World Equestrian Games (WEG) bronze medallist Spencer Wilton has taken himself and his top horse, Super Nova II, out of contention for this year’s European Dressage Championships.
Spencer and the 16-year-old De Niro gelding helped Britain achieve team bronze and Olympic qualification in Tryon, USA, in September 2018 but have opted to not travel to Rotterdam, Netherlands, this August, and instead target the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
“It was a really difficult decision because he’s feeling really good, like a spring chicken, but I’d like to keep him feeling like that, and whatever happens in 2020 I would be looking at retiring him at the end of that year,” Spencer told H&H. “So if next year is going to be his last we might as well focus on making that a good one.”
Spencer and “Neville” were members of the silver medal-winning British team at the 2016 Rio Olympics and also helped Britain finish fourth at the European Championships in 2017, before securing bronze at WEG 2018.
“If Neville did the Europeans this year and the Olympics next year that would be five consecutive championships for him. How many horses actually do that in their career — not many!” said Spencer, who was forced to give the tall gelding almost 10 months off between September 2017 and July 2018 due to injury.
“He has been slightly challenging at times to keep going so, after discussing it with [British chef d’equipe] Caroline Griffiths, the selectors and Neville’s owner Jen Goodman, we decided to take the pressure off and not worry about this year. From a team point of view it was very important last year that we qualified for the Games, but we managed that.”
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Spencer continued: “I think Britain will still have a good chance of winning a medal at the Europeans — we have some really strong combinations.”
Spencer will instead focus on his up-and-coming ride, the seven-year-old Sandro Hit mare Santa Maria, who was unbeaten last year at novice level. He plans to keep Neville in work during the summer, and contest some autumn internationals in preparation for the 2020 campaign.
“I’m certainly not having a year off, but a quiet year will be nice — and a bit of a novelty,” he said.
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