“What to look for?” is deliberated on by Olympians who need to keep upgrading, so as to stay in contention for the next Olympics in four years’ time. “What to look for?” is deliberated on by professional event riders who have been very successful but are yet to perform well in a 4* or 5* three-day event. “What to look for?” is deliberated on by young superstars between 18 and 30 years of age who have done well as young riders but now need to step up in the senior classes. “What to look for?” is deliberated on by parents with a 14-year-old child who is so enthusiastic and showing super talent. Here is my hit list of considerations.
I recommend that your prospective eventer should be between 5-8 years of age. This age bracket is old enough to start work and training straight away and young enough to have the possibilities of competing in three Olympics. So, a five-year-old would have four years before the first Olympics and would be nine, four years before the second Olympics and would be 13, and four years before the third Olympics and would be 17.
I recommend not smaller than 15.3hh and not bigger than 17.1hh. This range has a very clear record of competing successfully at the Olympics. A smaller horse is possible but the odds are much longer. A taller horse is also possible but again unlikely. Always try and keep the odds in your favour. Horses outside these parameters are at much longer odds.
Thoroughbreds, Thoroughbred crosses and Warmbloods are where the most likely Olympic individuals of the future will be found. Thoroughbreds these days find it difficult to win in the lower grades. This is very frustrating for all riders, except the very experienced professional. Thoroughbreds will, however, almost inevitably have courage, speed and stamina which at the 4* and 5* levels are very important qualities.
Warmbloods on the other hand really do win the lower grades and will usually have nice dressage paces, good technique over fences and usually a good temperament. Thoroughbred crosses, such as the Warmblood/Thoroughbred cross, with a bit of luck can have all of these qualities in one package and that is a potential superstar. Thoroughbreds will cross with most breeds and occasionally produce Olympic horses. Other breeds such as Connemara ponies crossed with the Thoroughbred have produced the odd great outcome.
Horses that are a full brother or a full sister to an Olympic horse are likely to be good horses. Today with frozen semen being so readily available, horses such as Contendro I, who was the leading sire of eventers in the world last year, or Chilli Morning, who is the only stallion to win the Badminton 5* three-day event, are available to breeders and do increase the likelihood of an Olympic eventer.
Funnily enough, the colour does not matter in any way.
Stallions are in actual fact potentially good, but in reality should be avoided at all costs. Stallions are destiny bound to be caught up in freak accidents no matter how well they are behaved. A stallion is definitely long odds. You do not want a horse that has long odds. Geldings are the best from the point of view that they are the least likely to have an unpredictable accident. All horses can have a predictable accident, however, a good rider will manage their horse so that it never does have a predictable accident. Mares are perhaps slightly more brilliant and creative than geldings, however, some mares are a little more difficult to manage.