British World Class performance manager Will Connell and rider Harry Meade spoke to the press this evening following the death of Harry’s ride Wild Lone (pictured above competing at Badminton Horse Trials) at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
Will Connell started by saying that these things are “never easy” and expressing sympathy for Harry, his wife Rosie, his groom Jess Harrington and Wild Lone’s owners, Peter and Charlotte Opperman.
He also thanked the event’s organising committee for “the way they reacted when the horse was in difficulty and the support they gave”.
“I know it’s very sad and difficult to deal with,” he continued. “But the horse had jumped a wonderful round with a wonderful athlete, who proved today he is very much part of the British team.
“Our aim is to stand on the podium tomorrow so Harry can receive his medal with the other athletes.”
Will added that the organising committee had done everything possible for the welfare of the horses from the moment they arrived at the event until they leave tomorrow, saying the British had worked with the organisers for three years and everything they had asked for had been given.
“I hope you will report this as it is — a sad incident,” he said to the assembled press.
Course and death were not connected
Harry said: “Obviously my sympathies are with the owners Peter and Charlotte Opperman. They’ve been great supporters of me and the sport of eventing.
“I’m grateful to my groom Jess Errington — she’s devoted her life to looking after our horses and Wild Lone was the most important thing in her life.
“I wanted to make a statement to say the ground conditions and terrain played no part in what happened. Wild Lone has completed five four-stars, he hasn’t missed any work and he was as fit as he has ever been. He gave me a wonderful ride.
“My only regret today from a competitive point of view was that I could have asked more — he had plenty in the tank at the end. Although I’m devastated by what happened, it was a good course and a good test.
“It would be sad if anyone drew any incorrect conclusions and if it was felt the tough, testing nature of the course had any effect on what happened — from the feeling I had, they were not connected.
“I’d like to thank the organisers and team here — I think the horse in no way suffered, it was all extremely quick.”
Harry added that Wild Lone felt totally normal and perfect in every way until the moment he dismounted.
He paid tribute to Wild Lone, saying: “He was a wonderful horse. I’ve ridden him since he was a four-year-old and I said to my father [Olympic gold medallist Richard Meade] when he was a six-year-old that he could be the best cross-country horse in the world and I think he probably was.
“He gave me a wonderful ride round Badminton to finish third and today he felt like he was cross-country schooling the whole way round.”
‘Let’s remember what our athletes did’
Will concluded by saying: “I’ve been chef de mission for Great Britain for 11 years and what we saw today was British athletes showing what cross-country riding is all about.
“The memory of today for Britain will be sadness for Wild Lone, but mainly what our athletes did on the field of play. It was a great day for eventing, though a sad one for Harry.
“We must move forward and remember how well our athletes performed on the cross-country course because they made me bloody proud.”
Keep checking HorseandHound.co.uk for more from WEG. Full report on the eventing in the magazine out this Thursday, 4 September.