International eventer Giltedge died at Jacqueline Mars’ Stone Hall Farm in The Plains, Va., on Sept. 3. He was 29.
Mars purchased Giltedge from Eric Smiley in 1994 after Irish horse dealer William Micklem asked David O’Connor to try the Irish Sport Horse gelding (Glen Bar— Kitty, Awkward Brief), then called Giltex.
It took O’Connor almost three years to transform Giltedge into the horse that would represent the United States in an international career that spanned eight years. He and O’Connor won their first medal, team silver, at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, and then they went on to earn a team bronze medal at the World Equestrian Games (Italy) in 1998 and team bronze at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
“He was a very competitive horse,” said O’Connor. “He loved to work, and he absolutely loved to compete. He always showed his best in front of a crowd or in front of a competition; he consistently rose to another level, and that was kind of a hallmark of his whole career. More than almost any other horse I had, he really, really enjoyed the game. That always showed at the championships, where his record was exceptional.”
O’Connor and “Tex” also won the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** in 2001. Then in 2002, their last year competing internationally, they helped the U.S. team earn gold at the WEG in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain.
Tex wasn’t without quirks—difficult to bridle, unable to be cross-tied, and a head shaker—but he was still a favorite among those who cared for him.
“I think we always understood each other,” said O’Connor. “I found him very intelligent, and I found him funny, so I think the two of us really got along from the beginning.”
Tex was The Chronicle of the Horse’s 2002 Overall and Eventing Horse of the Year and was inducted into the U.S. Eventing Association’s Hall of Fame in 2012.
“Every great horse has a wonderful heart, or they wouldn’t make a great horse,” said Mars in a 2002 interview with the Chronicle. “He is such a trier, and that’s what distinguishes him. He would never have achieved anything he has without David.”
Giltedge retired to Stonehall Farm and spent his final years turned out alongside his fellow O’Connor Eventing Team greats Prince Panache, Custom Made and Biko.
“He was very much a leader and a backbone of the whole U.S. program during the 1990s; it was a privilege to be part of his career,” said O’Connor. “He came at a time that was perfect. I was living in England and just coming home, so to have a partner like that, that you have that type of relationship with and was competitive and sound and kept going over an eight-year period, that really does allow you to practice your skills and put a stamp on them. It’s really immeasurable in a lot of ways what he did for me.”