess hold the fort if I am away,” he adds.

    The 40 acres of land, which sits on good-draining Cotswold stone, provides Blyth with enviable turnout.

    All the paddocks have field shelters in them and electric fences,” says Blyth.

    It is unsure how long Blyth will stay on the British eventing scene — he talks fondly of returning to New Zealand eventually — but for now he seems to have his perfect haven from which to compete.

    Read the full ‘through the keyhole’ article in the June 2015 issue of Eventing magazine out on 22 May.

    You may like...