Remembering Mike Tucker: A Mentor And A Friend

May 3, 2018 - 7:45 AM

For more than 35 years Mike Tucker commentated at the Badminton Horse Trials (England) as well as countless other high-profile equestrian sporting events. Commentator Steven Wilde penned this tribute to his mentor after Tucker’s death on March 28.

We all need them. Without them we wouldn’t find our path. Our guiding lights, the people who point us in the right direction, who show us the way to becoming the people we are today: our mentors.

These are the people who shape us. We are all molded in some way by all the people around us. Whatever we do, whatever our job or even in our home life, there is always a mentor who shapes us. Sometimes this is family, sometimes a senior colleague, sometimes a friend. Those people who come into our life—usually when we least expect it—and change it.

I have had several “shapers,” but no one had more influence on my current career and way of life, and even—to be grand about it—my philosophy than Mike Tucker.

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Mike Tucker was a mentor and a huge influence on his friend Steven Wilde. Photo by Michelle C. Dunn.

A professional in everything he touched, from commentating for more than 30 years for the BBC to cattle farmer and eventing course designer and before all of that, successful international rider.

The measure of a man is how many friends he can count in his life. Mike Tucker had thousands, all around the world. From my own personal point of view but also for so many others too, he gave of his time generously and never failed to provide support and sage advice when it was required.

Mike was the man who has had one of the biggest effects on my life, giving me my first commentating roles. He actually guided me on my first commentary gig. I count myself lucky in a strange way to have worked with him at Olympia last year, on what would turn out sadly to be his last.

All the way through from Day 1, he was a man you respected. He was the voice on the BBC, and, actually, I was somewhat in awe of him (a little nervous even at times). There was never a time that I couldn’t pick up the phone or drop an email and ask his advice; no question was too trivial.

It made him a man that we would do anything for; we all trusted him. We would follow him anywhere. He led from the front and was a brilliant creator of a team.

He leaves a legacy in all the spheres he touched. For myself, Nick Brooks-Ward and the list of other “voices” he leaves behind, we will carry on his work. To create a legacy is the sign of a teacher who has done his task well. Mike did it professionally and brilliantly. He taught us all the benefits of hard work, and he would not tolerate an unprepared approach. Do the job to the best of your ability and make damn sure that you’d done your homework.

I was bouncing with pride to be one of those to make a vain attempt to be following in his footsteps at the BBC last year for the FEI European Championships. The beaming smile and “well done” from him afterwards made all the hard work worth it.

His lasting memorial though, is that he touched all of us in some way. In a mountain of roles, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who has contributed so much to equestrian sport yet was still so self-effacing of his own abilities, despite his long-held success.

He leaves behind a line of people whom he has mentored to fill the void left by his passing, which, between us all, we can only plug a fraction of. From the “dad dancing” out in the arena (despite our laughter) to his ability to create the right words for those most dramatic of Olympic occasions, he brought everything to the table.

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Mike Tucker with his close friend Roger Haller, another eventing legend who died on March 30, 2016. Photo by Michelle C. Dunn.

I will lovingly remember him when I see the vacant chair that he would have filled in the commentary box. When he picked up a mic, his enthusiasm would carry us all along with him.

One of the great lessons was: It’s not about us on the mic. It’s about the stars that we talk about. They are the immense talents. Our job is to help them shine.

Every one of us who has worked with him will feel his absence, and we can only send all our love to his family and wish them strength after this unexpected loss.

Mike, we will miss you, but we will carry on your memory and keep striving to your high standards.

For all of us we need a person like this to keep us on course. When we are at our most lost, these are the people who appear—as our salvation is maybe a bit dramatic but to make those nudges in a direction—to help open a door or two or to give us the confidence to push forward.

For each of our successes, big or small, we can always find someone who shines that light to bring out our talents. Mike did that for many and let us all follow him into the spotlight and, like a true gentleman, let us share that limelight.

This doesn’t just mean in the actual sense. As we stood blinded by the spotlights at Olympia, standing before a packed house, in his special way he would pass on confidence and making everyone involved feel special and make sure, whatever role you take, big or small, front or back of house, you count!

That is the mark of a great mentor, to give you the confidence to achieve anything.

Steven Wilde got his start in commentating in 2001 and has gone on to announce at some of the world’s biggest venues, in all the Olympic disciplines. His voice has been heard at Hickstead, Blenheim and Barbury Horse Trials, and the 2012 London Olympic Games in England. He grew up in the sport of show jumping, as his mother was an international rider, and he’s been successful at organizing shows as well. 

Read more about Steven in his introductory blog and read all his blog entries.

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