British team horse Pilgrim sold to Norway before Olympics

  • British team managers are bemoaning the sale of David McPherson’s European bronze medal-winning show jumper, Pilgrim, to Norway.

    The deal was struck late last month to catch the 1 January deadline for registering horse and rider together in time for the Beijing Olympics, at which Norway will field a team for the first time.

    “This is a major blow,” said British show jumping team manager Derek Ricketts. “Pilgrim performed really well in the Europeans. He is a real championship horse.”

    The 13-year-old stallion was sold by his owner, Germany’s Peter Nagel-Tornau, to 24-year-old Norwegian rider Line Raaholt.

    David McPherson told H&H that the sale happened very quickly — and had not been part of his plan.

    “I guess there was a feeding frenzy coming up to the end of the year, and he is a horse that has jumped two championships,” he said. “The biggest problem is we have phenomenal riders in this country, but not the depth of horsepower. Let’s hope that changes by 2012.”

    The pair posted some good results last year, including jumping the sole double clear of the team to take Britain to victory in the Rotterdam leg of the Samsung Super League in June.

    David added that he felt the horse had improved enormously since he took over the ride in February 2007, and had another 30% to give.

    “You can’t put in to words how you feel, but as much as I hated losing Pilgrim, in show jumping this is one of the facts of life,” he said. “It’s a business, and horses change hands for an extraordinary amount of money. There’s not much you can do if owners choose to sell.”

    British team performance director Will Connell said the pair had been major contenders to represent the country at this summer’s Olympics.

    “They were in the team that won Great Britain its first show jumping medal in 10 years, and the horse was a power jumper with the scope to jump Olympic tracks,” said Mr Connell. “It’s a big shame, especially for David, but that’s the business. The Brits went very well at Olympia, and we have to look forward.”

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    This story was first published in Horse & Hound (3 January, ’07)

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