Sydnie Eustace Goodrich can still vividly remember leading Calypso, tacked up and ready to jump, toward the massive grandstands surrounding the ring at the Santa Anita Racetrack during the 1984 Olympic Games. Calypso and Melanie Smith Taylor had jumped a clean first round for the U.S. show jumping team, and Goodrich had him prepped for Round 2.
“That’s the part I will never forget,” Goodrich said. “I’m walking out of the barn headed up to the ring, and I got maybe a quarter of the way up to the ring. Then I heard the announcer say, ‘The American team cannot be beaten. We’re now jumping for silver and bronze.’ I was ecstatic!”
Calypso and Taylor didn’t have to jump again in the team competition. “Melanie came running back, and we met halfway to the ring and just hugged. It was our goal all along, and it was just amazing,” Goodrich recalled. “It’s still what everybody looks forward to and works for. It’s still hard to describe, actually.”
There aren’t many grooms who have watched their charges win Olympic team gold and an FEI World Cup Final from the in-gate, but Goodrich has, and she can still hear the crowd cheering in her mind.
Goodrich was Taylor’s right hand during the golden era of U.S. show jumping in the ’80s, caring for Calypso when he won the 1982 FEI World Cup Final (Sweden) in addition to the Olympic team gold two years later. “It was just such a magical time,” Goodrich said. “I still feel lucky and blessed for the privilege it was to be involved in that, and to have worked with the rider I did and to care for the horses that I did.”
The Dream Team
Gold medals weren’t Goodrich’s goal when she first started with horses. She had a horse in the backyard but didn’t show much. After she graduated from high school, she worked for her aunt, who was running the lesson program at a hunt club in Connecticut. She then spent a few years as a veterinary technician. A new door opened in 1971 when she started working at Stillmeadow Farm in Stonington, Connecticut. Pam Brewster, whose family owned Stillmeadow, rode and showed, and they had just bought some grand prix horses for Taylor as well.
At first, Goodrich did bookkeeping and went to shows to help Brewster. The family had just bought Radnor II, a former steeplechase runner, for Taylor. Goodrich remembered Taylor telling her that Radnor had grabbed himself and to keep an eye on him during a layover between shows. The next morning, Goodrich found Radnor markedly lame. She took on the soaking and care to help him recover from an abscess, and from then on she was Taylor’s top groom, caring for Radnor as he helped establish Taylor in the grand prix ring. “Then Crimson Tide came along and Val De Loire,” Goodrich said.
“Melanie and I really worked well together. It was more like a team than employer/employee,” Goodrich said. The team lasted until early 1980, when Goodrich left to explore other opportunities.
She ended up grooming for another hero of ’80s show jumping, Katie Monahan Prudent, at the 1980 Alternate Olympic Games in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and on the European tour that preceded it. When they returned home, Goodrich took a position as a vet tech with the Delaware Equine Center.
While working as a tech, Goodrich got the news that Radnor II was retiring. “He was my first heart horse for sure,” she said. “I just loved him, and I’d said all along—kind of jokingly but a little bit of seriousness—‘When he retires, I’ll take him,’ and they contacted me! But I didn’t know how I was going to afford keeping him.”
Goodrich was renting an apartment from the parents of a fellow groom, Sherry Martin, on a small farm. She asked about the possibility of Radnor coming to live there. “Sherry’s dad thinks about it for a minute or two and goes, ‘Well, how about a dollar a day?’ ” Goodrich recalled. “I just couldn’t thank them enough. So Radnor came to live with me.”
Then, about 18 months after she’d left her role with Taylor, in late ’81, the phone rang. Taylor had moved to Windrush Farm in Litchfield, Connecticut. She had Calypso, and she wanted Goodrich to come back. “It took me about 10 seconds to say yes,” Goodrich recalled. Radnor was welcomed back along with her.
“I guess I was at the right place in the right time,” she said. “We had, and still do have, such a friendship. I feel so lucky with all we got to do and the wins we had and all that, but it really was a team effort. I think she knew that I would do the best I could to take care of them, and I obviously knew she would do the best to ride right.”
Lifelong Friends, Human And Equine
From the start of 1982, as Taylor and “Lyps” won the $50,000 American Invitational in Tampa, Florida, the team was on a roll. Just a few months later came the World Cup Final victory in Sweden.
Goodrich’s favorite photo of her time grooming was taken at that World Cup Final. She’s standing with Lyps with Taylor mounted, waiting to go into the ring. Goodrich vividly remembers that final day of the competition.
“Melanie was leading and so got to go last,” she said. “We were coming into the tunnel from the warm-up to the ring, and there was a capacity crowd. They were chanting, ‘Melanie, Melanie, Melanie.’ As soon as she entered the ring though, you could hear a pin drop, and then once she landed from the last fence and had won, oh my God, they went crazy.”
Goodrich remembers the victories, but her favorite moments were the quiet ones with Lyps and the other horses back at the barn. “Just bandaging them at the end of the day was my favorite thing,” she said. “It just felt like it should feel good to them. I liked getting to know each horse, each personality. I took care of Melanie’s first big grand prix horse, Radnor, and the last, Lyps. There were many in between, but those two were the biggest heart horses for me.”
By 1987, the situation at Windrush Farm changed, and the horses, including Calypso, were put up for sale. Goodrich, 39, was dating a non-horsey man, and she decided to leave the horse world behind. She started a second career in secretarial work, eventually marrying that man, Tom Goodrich, a computer programmer.
“The timing was just all good,” she said. “And here we are 32 years later still married. I’m a very lucky girl in so many ways.”
Goodrich sent Radnor to live with her friend Wendy Mathews in Virginia and visited him occasionally until old age caught up to him at 26. Goodrich also traveled to Tennessee to visit Taylor and Lyps. “It’s going to make me cry even now thinking about that her husband [Lee Taylor] bought him as a wedding present for her unbeknownst to her,” Goodrich said. “He actually lived out his life to almost 30, fat and happy in her field.”
Goodrich left grooming, but she’s still friends with many of her colleagues from that time. She values the camaraderie among the grooms of that era, where they all helped each other. She attends a biannual “groom’s reunion” in Florida each year, where they gather to reminisce. She also contributes to The Groom’s Award, a nonprofit that provides grooms with awards and recognition for their contribution to the sport.
“I was so lucky to have worked with the people and horses I worked with,” Goodrich said. “We had so many big accomplishments. I think that’s part of why I could sort of go ahead and go in another direction, because I just felt satisfied with all that we had accomplished together.”