David O’Connor’s partner for individual gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, Custom Made, died on Oct. 2 at age 34.
“He got a little bit of a colic last night,” said O’Connor. “He’d lost a lot of weight over the summer. He was 34, and he had a whole beautiful fantastic retirement career out in the fields right in front of our house. It was just time. He didn’t suffer.”
Joe Zada’s Irish Sport Horse (Bassompierre—Purple Heather, Ben Purple) won three major advanced-level three-days in his career in addition to the Olympics: the 1995 Rolex Kentucky CCI4*-L, the 1997 Badminton CCI5*-L (England) and 2002 Fair Hill CCI4*-L (Maryland). He also finished fifth individually at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and third at Badminton that same year. He had strong showings at two other editions of Kentucky, jumping to sixth in the CCI5*-L in 2000 and third in 2001.
Custom Made was inducted into the U.S. Eventing Association Hall of Fame in 2009 and named The Chronicle of the Horse’s overall Horse of the Year in 2000.
“He’s one of those horses with such a personality. You knew right away that we were very much soulmates, right from the first time I ever saw him,” said O’Connor. “I’ve never been on a horse with that much power. Just pure power, and he had great scope and gallop, and all that together was pretty amazing.
“He had the most amazing gallop and most amazing power and never, ever got tired, not once in his whole life,” O’Connor continued. “He had a great engine and great power. It was like being on a rocket. He got more and more confident as he went on, so he got less and less strong. So he was really a dream ride at the end. His flatwork was obviously great. He was one of those horses who did change the game with his flatwork because he was so consistent. He was always at the top, always going to come out from the beginning. He had four good wins and almost had two other wins. It’s a pretty special career.”
He retired at the 2004 Rolex Kentucky CCI5*-L and lived out his life in a field in The Plains, Virginia, with fellow Olympic mounts Giltedge, Prince Panache and Biko, all of whom preceded him in death. His latest pasturemate was another top-level veteran, Mandiba.