10 Unforgettable Olympians: Telebrae

In our countdown to Rio, we take a look at 10 of New Zealand's most memorable Olympic horses

Telebrae and Adrian shone in the second round at Rome
Telebrae and Adrian shone in the second round at Rome (Image: NZHP Library)

Rider: Adrian White

ROME, 1960

Our first equestrian Olympians, Adrian White and Mrs H.D. MacDonald’s Telebrae, were brought together by jumping coach Coloman Bolgar – a man on an Olympic mission.

Telebrae was produced by Graeme Goodin and later his brother David. It was the latter who formed a wonderful partnership with the gelding, competing him around the country to many great wins, and captaining a New Zealand show jumping team that beat the Australians at the Horse of the Year Show in Auckland.

But, according to David, there was “a fair bit of politics” in those days, and he was deemed not to be good enough to go to Rome, to his deep disappointment. Instead, Coloman decided to team the horse with Adrian, and persuaded the NZ Horse Society to watch Adrian and ‘Mac’ over an exact replica of the previous Olympic course. The Horse Society, impressed though dubious about Games participation, allowed the pair to embark on a European campaign.

Telebrae and Adrian had to successfully negotiate a replica of the Olympic tracks before they were allowed to campaign for Rome (Image: NZHP Library)
Telebrae and Adrian had to successfully negotiate a replica of the Olympic tracks before they were allowed to campaign for Rome (Image: NZHP Library)

After a six-week boat trip and recovery time in the UK, Adrian, Telebrae and groom John Howard set off across Europe in an ancient stocktruck, camping on roadsides, competing successfully and convincing the Horse Society of their Olympic worthiness. Telebrae was 10 years old, a black Clydie cross of 16.2hh; Adrian was a 27-year-old shepherd from Hawke’s Bay.

Telebrae jumped at Rome with bad bruising from a very recent fall. His first round was well below par and hampered by extraordinary shadows in the arena. He and Adrian shone in round two, though, and their score matched that of the gold medallist, Raimondo D’Inzeo (Posillipo). They finished 23rd.

Telebrae was later found to be blind in one eye, but he went on to more show jumping success in the UK (Image: NZHP Library)
Telebrae was later found to be blind in one eye, but he went on to more show jumping success in the UK with Pat Smythe (Image: NZHP Library)

Some time later, Telebrae was discovered to be blind in one eye; hence his problems with the shadows. He was bought by Pat Smythe, England’s leading woman show jumper of the time, and won the White City puissance with her. Adrian returned home to continue show jumping; four years later, he rode Eldorado at the Tokyo Olympics.

Adrian is now an organic farmer in Hawke’s Bay. Only one New Zealand rider has equalled his 23rd place in Olympic show jumping (Graeme Hansen, 23rd on Saba Sam, Tokyo 1964), and only one has beaten it (Daniel Meech, 12th on Diagonal, Athens, 2004).