The Paris 2024 Olympic Games and beyond are the big goal for international eventing owners David and Karie Thomson who have committed to investing in horsepower and wrap-around support for New Zealand’s rising stars Ginny Thompson and James Avery.
The US-based Kiwi couple came into equestrian eventing through BlackGold – a public private philanthropic initiative to support investment in New Zealand sporting success. The relationship led to the couple owning Sir Mark Todd’s 2018 WEG horse McClaren – the horse likened to Charisma who has recently gone to Jonelle Price after Sir Mark’s retirement.
“When Rob Waddell became Chef de Mission he asked if we would be interested in supporting High Performance Sport New Zealand, in particular the Rio Olympic Games,” says David. “Karie and I talked about this idea and realised if we did, we were in it for the long haul and it wouldn’t be an insignificant financial commitment if we wanted to help make a difference.”
Karie loves to ride. She used to fox hunt and now showjumps. “We had talked about owning an eventing or showjumping horse a couple of times but questioned why someone would want to own a horse that they didn’t actually ride.”
Despite thinking it would be “the worse investment anyone could make: big cost, big animal” that all changed when they aligned with Sir Mark and McClaren.
The past two years as Mac’s owners has brought the couple a huge amount of happiness and excitement, fun, friends and travel. “As newbies to the high performance team, we were delighted with the welcome we received from other owners, riders, grooms and team leaders,” says David.
The experience ultimately led to the Thomsons wanting to support the team more.
“We could see that a long-term commitment would be a lot of fun, an opportunity to help our team podium in Paris 2024 and help ensure that New Zealand continues to punch above its weight in the eventing world.”
David felt with Sir Mark’s retirement and Blyth Tait’s move back Down Under that the list of high performance competitors for the Tokyo Olympic Games was getting pretty thin. “If we want a strong eventing team in Paris 2024, we need to give our younger talent the support they need – starting now.” The couple talked at length with a lot of people and looked long and hard at up-and-coming riders, trying to figure out just who needed their help and how that would look in the bigger picture.
They decided on their criteria which included horsemanship, the desire to achieve and that it would be riders who were living, training and competing in the UK. The inspiration for the model of supporting a multi-rider, multi-horse programme came from Jesse Campbell’s patron, Kent Gardner. “Kent’s conversation with Jesse a couple of years ago led him to realise that it wasn’t just a better horse he needed, but also additional support for his stables and travel to events and things like that.”
Key to the success of the programme is the ongoing involvement of ESNZ high performance eventing manager Graeme Thom and Sir Mark Todd who are committed to finding top-quality young horses for Ginny and James while providing guidance, training, mentorship and general assistance.
Sir Mark is chuffed to remain involved with the couple and be part of the next phase of their involvement in eventing. “It is great to be a part of their very exciting and generous backing of two promising riders in the UK,” he said. “This is an amazing opportunity for these two riders and I very much look forward to seeing it progress over the next couple of years.”
Graeme is “delighted and in awe” of the support offered by the Thomsons. “David and Karie may be relatively new to the equestrian fold but they certainly have arrived with a strong appreciation of high performance sport,” he said. They both have a unique intuitive understanding of the holistic balance that is required for top athletes to succeed. Our team could not be more thankful.”
The search is already underway across Europe for young horses with 2024 Olympic potential in mind.
For Ginny, it marks the start of some very exciting times. “I feel very honoured and privileged that the Thomsons have chosen me and James to support,” she said. “It is a massive deal for me and I feel very lucky that they want to join my team and support my dreams of getting to Paris in 2024 – which is really not that far away.”
Ginny felt it was a “huge” added bonus to have Sir Mark’s help in finding and producing the horses. “Since being over here I haven’t had the hugest string of horses and we all know it is a bit of a number’s game, but I have gained invaluable experience which is no doubt helping me get the younger generation horses up to where they need to be. What I love about David and Karie is that they are so easy going but equally really competitive which are both such good qualities to have in the sport of eventing.”
Her appreciation was reiterated by James. “I am incredibly grateful to have this opportunity,” he said. “It is a plan that targets Paris 2024, is very Kiwi-centric and looks after all aspects of a rider’s ambition towards major championships, including first and foremost securing a horse to meet those goals. I look forward to what we will achieve together.”
Both David and Karie are hopeful their commitment will encourage others to do the same.
“We would love to give additional riders some support too but there is only so much to go around,” said David. “This is such a thrilling sport to be part of that the reward for investing in our talented riders pays a lot of dividends. We encourage others to join us and Kent and make Paris 2024 and beyond a reality. It is about participating in the New Zealand Olympic Committee’s motto of ‘earn the fern’.”
David and Karie split their time between San Francisco and Central Otago. David grew up in Lower Hutt and while Karie was Stateside, she feels more akin with New Zealand. They are well used to elite team environments through their association with yachting and Team New Zealand through the America’s Cup.
If you have any interest in understanding more about becoming a high performance eventing Owner, please contact High Performance Director Simon Bennett [email protected]
By Diana Dobson – HP Media Liaison
Photos by Libby Law/ESNZ