Talent-spotter disappointed at horse missing British team
AN equestrian talent spotter is “gutted” that a horse she discovered narrowly missed out on
AN equestrian talent spotter is “gutted” that a horse she discovered narrowly missed out on competing for Team GB at the Olympics, writes Phil Simms.
Susie Pragnell, from Harpsden, was asked by London 2012 silver medallist Tina Cook to find her a horse to give her a chance of gold in the eventing.
Unfortunately, nine-year-old Billy the Red was deemed too young and inexperienced by the team’s selectors, so the pair missed out on a starting place and had to settle for being a reserve in Rio.
Miss Pragnell said the selectors must have thought such a young horse could have found the atmosphere of the Olympics difficult.
“It is a very tight-knit area with flags, cameras and lots of people,” she said. “It is a bit like Wembley and the atmosphere can make horses spook if they are not used to it.
“Normally horses go to the Olympics when they are about 10 years old. The selection committee watches various events but also decides on the rider’s experience, which is why I thought Tina would be in.
“She has won medals at the last two Olympics and you couldn’t find a rider with a better temperament.”
Miss Pragnell has selected horses for the last nine Olympics and has previously sold some for Princess Anne, Capt Mark Phillips, Lord Webber and the Sultan of Oman.
She was approached by Cook, who also won bronze in Beijing in 2008, in 2014 and Elisabeth Murdoch, daughter of media magnate Rupert Murdoch, offered to fund the purchase.
Miss Pragnell said: “I am probably the best known in the country for doing this job and, thankfully, I have had a lot of Olympic horses.
“In one Olympics I had nine horses competing for five different nations. I found Billy in Gloucester and he was able to start at an intermediate level because he had competed before. He moved up last year to three-star level and went extremely well.”
The horse came third in a big field at Boekelo in Holland last year, seventh at Chatsworth and second at Bramham this spring.
Miss Pragnell did have one of her horses competing in Brazil — for Puerto Rican rider Lauren Billys.
She said: “I sold him three years ago having spotted him in Warwickshire.”
Miss Pragnell began talent-spotting after a short career as an eventer. She competed at the Horse of the Year show three years running.
Her most successful horse to date is Winsome Adante, whom she found in Harpsden. He went on to win a team bronze medal for the USA and an individual silver at the 2004 Olympic Games.
• Team GB finished in fifth place in the team eventing in Rio.