Sunday, July 8, 2012

Low-key Luminosity

With all of the exciting hype surrounding Olympic eventing team announcements over the past few weeks, I think it has gone shockingly unnoticed what a wonderful and heartwarming addition Kristina Cook and Miners Frolic make to the 2012 British team. We hear lots about WFP. There is always primetime news surrounding Zara. And, Mary King is well-documented in a number of media outlets for her undeniable prowess as a stalwart member of many international and Olympic Team GBs. But, I don't think enough has been said of Tina. Now, she's no sentimental underdog; they earned their spot on this team due to a solid resume that includes team and individual bronze in Beijing, they were the European champions in 2009, and they most recently won team gold in 2010 at WEG. She and "Henry" have a dynamic history and an inspirational story. Much has been written and said lately of Boyd and Neville (understandably so), and many were heartbroken to see that Neville just wasn't ready for London this go around. I feel that, if you want a comeback story to root for this summer, look no farther than Tina and Miners Frolic. 

Tina has a long, successful history as an eventer, going back to her days as a junior rider for Great Britain. Jump riding is in her blood, as her father and brother both excelled in the sport of steeplechasing. But, of course, it is her time with Henry over the past 6 or 7 years that has made her an international star. However, their road together hasn't been all free and easy. 

At Badminton in 2005, Tina "came a'cropper" (as her fellow countrymen like to say) from Captain Christy at fence #25, an upright gate out of the Huntsman's Close. She was airlifted to a nearby hospital, with fractures to several vertebrae in her back, a very scary situation for any rider, as we all know. Tina made a strong and remarkable comeback to ride for Britain on Miners Frolic three years later at the Olympics, making them a frequent choice when it came to eventing team "go-to" riders. Unfortunately, Badminton hasn't been kind to Tina, as she fell from Henry there in 2010 at the water on cross-country, and Henry suffered an injury to his whithers that prevented him from competing in 2011. Tragically, in mid 2011 -- just nine months after winning team gold in Lexington -- Henry became ill with a life-threatening combination of colitis and endotoxemia (due to a bad reaction to an antibiotic used to treat his whither injury). While his condition was critical for a period of time, he slowly recovered and fully regained his health and strength. He didn't merely survive, he persevered, as he and Tina's 2012 record and their spot on the Olympic team proves. 

Photo by Josh Walker

All horse/rider combinations have their ups and downs. Everyone has a story of adversity overcome, and battles fought and won. But, I think that Kristina and Henry are a special story that warrants notice. In about three-weeks-time, there will be an outstanding collection of eventers to root for in London. Along with my eager support for Team USA, I will be cheering for Tina and Miners Frolic in Greenwich. They have nothing to prove, only a solid performance to provide for their team on their own home turf. Of many pairs you see galloping around in those 3 or 4 days, I would imagine that Tina will not simply be thrilled to represent Team GB for a second time, but will also be savoring every precious moment with her beloved four-legged partner that so easily could have never been. 

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