No Rio for Wesko

Tim Price suffers a bitter blow as his top horse is ruled out of Olympic contention

Tim and Wesko at home (image: Libby Law)
Tim and Wesko at home (image: Libby Law)

New Zealand has lost one its best medal hopes for the Rio Olympics, with the very sad news from the Price household today that Tim’s top ride, Wesko, has suffered a serious injury and will be sidelined for the rest of the year.

“What a year for him to pick to get an injury,” an obviously disappointed Tim told NZ Horse & Pony. “He has gone his whole life so far 100% injury-free. It’s really poor timing, and it is not cool for the team, and not cool for me either, but it is what it is.”

Tim and Wesko on their way to winning Luhmuhlen in 2014 (image: Libby Law)
Tim and Wesko on their way to winning Luhmuhlen in 2014 (image: Libby Law)

Wesko won the Luhmühlen CCI4* in 2014, was Tim’s ride later the same year at the World Equestrian Games, and last year was second at the Rolex Kentucky CCI4*. He is only 13, so Tim is hopeful that after a good rest and a steady rehabilitation from what’s described as a ‘significant soft tissue injury’, he can be back to his best.

Tim and Jonelle celebrate Wesko's Luhmuhlen win (image: Libby Law)
Tim and Jonelle celebrate Wesko’s Luhmuhlen win (image: Libby Law)

“He has earned a bit of a break.” Tim sounds surprisingly philosophical but, as he says, he has had a week to come to grips with the fact that his number-one horse, who was a real individual medal prospect, was not going to be his first Olympic partner.

“Last week I was in a terrible state; it felt life-changing. But now I’m at that stage of accepting it. I can’t do anything else. It happens with horses and I’ve had a really good run.”

Tim is picking himself up to press on with his dreams of being on that Olympic podium. His number-two horse, Bango, has just left for Kentucky and Tim will fly out from the UK to join him on Sunday.  He has eight horses entered at Hambleden on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. “The secretary has been kind enough to let me go early as possible on Sunday. I ride my last horse cross-country at 3.30 and have to be on a plane soon afterwards. There will be no time faults on that one!”

Tim on Bango, who is now his main hope for the Olympics (Image: Libby Law)
Tim on Bango, who is now his main hope for the Olympics (Image: Libby Law)

Kentucky will be Bango’s second four-star event; he finished a very good 15th at Luhmühlen last year. “He’s looking good and I’m excited about him. He hasn’t learned how to win yet, but I think he is a very good horse. He’s just learning to focus.” 

Tim has had the 10-year-old since the horse was three, and has taken his development very slowly. “It feels like I have been bringing him on for 100 years and he is a different kettle of fish to Wesko.”

Bango’s performance at Kentucky will therefore be crucial for Tim’s chances for Olympic selection, but Tim has other plans to reinforce his Rio prospects. Ringwood Sky Boy is qualified for the Olympics, and is entered for Badminton. He has a good track record at four-star level, although isn’t always the best over the coloured poles, so on this basis possibly would not be selectors’ favourite, given that there are two rounds of show jumping to do.

Tim with Ringwood Skyboy (left), a useful backup horse, and Wekso (right) (Image: Libby Law)
Tim with Ringwood Sky Boy (left), a useful backup horse, and Wesko (right) (Image: Libby Law)

“I have some other irons in the fire. I am in the useful position that there are two of us and we can spread our bets. Not everyone is in bed with another top rider – well, not that they can say publicly!”

One of these ‘irons’ is Cloud Dancer who has been well prepared by Tim’s wife Jonelle. He and Jonelle won the 8-9YO CIC3* class at Blenheim Horse Trials last year, and he was fifth at Luhmühlen in the CIC3*. Jonelle is already qualified to ride him at the Olympics, but all things going well, will ride either Faerie Dianimo or Classic Moet. 

Jonelle on Cloud Dancer; Tim has now taken over the ride (Image: Jane Thompson)
Jonelle on Cloud Dancer; Tim has now taken over the ride (Image: Jane Thompson)

Tim rode Cloud Dancer (‘Marley’) in the CIC2* Belton last weekend on a mission to get Olympic qualifications on this horse. He is now aiming to ride him at Samaur CCI3* in May to gain the final qualifications.

We hope that Plan B plays out well for Tim. And we are sure that you join us to wish Tim all the best for his Olympic quest and for Wesko’s speedy recovery.

Wesko's mastery of all three phases made him a strong medal contender for Rio (Image: Libby Law)
Wesko’s mastery of all three phases made him a strong medal contender for Rio (Image: Libby Law)