Olympic Spotlight: Blyth Tait and Chesterfield

New Zealand's Blyth Tait is the most promising contender for Three-Day Olympic Gold in Sydney. His victory, however, would be bittersweet because he will have only one of the two horses he qualified for Olympic competition.

Tait's 16-year-old thoroughbred partner, Chesterfield, died suddenly on Aug. 14 in England after a galloping workout. The suspected cause: cardiac arrest.

The bay gelding's loss is especially poignant because of how Tait and Chesterfield became partners.

Chesterfield's former owner, Melissa Bradley, died in a 1994 car accident. She had saved Chesterfield from the pet food factory after his days as a racehorse ended and rode him through her teens in Pony Club. Although most people thought the horse unremarkable, Melissa believed in his talent.

Chesterfield's Olympic Potential Recognized

It was her wish that if anything happened to her, Chesterfield would go to Tait, and it was with Tait that his Olympic potential was realized. The pair led the New Zealand team to the Bronze Medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and won the 1998 Burghley CCI in England.

Tait said that Chesterfield's loss is a blow to the New Zealand team but, more particularly, a personal loss to him. "I will miss him," says Tait. "He was a lovely horse."

Melissa's parents, Sue and Ewen Haglund, in Foxton, New Zealand, had planned to travel to Sydney to watch Chesterfield compete. They enjoyed following the horse's success as a reminder of their daughter. Now, those plans will change.

Chesterfield had been examined shortly before his death and appeared to be in excellent health. Tait reported that there was no indication that he was ill.

A spokesman for the New Zealand Olympic Committee expressed his sympathy to Tait, noting the special partnership that exists between a rider and his horse. Tait will compete in Sydney with his other Olympic qualifier, Ready Teddy, with whom he won the individual Gold Medal at the 1996 Atlanta games.