Tales from Tokyo: the one-eyed horse who ‘looked like a meatball’

  • Would you ride a one-eyed horse round the Tokyo Olympics eventing cross-country course? It sounds a somewhat scary prospect, but Sweden’s Therese Viklund has total confidence in the one-eyed Viscera.

    The 13-year-old Hanoverian mare, who is dressage-bred by Fidertanz x Wolkentanz, contracted uveitis just over five years ago, which eventually led to the removal of her left eye in 2018.

    “For two years we were treating it and still competing, but it was hard with the medication, and in the end she was in pain so we didn’t have a choice and three years ago we removed it,” explains Therese, who is based near Banbury in Oxfordshire, and trains with British Olympic dressage alternate rider Gareth Hughes.

    “I was pretty sure that she wasn’t then going to do any top eventing, but she did a two-star one-and-a-half months after [the eye was removed], and then two months after that she was doing four-star again.

    “She is so tough and believes so much in herself that she can do anything.”

    This plucky mare has adapted incredibly well to the change, and Therese says that there is no real difference in the way that she goes with one eye, compared to with two. That said, she admits she was “really nervous” taking Viscera cross-country shortly after she lost the eye.

    “In Boekelo where we did the first four-star, someone said that horses with one eye don’t want to do the steps down because they can’t see the distance, and fence four was a really big drop. I was like, ‘Oh my god’, but she just popped down it like nothing and we haven’t had any problems at all.

    “She’s super cool, just like a normal horse,” added Therese, who got the mare from her breeder, Lena Nyström, as a six-year-old. “She’s mentally always been really secure in herself and I think that’s helped her.

    “She looked like a meatball when we first started her – she was dark brown and so fat. You’d never believe that she could be such an athlete now.”

    Therese Viklund tokyo olympics

    Sweden’s Therese Viklund riding Viscera at the Tokyo Olympic eventing. Credit: Peter Nixon

    Unsurprisingly given her dressage breeding, Viscera impressed the judges on the first day of Olympic eventing in Tokyo, scoring 28.1 to sit sixth after the first rotation of riders in the dressage. It’s been a great start for Therese Viklund, here competing at not only her first Olympics but her first championship, and the fact that this combination were designated the pathfinders for the Swedish team is testament to Therese and her mare’s temperaments.

    “It feels really cool to be here. I think [going first] is nice. I don’t want to go all day waiting and I like the early cross-country start. Viscera’s quick in her mind and the fences come up really quick – she likes it when she has to think, so I think the course will suit her very well.”

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