Richard “Dick” and Vita Thompson were very special supporters of the sport of eventing. Their love of the sport and their desire to see the U.S. succeed on the international scene moved them to become event horse owners in the early days of eventing in the U.S. So many of our country’s finest event horses were owned by the Thompsons and lifelong friendships were forged with riders such as Jim Wofford, Karen O’Connor, and Hannah Sue Burnett. The Thompsons were active members of the Radnor Hunt and developed a passion for the sport of eventing, devoting many hours every year to the running of the Radnor Hunt Three-Day Event.
The Thompsons bought and supported many of the most talented and successful horses in eventing, beginning with the great Castlewellan, who was ridden by Wofford. Wofford and Castlewellan went on to win the Radnor Hunt International Three-Day Event in 1982, were second at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event and fifth at Burghley International Horse Trials in 1983, feats that led to them to be named the reserve horse and rider for the 1984 Olympic Games.
Not only did the couple generously provide financial support and horses for team selection, they also volunteered to work at the Olympic Games both in 1984 and 1996. When Wofford retired from active competition after the 1984 Olympics, he recommended the young Karen Lende (now O’Connor) take over the ride on Castlewellan. O’Connor and Castlewellan went on to dominate the field at Chesterland the following year, winning by 30 points and launching the career of one of the best international riders the U.S. has ever had.
While the list of horses that carried the blue and emerald colors of the Thompsons’ Sea Horse Farm was long and illustrious: Park Hall, Mr. Maxwell, Nos Ecus, Joker’s Wild, Upstage, to name just a few, it was Biko with his white face, noble head, immense presence, and endless talent that brought the couple one of their proudest moments. Biko and O’Connor represented the U.S. in team competition on numerous occasions, earning a team silver medal in Atlanta. In 1999, Biko was named USEA Horse of the Century for earning more lifetime points in competition than any other horse and was inducted into the USEA’s Eventing Hall of Fame in 2006. Eventing in America would not have had such a successful history without the generosity and devotion of Richard and Vita Thompson.