New Zealand’s equestrian Olympic Games’ history has inspired generations of Kiwis in so many ways. Sir Mark Todd and Charisma’s back-to-back golds is the stuff of legends that even the most un-horsey person in the room remembers with a smile. And there have been so many more very special memories and performances – along with others that have broken hearts.

For the first three Olympic Games where New Zealand was represented in equestrian – Rome 1960, Tokyo 1964 and Montreal 1976 – it was only showjumping wearing the silver fern. That all changed in 1984 at Los Angeles where Sir Mark and the mighty Charisma claimed the first of their individual gold medals. Here’s a recap of our people at the Games.

This year marks 61 years since a New Zealand equestrian first lined up at an Olympic Games. It certainly won’t be the easiest Games, but it will surely be just as special for all, especially the eventing and showjumping teams who will compete there.

ROME 1960 – 1 athlete showjumping

Adrian White (Olympian #155) and Telebrae placed 23rd individual in Rome (1960). They were there by the skin of their teeth, travelling around Europe on the smell of an oily rag. It was a campaign driven largely by trainer Coloman Bolgar and there were plenty of adventures to be told.

TOKYO 1964 – 4 athletes showjumping

New Zealand sent its first equestrian team to the 1964 Games in Tokyo where Graeme Hansen (#179) and Saba Sam placed 23rd individual, his brother Bruce (#178) and Tide were 31st and Adrian White (#155) aboard Eldorado were 35th. The team placed 10th. Charlie Matthews (#187) and Syndicate were the reserve combination and didn’t compete.

MONTREAL 1976 – 2 athletes showjumping

At Montreal in 1976, Joe York (#384) and Big Red were the only Kiwi competitors and placed 30th. Harvey Wilson (#381) was the reserve and didn’t compete.

LOS ANGELES 1984 – 4 athletes eventing, 1 athlete showjumping
1 individual gold eventing

Los Angeles in 1984 brought with it our first eventing team comprising Andrew Bennie (#404) aboard Jade, Mary Hamilton (#443) with Whist, Andrew Nicholson (#481) on Kahlua and Sir Mark Todd (#514) with Charisma. The team were sixth, and while Sir Mark won gold, the others were further back in the field. John Cottle (#420) and Arturo, our sole showjumpers, finished in 46th spot.

SEOUL 1988 – 5 athletes eventing, 5 athletes showjumping
1 team bronze eventing
1 individual gold eventing

That all changed for the Seoul Games in 1988 where New Zealand had teams in both eventing and showjumping. The eventers shone, with Sir Mark (#514) and Charisma going back to back golds, Tinks Pottinger (#573) and Volunteer were fifth and the team comprising Mark, Tinks, Andrew Bennie (#404) on Grayshott and Marges Knighton (#560) with Enterprise, won bronze. Trudy Boyce (#535) and Mossman were the non-competing reserve combination.
The showjumpers – Maurice Beatson (#532) on Jefferson Junior, Colin McIntosh (#566) on Gigolo, Mark Todd (#514) on Merran Hain’s Bago and Harvey Wilson (#381) with Crosby placed 12th. John Cottle (#420) aboard Ups and Downs competed as individuals.

BARCELONA 1992 – 5 athletes eventing, 3 athletes showjumping
1 team silver eventing
1 individual bronze eventing

Barcelona in 1992 saw teams in both showjumping and eventing, with the latter – Vicky Latta (#634) on Chief, Andrew Nicholson (#481) on Spinning Rhombus and Blyth Tait (#677) with Messiah – taking home silver. Blyth won the individual bronze and Vicky finished just off the podium in fourth place. Andrew Scott (#667) and Umptee were the reserve combination.
The 1992 Games was the first for Bruce Goodin (#617), who this year starts in his fifth. He competed aboard Reservation alongside Sir Mark (#514) with Double Take and Harvey Wilson (#381) aboard Mayday.

ATLANTA 1996 – 7 athletes eventing, 1 athlete showjumping
1 individual gold eventing
1 individual silver eventing
1 team bronze eventing

It was a full set of medals for the events at Atlanta in 1996 when Blyth Tait (#677) and Ready Teddy won gold, with Sally Clark (#699) aboard Squirrel Hill taking silver, and the team – Blyth on Chesterfield, Andrew Nicholson (#481) with Jagermeister, Vicky Latte (#634) on Broadcast News and Vaughn Jefferis (#720) aboard Bounce winning bronze. Daniel Meech (#730) and Future Vision were the nation’s sole showjumper.

