Olympic gold medal eventer Mr. Medicott, who contested two Olympic Games and one world championship for two countries during his career, died Sept. 17 at Jacqueline Mars’ Stonehall Farm in Virginia, where he lived in retirement. He was 24. This Throwback Thursday, we look back at the start of the final stage of his competitive career, with Phillip Dutton’s daughter, Olivia. Pairing up after “Cave” stepped down from the five-star (then four-star) level, they went on to win team gold at the 2018 North American Youth Championships (Montana), where he was retired at the end of the competition. A version of this article originally was published June 14, 2017.
Mr. Medicott and Fernhill Fugitive have traveled around the world tackling the toughest cross-country tracks, and now they will show two lucky young riders their vast depth of experience.
After placing fourth with Mr. Medicott and eighth with Fernhill Fugitive at the Rolex Kentucky CCI4* [now CCI5*-L] in spring 2017, Phillip Dutton decided to let both geldings step back.
Dutton’s daughter Olivia took over the ride on Mr. Medicott, “Cave,” and Caitlin Tierney, daughter of Dutton’s longtime owner Tom Tierney, has started riding Fernhill Fugitive, or “Jack.”
Cave, an 18-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Cruising—Slieveluachra, Edmund Burke) owned by the Mr. Medicott Syndicate, has had a storied career—starting with German rider Frank Ostholt, who competed him at the 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong and the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (Kentucky), along with earning multiple top four-star placings.
He went on to place ninth with Karen O’Connor at the 2012 Olympic Games in London before Phillip got the ride in 2013.
They were fourth at the Pau CCI**** (France) that year, but Cave picked up an injury in 2014 and briefly came back in 2015. But he sat out the 2016 season after aggravating it.
Phillip and Cave’s owners decided to bring him back for one last hurrah at Rolex in 2017 and then decide what was next.
“We’ll see how Olivia goes with him. We’ll take it one step at a time with him. She’s just started flatting him and doing a little bit of jumping. He’s a big, strong horse, so we’ll take it month to month,” said Phillip.
“He wasn’t an ideal horse to rehabilitate,” he continued. “The idea of him getting injured again, I didn’t want to put him through all that as well. It was weighing on my mind. I couldn’t have been more pleased with the way that he tried and went at Kentucky. I would have loved to have won it for him, but he couldn’t have done much more for me. Being 18 and with everything he’s done, he doesn’t want to give up on the sport. He does love it, but it will be good to find him a little bit easier of a job.”
“I feel so lucky to be able to ride him. He’s such an amazing horse. I really enjoyed riding him lately,” said Olivia, 15, about two weeks after she started riding Cave.
She said she felt a little pressure taking on the ride of such a successful horse.
“Going out and competing is a little nerve-wracking, but I think I just have to ride him like I usually ride and not let that get to my head,” she said. “We’ll take it one step at a time. I’ve never ridden a horse like him, so I think we’ll see how it goes. I want to thank all of Cave’s owners for letting me ride him. It’s such a great experience for me, and I’m so lucky.”
Phillip felt Jack, a 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Lux—Barnadown Ramiro, Ramiro B) owned by Tom Tierney and Ann Jones, was struggling to make the time and be competitive at the four-star level.
The pair represented the United States at the 2015 Pan American Games (Ontario), completed Rolex twice and the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials CCI**** (England) last fall.
“You can only do so much, and I got him pretty fit and worked really hard at it, but he doesn’t quite have that top speed for when you need it over a big course,” said Phillip. “It’s not quite fair to him to try to push him all the time at that speed. I think being more inside his comfort zone will be better for him.”
Editor’s note: After a year with Caitlin, Jack was sold to Michael Willham, with whom he continues to compete at preliminary and intermediate.