Victoria Davies’ buckskin stallion Celere caught the eye with his striking good looks and chilled personality on his Paralympic debut at the Tokyo Games.
The Australian combination were the second pair into the arena on the opening day of dressage in the Equestrian Park at Baji Koen, scoring 65.62% to finish ninth in the grade II individual contest.
Tokyo was the first Games for both horse and rider – the pair had been targeting Rio 2016, but Victoria’s health put their Paralympic debut on hold for a further five years.
“We were getting ready for Rio when I was diagnosed with a neurological and spinal condition, which put an end to [our aim] as I had to focus on that,” said Victoria, who faced the heart-breaking decision to withdraw from her selection campaign and undergo high-risk surgery to stabilise her spine.
Victoria found the now 14-year-old Lusitano (Estoiro x Zaquiro) on a trip to Portugal in 2014 and was initially sceptical about whether he was the right horse for her, admitting she “had to be convinced” by her husband.
“But everyone assured me that he had the walk, he had the trot and he had the temperament, which is so important in para – you need that trustworthy mount. So we brought him back to Australia. He’s very special.”
Celere combines competing with stud duties and has a “full line-up” of dates in the diary on his return home from the Games, as well as numerous foals on the ground in both Portugal and Australia.
“He’s usually very chilled, he’s such a dude and he loves junk food – Polo mints, liquorice, sugar, Australia-shaped savoury biscuits, those are his favourites,” she said.
“He’s a fun horse. I’ve had FEI stewards say that he is the quietest horse they’ve ever had – you wouldn’t think he is a stallion.”
While Victoria felt they had more to give than they produced in the Tokyo arena, she was full of praise for Celere and is looking forward to the future.
“It wasn’t our best performance by any means, but you know it’s the horse’s first Games as well [as mine] and I think the atmosphere just closed in on him,” she said. “I just couldn’t get him going forward like what we’ve been producing. But he kept me safe, he’s a good boy and he tried.”
She added: “I’m really happy with how I got ready, mentally and physically. Horses are horses and you can never really tell how they’re going to be. He felt brilliant in the warm-up, he was so relaxed, but as soon as we went out there, he just froze a bit. He got a little bit stage-struck, but next time, we will be better.”
You might also be interested in:
Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.