Atlanta Olympics Eventing Team Photo by Barbara Thomson

SYDNEY 2000 – 6 athletes eventing, 2 athletes showjumping, 1 athlete dressage
1 individual bronze eventing

While New Zealand had all three disciplines represented at Sydney in 2000 there was only one medal that headed back across the ditch and that came in the form of an individual bronze from Sir Mark Todd (#514) and Eye Spy. Flying the eventing flag were Blyth Tait (#677) with Ready Teddy, Vaughn Jefferis (#720) and Bounce, Paul O’Brien (#820) with Enzed and Sir Mark Todd (#514) on Diamond Hall Red. The showjumpers were represented by Peter Breakwell (#767) on Leonson and Bruce Goodin (#617) with Linaro, while Kallista Field (#791) and Waikare were our first dressage Olympians.

ATHENS 2004 – 6 athletes eventing, 5 athletes showjumping, 1 athlete dressage

All three disciplines were again represented at Athens four years later with the eventing team – Blyth Tait (#677) and Ready Teddy, Andrew Nicholson (#481) and Fenecio, Matthew Grayling (#905) with Revo, Dan Jocelyn (#921) aboard Silence and Heelan Tompkins (#964) with Glengarrick – finishing fifth. Jonelle Price (#1201 – nee Richards) with Mazetto were the reserves.
Grant Cashmore (#890) with Franklins Flyte, Bruce and Brave Heart, Guy Thomas (#962) aboard NZ Madison and Daniel Meech (#730) with Diagonal were 12th overall, with Daniel’s 12th individual effort still our best ever result in showjumping. Duncan McFarlane and Eze were the reserve combination. Louisa Hill (#912) and Gabana were the sole dressage representatives.

BEIJING 2008 – 5 athletes eventing, 5 athletes showjumping

The eventers – Andrew Nicholson (#481) with Lord Killinghurst, Heelan Thompkins (#964) and Sugoi, Joe Meyer (#1063) and Snip, Caroline Powell (#1076) and Lenamore and Sir Mark (#514) with Gandalf – were again fifth at Beijing 2008. The showjumping team again featured Bruce Goodin (#617), this time aboard Yamato, alongside Katie Laurie (#1061 – nee McVean) with Forrest II, Kirk Webby (#1106) on Sitah and Sharn Wordley (#1110) with Rockville. Daniel Meech (#730) and Sorbas were the reserves.

LONDON 2012 – 6 athletes eventing, 1 athlete dressage
1 team bronze eventing

Kiwi eventers were back on the podium at London 2012 with a team bronze, spearheaded by Andrew Nicholson (#481) and Nereo, who were fourth individually, Jock Paget (#1190) and Clifton Promise, Jonelle Price (#1201) with Flintstar, Caroline Powell (#1076) on Lenamore and Sir Mark (#514) with NZB Campino. Lucy Jackson and Animator were the reserves. Louisa Hill (#912) was again the sole dressage representative, this time with Bates Antonello.

The New Zealand team celebrate after being presented with their Bronze Medal London 2012 Olympic Games.. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

RIO 2016 – 5 athletes eventing, 1 athlete dressage athlete

The 2016 Rio Olympic Games saw the eventing team just off the podium with a fourth placing. Newbie Clarke Johnstone (#1287) and Balmoral Sensation were the best of the bunch in sixth place individually with Sir Mark (#514) and Leonidas II seventh. Also in the team were Jonelle Price (#1201) with Faerie Dianimo and Tim Price (#1336) on debut with Ringwood Sky Boy. Jock Paget (#1190) was a late withdrawal when Clifton Lush injured himself at the Games. Julie Brougham (#1256) and Vom Feinsten were the dressage representatives.

And now, as another group of Kiwi equestrian athletes prepare to take on Tokyo, New Zealand will once again be on the edge of their seats to see what this generation can produce in what will without doubt be a hugely challenging environment.

By Diana Dobson – HP Media Liaison