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Six-time Olympian John Whitaker, who turns 60 today (5 August, 2015), has been the linchpin of British showjumping since taking on the ride on Ryan’s Son as a teenager. This horse had just 50 points on his card when he and John met, but their partnership lasted 14 years and included team silver at the 1984 Olympic Games. John said that Ryan’s Son “put him on the map” after a win at the Great Yorkshire Show against John’s heroes Harvey Smith and David Broome.

Perhaps the most famous of John’s rides is the great grey, Milton, who with John became the first showjumping horse to win in excess of £1million in prize-money. Together they won the illustrious grand prix at Spruce Meadows, as well as consecutive World Cup finals in 1990-91, and individual and team medals at the 1987 and 1989 European championships and the 1990 World Equestrian Games.

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John is the only rider in history to have won the Hickstead Derby four times on different horses, and has also triumphed three times in the King George V Cup, with Ryan’s Son, Milton and Welham. He has more than 180 Nations Cup appearances and 11 European championship call-ups.

And he’s still at the top of his game – currently ranked seventh in the Longines Global Champions Tour (GCT) table with two runner-up spots in GCT grands prix this year. His current star, Argento, would have been a shoo-in for this years’ Europeans had John not decided that the arena would not suit him – the dark bay powerhouse is most suited to smaller arenas like Olympia and HOYS. And with horses like Ornellaia, Castlefield Cristobal and Uni Stop coming up through the ranks, John has most certainly got his sights set on future seasons.

John Whitaker’s major achievements

  • Won 25 medals at world, Olympic and European level
  • Competed in the 1980, 1984, 1992, 1996 and 2000 Olympics
  • Member of the Nations Cup team more than 180 times with over 40 victories
  • Team bronze in the European championships 2007
  • Team bronze in the European championships 1997
  • Team bronze in the world championships 1998
  • Team silver in the European championships 1995
  • Team silver in the European championships 1993
  • Team silver in the European championships 1991
  • Individual silver and team bronze  in the world championships 1990
  • Individual and team gold in the European championships 1987
  • Team silver in the world championships 1986
  • Individual bronze and team gold in the European championships 1985
  • Team silver in the European championships 1984
  • Individual and team silver in the European championships in 1983
  • Team bronze  in the World Championships 1982
  • Individual and team Silver in the Alternative Olympic Games 1980