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‘He did things dreams were made of’: farewell to Olympic event horse

Eventer Dan Jocelyn has paid tribute to his Olympic ride Silence – a horse who “did things dreams were made of”.

The thoroughbred gelding was put down yesterday (2 June) aged 30 after a “wonderful life”, travelling the world with Dan to compete at the very top level of the sport.

Dan told H&H he bought “Gus” from his friend Joe Meyer’s family’s Mamaku Stud in his native New Zealand, as a just-backed youngster.

“The stud’s where Mark Todd’s [double Olympic champion] Charisma came from so there was a bit of an aura about it,” Dan said. “I was young and wanted to do something similar.

“We rode two of these youngsters down the drive, and on the way back, there were some telegraph poles, and Joe said: ‘let’s have a jump’. There we were, popping these telegraph poles on these just-backed horses – and I had a grin from ear to ear.”

Dan said Gus could be tricky to ride – he was always a good jumper, but could be hot and tense. Flatwork was frustrating, and hacking not an option.

“They all had to do miles of hacking in those days for long-format competition,” Dan said. “But he couldn’t be hacked so he had to be led from another horse.

“He was very good doing that, until the day the other horse spooked, he went up and over backwards, and broke his wither. But his rehabilitation went well, and the next year he came third at Burghley.”

Dan and Silence also represented their country at the 2004 Olympics, where they added just four showjumping faults to their dressage score, finished eighth at Badminton in 1999 and notched up two more top-10 Burghley placings, and one at Luhmühlen.

But Dan said a real highlight was the third place at Burghley, when all three podium places went to New Zealand.

“It was a very proud moment to go the Olympics but his strength was speed and endurance, and that was an easy Olympic cross-country that didn’t play to his strengths,” he said. “But I’ll always remember that one-two-three at Burghley.

“He was a very brave horse and very fast; he never ran out of gallop and you’d always find another gear coming for home.

“I had some thrilling, thrilling rides with him. The year we placed at Badminton, the cross-country felt in slow motion, although it was so fast, because we were just caught up in the moment and it felt so easy.

“Thinking back, we did so much. We had a great time going to Kentucky, he got a huge number of British Eventing points; and that was in the days you didn’t get as many. I can only thank him for a really good time; he did things dreams were made of.”

Dan said Gus was well suited to the long-format competition, and that the hours and hours of work that went into preparing for such competition meant an even stronger bond between horse and rider.

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The horse was retired from competition after he came 15th at Burghley 2008; Dan said for the first time he backed off the speed across country, thinking he should as Gus was 18 by them, and notched up time-penalties.

“But at the end, I realised I hadn’t needed to; he was still going,” he said. “But we picked up a placing, and for me that was thrilling.

“Then Laura Bechtolsheimer [now Tomlinson] did a few events with him; he took her round her first BE100. That was a really nice end to his career, to have someone like her riding him – and it was good she didn’t get better dressage marks than me!”

Gus spent his retirement with his long-term fieldmates, and Dan said it was the right time to let him go.

“He had the sweetest nature ever,” he added. “He’d stand at the back of his stable, happy as Larry, very placid and laid back; until you got on him. Then he had a job to do, and he was very good at it.”

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