The world’s first World Equestrian Games was held in Stockholm in 1990, and was hugely memorable when legendary show jumpers and long-time rivals, Great Britain’s John Whitaker with Milton, America’s Greg Best with Gem Twist, and France’s Pierre Durand with Jappeloup went head to head.
The Games in Sweden were also a triumph for New Zealand’s tiny team of seven: with two gold medals we finished third in the overall medal count!
The eventing team was Blyth Tait (Messiah), Andrew Nicholson (Spinning Rhombus), Mark Todd (Bahlua) and Andrew Scott (Umptee), while Vicky Latta (Chief), and Vaughn Jefferis (Enterprise) rode as individuals. We also had an endurance rider, Howard Harris; and a show jumper, Tony Webb (Reservation).
How we fared:
Blyth and Messiah were crowned World Eventing Champions with just one show jumping rail added to their dressage score. Our team won gold too, well clear of nearest rivals Britain and West Germany. Andrew finished fourth on Spinning Rhombus, Mark fifth on Bahlua, Vicky and Chief were 11th, Andrew Scott 14th on Umptee and Vaughn 22nd on Enterprise.
Messiah finished the dressage in eighth place and was superb on the roads and tracks and across country. He had two rails in hand and may well have show jumped clear, but a mighty roar from the crowd sent him galloping at the final fence, an upright, which he felled. Blyth said of him afterwards: “He was brilliant; I am relieved and delighted!”
Spinning Rhombus won the ‘Fittest Horse’ award for Andrew, flying across country under time and still fresh at the finish.
Show jumpers Tony Webb and Reservation were outclassed but enjoyed good moments in the arena, handling some of the most difficult problems well.
Howard, whose endurance horse went lame on arrival in Sweden, was unable to compete.
The best of the rest:
France dominated in the jumping arena, with Eric Navet claiming the individual honours and joining team-mates Hubert Bourdy, Roger-Yves Bost and Pierre Durand to take the team title; a total of 16 teams took part.
Eric realised the dream for many generations of his family when he was victorious with the stallion Quito de Baussy, bred by his father Alain. This was particularly significant given that the horse-swap individual final included some of the greatest equine legends of all time including the duo of magnificent greys, Milton and Gem Twist.
It was Great Britain’s John Whitaker and Milton who lined up in silver medal position ahead of Hubert Bourdy in bronze while Greg Best finished individually fourth, though Gem Twist earned the title of ‘World’s Best Horse’.
In dressage, it was double gold for West Germany; Nicole Uphoff and Rembrandt were individual champions, ahead of Finland’s Kyra Kyrklynd and Matador, with the bronze going to West Germany’s Monica Theodorescu and Ganimedes.
Team silver went to the Soviet Union, and team bronze to Switzerland.
In the eventing, individual silver went to Ian Stark and Murphy Himself (GBR) while America’s Bruce Davidson and Pirate Lion took home individual bronze.
In endurance, a British team of four ‘mature ladies’ were the surprise gold team medallists, ahead of Belgium and Spain, while American Becky Hart and RO Grand Sultan won the individual title. Britain’s Jane Donovan won silver, and Australia’s Jane Petersen the bronze.
The driving team gold went to Sweden, from the Netherlands and Hungary. And in vaulting, the Swiss team took gold ahead of their fierce rivals East Germany, with USA taking bronze.
Facts & figures
A total of 37 countries participated in the 1990 FEI World Equestrian Games.
- Jumping 75 Participants (26 countries)
- Dressage 68 Participants (22 countries)
- Eventing 84 Participants (22 countries)
- Driving 52 Participants (18 countries)
- Endurance 81 Participants (19 countries)
- Vaulting 61 participants (15 countries)
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- Warding off winter – how to combat seasonal challenges to your horse’s health
- Winter nutrition guide
- Winter rug hacks
- At home with Angela Lloyd and Tich Massey
- Physical fitness for riders
- Dressage masterclass: improving connection