The 9 horses that shone at the Olympics

By Julie Harding on |

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Dujardin Charlotte, (GBR), Valegro Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final Las Vegas 2015 © Hippo Foto - Dirk Caremans 16/04/15

With the equestrian action about to start in Rio, we look at the horses that have distinguished themselves at the Olympics.



There were many great horses during Richard Meade’s stellar career, but none more special than Laurieston, who claimed the first Olympic gold medal for a British event rider in history.

A tricky horse, Laurieston was powerful behind, but he didn’t always pick up in front over a jump, so he was sent hunting to cure the fault.

Mead and Laurieston were runners-up at Badminton in 1972, securing a ticket to the Munich Olympics. Hot to handle in the dressage, Laurieston stormed around the cross-country in the fastest time and claimed dual gold.


Bally Cor

Bally Cor was a highly unusual equestrian dual-gold medallist — a mare. Fate brought this daughter of a steeplechaser and 21-year-old Tad Coffin together on a particularly long American longlist to train for the 1976 Montreal Games.

“The thing about Bally was that she was unremarkable,” Coffin once said. “When you asked her to jump 3ft she would jump it, but she never made you think that she could jump 4ft. But she would not have won a gold medal if she hadn’t been as brave as a lion with the biggest of hearts.”

The pair lined up at Montreal as rank outsiders. They lay seventh after the dressage, went clear over a troublesome cross-country course — Princess Anne was one of the fallers — and were second going into the show jumping. When the leaders, Germany’s Karl Schulz and Madrigal, dislodged two rails, victory was theirs. Bally later became a brood mare.



Out of a Welsh section B mare, Mark Todd took on the pint-sized Charisma in 1983, only a year before the LA Olympics.

The horse travelled from New Zealand to the UK early that year and finished second at Badminton, before flying across the Pond to capture gold. Four years later, he won again — in Seoul — only the second horse to pull off this back-to-back feat in eventing history.

Todd once said of Charisma: “He was a magic character. He loved people, showing off and competing.” He was put down aged 30 in 2003 after an accident in his field.


Show jumping


Jappeloup’s story is the stuff of fairy tales. At the 1984 Olympics, the 15.2hh horse and his French rider Pierre Durand, a lawyer by trade, suffered humiliation when they fell at a fence.

The Frenchman contemplated quitting, but four years later he and Jappeloup were back meaning business, and they left every fence intact in Seoul for individual gold, leaving the legendary Gem Twist in second place.

For a highly emotional lap of honour, and in reverence to his horse, Durand tied his gold medal to Jappeloup’s breastplate. In 2013 the horse even had a film made in his honour.


Jus De Pomme

A chestnut stallion with a big heart and scope to match, Jus De Pomme left every enormous fence standing at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

This ensure that his name, and that of his rider, Ulrich Kirchhoff, were forever etched on show jumping’s individual and team roll of honour.

Tragically, the KWPN died shortly after his greatest victory, aged just 10. At the time of his death he had winnings totalling more than US$100,000.


Baloubet Du Rouet

Early on in the chestnut stallion’s career, it was suggested teaming him with a French rider. However, Baloubet Du Rouet’s owners, Nicole and Diogo Pereira Coutinho, had already promised him to Brazilian Rodrigo Pessoa, and so an extraordinary partnership was born.

Baloubet Du Rouet, by Galoubet A, won three World Cup Finals, team bronze at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and crowned his career with individual gold in 2004 in Athens. Following he retirement he stood at stud.




Dual-gold medallists in both Seoul and Barcelona, Nicole Uphoff’s Westfalian Rembrandt ranks on many lists as one of the greatest dressage horses of all time.

By Romador, he was purchased by the Uphoff family as a four-year-old when Nicole was just 13 and he proved a handful for his teenage rider. The family contemplated selling him, but thanks to training from Dr Uwe Schulten-Baumer and then former Olympian Harry Boldt, the pair excelled in junior ranks before taking to the Olympic stage.

After his death, Uphoff wrote: “It was as if part of me died with the horse with whom I was able to celebrate my greatest achievements. I owe him everything.”



The dark bay Hanoverian gelding by Salineri originally found his way to Anky van Grunsven’s yard to be sold on.

However, the intended client didn’t want him and van Grunsven decided to retain the ride — to good effect for the pair went on to capture back-to-back individual gold, in Athens and Beijing, with team silver thrown into the mix at the latter games and team bronze at London 2012 for good measure.

Salinero always had a great work ethic, but he could be hot and was renowned for his ultra brief halts.



So many adjectives have been used to describe the horse who has broken so many records and collected medals wherever he competes, taking the sport of dressage into a new league.

To the delight of a partisan crowd at the London Olympics, on a warm afternoon in August 2012, Valegro danced his way through Land of Hope and Glory and The Great Escape to score an equally searing 90.089% for his rider, Charlotte Dujardin.

The most successful partnership ever in pure dressage, the horse that was bought by Dujardin’s mentor Carl Hester for just €5,000 is also Britain’s first Olympic individual and team gold medallist in the sport.

Top image: Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro at the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final in Las Vegas in 2015, by Hippo Foto – Dirk Caremans, courtesy of the FEI


1 Comment

  1. Miriam Wilkins

    It has to be Valegro. People who had never heard of the sport of dressage before 2012, know who Valegro and charlotte du Jardin are.


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