‘An exceptional rider and a great competitor’: Mark Todd among those to pay tribute to Blyth Tait’s career *H&H Plus*

  • Following the news that former Olympic champion Blyth Tait had called time on his eventing career for a second time, H&H caught up with the eventing legend about his decision as well as speaking to his long-time teammate Mark Todd among others...

    Blyth Tait told H&H his decision to call time on his eventing career for a second time, aged 58, was a “natural progression”, after some minor setbacks, such as hitting his head in a fall last spring and a longer than expected recovery.

    “I think it’s time,” he said. “I’m very happy about the decision.”

    The New Zealander announced his retirement at the Horse of the Year show in his home country, on 11 March. He had initally retired after the 2004 Olympics, serving as a coach and manager of the New Zealand eventing team, but returned to the sport in 2011.

    Blyth said his individual gold medal on Ready Teddy at the 1996 Atlanta Games, at which he was also on the bronze medal-winning team with Chesterfield, was the highest point of his stellar career, which also included two more Olympic medals, two team and two individual world golds and two Burghley wins.

    “Going to the Olympics is the pinnacle for most people and to come away with a gold – you have such limited opportunities and to have it all go so well is tremendously satisfying,” he said.

    Blyth added that he has no doubt that without his first individual World Championship gold, in 1990 on Messiah, he would not have stayed in Europe and continued his success.

    “It’s always good to have had good results, but the fact they were at a number of events, over a number of years and on a number of horses is something I look back on fondly,” he said.

    Blyth said he did not think of himself “by any stretch of the imagination as the best rider in the world”, but that he thrived on the competition environment and under pressure.

    But fellow New Zealander Mark Todd told H&H his former team-mate was an “exceptional rider”.

    “He was always good to have on teams and you always knew he’d give 110% and was very reliable,” he said. “He was a great competitor, whether you were on a team or riding against him, and had a great temperament.

    “He’s been a great mate for a long time, and he’ll be a big asset in New Zealand for the riders coming up.”

    Equestrian Sport New Zealand high performance manager Warrick Allan said Blyth had been an inspiration and “fantastic ambassador” for the sport.

    “We are extremely fortunate to have a man of Blyth’s experience and international recognition passing on his knowledge and skill,” he said. “He is a very good horseman and knows what it takes to get to the top.

    “He was never one not to give 100% and always fought hard.”

    Blyth said he may well compete in showjumping, for fun – “put it this way, if it’s raining I will be going home!” – and will continue course-designing, coming back to Britain for Alnwick Ford and Burgham this summer.

    “I’ll be setting courses for others to ride rather than me – and I’ll be able to say, ‘I wouldn’t have jumped it like that!’” he said.

    “I’ll definitely miss the great bunch of people in eventing; I’ve had the chance to travel globally but I’ve made lifetime friends. I’ll miss the pressure and excitement – but I probably won’t miss all the hard work.”

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