The oldest event horse competing at the Tokyo Olympics this year is Tayberry, who is the grand old age of 20.
This horse, who is owned by Irene Ho and Miranda Rauis, joined his rider Thomas Heffernan Ho, who represents Hong Kong, in 2015 having competed at four-star level previously. He then worked his way back up through the grades with his new inexperienced rider.
“He loves the sport as much as every athlete here and he doesn’t feel his age,” Thomas explained. “He’s as sparky as a young horse and he still has lights in him.”
Thomas said that he doesn’t have to manage Tayberry too much in terms of keeping him on the road, despite the horse’s age.
“Obviously we care for him the best we can – he has the best physios, he goes on a water treadmill and we make sure everything is perfect for him, but he actually looks after himself really well,” said Thomas, who is based with Stephen Way in Hampshire and is the first rider from Hong Kong to qualify for eventing at the Olympics.
“He thinks he’s the biggest horse around, but I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of pony blood in him as he only stands at around 15.1hh. Actually that might be why he is still competing in the sport – he has a fifth leg when he goes cross-country and he loves it as much as I do.”
After the first day of dressage in Tokyo, Thomas and Tayberry sit in 41st place on a score of 46.7 penalties.
“He’s quite new to this level, even though he’s 20, and he always gets tense,” Thomas explained after his test. “His shape and build is not really designed for dressage, but he always tries really hard. That’s the problem – he tries too hard and it then kind of works against us.”
Asked if he is excited to go cross-country, Thomas’ answer is simple.
“I’m looking forward to it – my partnership with Tayberry is, I would say, one of the best in the Olympics and I know he’ll try his hardest.”
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