Spring is the time for new beginnings. And, it would seem, a few endings.
Three Olympic show jumpers have been declared retirement bound this week, while one more was mistakenly accused of it.
On Wednesday, news broke that Olympic double gold medalists Nick Skelton (GBR) and Big Star will compete no more. The British team veteran was the comeback story of the Rio Games, returning to the sport in 2002 after suffering broken neck to capture Olympic team gold (2012) and individual gold (2016) aboard Big Star.
Explained the 59-year-old rider on nickskelton.com:
“It has come to a point, after months of thought and consideration, that myself and my partner Big Star have decided to retire from competition.
“Although there are many people, including my family, Gary and Beverley and my team that were looking forward to us carrying on this year, we feel that Big Star has done everything that a rider could ask and it is time for him to relax and enjoy his stallion duties.
“As for myself, I have always stated that when Big Star was finished I would be as well. This sport has given me more than I could have ever hoped over the past 43 years and it is such a difficult decision to make, but I’m not getting any younger and it is nice for the two of us to end on the highest note possible.
“Thank you to all of the incredible friends and fans for your support, we are truly appreciative and humbled. Thank you to all of my owners and sponsors throughout my career, I couldn’t have done it without you. And lastly, thank you to all of the horses I’ve ridden, you have provided me with opportunities one could never have imagined.”
Skelton ends his career with 16 medals from the World Championships (one silver, four bronze), European Championships (three gold, silver and bronze apiece) and Olympic Games (two gold). He won the World Cup Final in 1995 and has ridden on over 164 Nations Cups teams.
An official retirement ceremony will be held for Skelton and Big Star in the Castle Arena at Royal Windsor Horse Show on Sunday 14th May.
Joining Big Star in the life of leisure is Rio team silver medalist, Cortes ‘C.’
On Thursday, the John Madden Sales Facebook page announced that Beezie Madden’s famed partner will no longer astound crowds with his leg crossing antics.
With Cortes ‘C,’ Madden (USA) was a double bronze medalist at the 2014 World Equestrian Games and became the first female rider in history to capture the King George Cup, which they did twice. The 2002 Belgium Warmblood gelding incurred a tendon injury in round one of team competition at the 2016 Rio Olympics, prompting Madden to withdraw from the Games. They haven’t competed since.
Read the statement on her Facebook page:
Many of you have asked for an update and others are probably wondering about Cortes ‘C’s recovering. On behalf of Cortes ‘C’s owner, Mrs. Abigail Wexner, we are announcing Cortes’ retirement from competition. We are thankful to his team of veterinarians who have helped him heal following his injury at the 2016 Olympic Games. Tiny will return from his winter home at Authentic Stables in Wellington to our home base in Cazenovia this spring where he will enjoy his retirement.
“‘We have been blessed to have Tiny in our family and as a part of Team JMS. Our back to back wins together in the King George Cup as well as his ‘Best Horse of the Games’ (Team and Individual Bronze Medal) title in the 2014 World Equestrian Games will remain some of my best memories. I will always be grateful for the time we’ve had together in the sport and am now extremely grateful for the time we will have together in his retirement,” said Beezie Madden.
Cortes will live out his days with Madden’s herd of retirees on Madden Mountain.
In related retirement news: Madden’s Rio teammate McLain Ward reached the number one spot on the world rankings this month for the second time in his career. He has yet to announce his retirement plans, despite what the Horse Network archives suggest.