A Beautiful Mix of Style and Substance
Thibaul Vallette aboard Qing du Briot. (Jamie Squire / Getty Images)
At the Olympics in Rio, Thibaul Vallette riding Qing du Briot for France has taken the gold in eventing, but no matter what country wins, it’s the love and partnership between horse and rider that truly wins us over every time!
Eventing is one of the most exciting spectator equestrian sports and brings together dressage, cross-country and show jumping. It tests the horse’s athleticism, agility and command. Team USA came to the Olympic Games in Rio coming off a win at the inaugural FEI Nations Cup™ Eventing competition in North America. They are an accomplished group of riders on spectacular mounts with personalities to match. In this article, we change leads to focus on these four unique horses.
Phillip Dutton and HND Group’s Mighty Nice, a 2004 Irish Sport Horse gelding
Mighty Nice, known to many as “Happy,” originally Dutton’s reserve horse for the team, was named to the team after Cubalawn was withdrawn for a strained muscle. One of Dutton’s top mounts, he is exceptionally friendly and loves to show off once tackled up. Often teasing other horses around him, his playful attitude comes through. Phillip Dutton, originally from Australia makes his third Olympic appearance in Rio, but this was his first appearance for Team USA. The connection and experience between these two stars aligned for a good showing.
Lauren Kieffer and Team Rebecca, LLC’s Veronica, a 2002 KWPN mare
Veronica was originally Olympian, Karen O’Connor’s mount and has now proven success with one of her pupils, Lauren Kieffer. Veronica’s training team says that she either loves or hates you, and the four-star horse and has facial expressions to show it. She loves the sound of her voice and is devoted to a doll that she plays with in her stall, even on the road. Obviously, Veronica loves Kieffer since this pair has been racking up accolades internationally since 2013. Kieffer, a star rider in her youth made her first Olympic appearance in Rio.
Boyd Martin and Blackfoot Mystery Syndicate, LLC’s Blackfoot Mystery, a 2004 Thoroughbred gelding
Known by those close to him as “Big Red” or “Red,” Blackfoot Mystery had a brief career as a racing horse before being trained for eventing. Quiet but loving, he often gives Martin a neck massage as he stands in front of his stall ending in a love bite. Cookies are his weakness and he expects one every time his halter comes off. An impressive horse with his towering chestnut stature, Martin took him on his first trip abroad to Rio. He couldn’t be in better hands with Martin, a member of the 2012 Olympic Team that also worked previously as an assistant to Olympic teammate, Phillip Dutton.
Clark Montgomery and Holly and William Becker, Kathryn Kraft, and Jessica Montgomery’s Loughan Glen, a 2003 Irish Sport Horse gelding
Glen definitely knows he’s the top horse in the barn. While independent and one of the most laid back horses amidst his group, he has been known to be spooked by strange noises and buck with riders mounted. Recently, Glen has been through a phase of stranger danger but Clark Montgomery states, “he’s probably one of the smartest horses I’ve ever come across.” A Texas native, formerly training with top Olympians, Montgomery has been working with England lately. This pair has proven their success and impressed many this past year and will no doubt be watched closely in competitions to come.
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