Badminton winner dies aged 34: ‘he will never be gone from our hearts’

  • The last event horse to win a long-format Olympics has died aged 34.

    Custom Made (“Tailor”), who claimed individual gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics with US rider David O’Connor, has died following a glittering career and a happy retirement.

    The Irish sport horse gelding, bred in Ireland by Kitty Horgan and Elizabeth O’Flynn, was found by William Micklem as a nine-year-old for David to ride.

    David and Tailor won the Kentucky Three-Day Event in their first season together in 1995, before finishing third at Badminton 1996 and fifth individually at the Atlanta Olympics the same year.

    The pair returned to the UK in 1997 to win Badminton. David remains the last US rider to have won the iconic event.

    Tailor, owned by Joseph Zada, continued his remarkable string of results with fourth place at Blenheim 1999. Following their 2000 Olympic gold in Sydney — the last Olympics to feature eventing with roads and tracks and steeplechase — he never finished outside the top five at any event.

    “Tailor was laid to rest on Wednesday [2 October]. I was lucky to have been there,” said David. “We are all saddened with him being gone, but he will never be gone from our hearts. He was truly a being that are few and far between.

    “He was an amazing athlete – the best I have ever been around. I felt, especially at the end, that really I was a part of his career more than he was a part of mine. He raises my awareness of what special mean. Special athlete. Special character. Special time that we enjoyed together. You can’t trade that for anything.”

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    He competed in his final event in 2002, aged 17 and was officially retired at the 2004 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event. The horse was inducted into US Equestrian’s eventing hall of fame in 2009, alongside David.

    Tailor enjoyed an active retirement, taking part in demonstrations, hunting, serving as a cross-country schoolmaster and nannying young horses on hacks around Stonehall Farm in Virginia, where he spent the last 17 years of his life.

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