Mr. Medicott, sired by the famed show jumping stallion Cruising, was bred by Dr. Donal Geany and born in Ireland in 1999 with the name Crag Cave Slieveluachra. Produced as a young horse by Francis Connors, the traditional Irish Sport Horse was acquired by Hermann Horst from Nigel Taylor in England at the age of six for German rider Frank Ostholt and set on the path that would lead him to compete at the highest level of the sport with three different riders.
“He was always very ambitious,” Ostholt recalled of the 16.3 hand chestnut gelding. “He was quite forward thinking, very brave, a very good jumper with a strong mind.” Mr. Medicott, or “Cave” as he is known in the barn, had only done some show jumping in Ireland prior to his purchase. Ostholt introduced Cave to the sport of eventing, taking him to his first CIC* event at Kreuth in Rieden, Germany, where the pair placed eighth.
As a 7-year-old, Cave competed at the FEI Eventing World Breeding Championships for Young Horses at Le Lion d’Angers, where he finished fifth. The competition at Le Lion d’Angers features the best and brightest young stars in the sport and top finishers at Lion frequently go on to successful careers at the highest level. Cave’s star was certainly shining bright.
In 2007, Ostholt stepped Cave up to three-star (now four-star), competing him at the level for the first time at Strezgom in Poland. Ostholt cited his win with Cave at Strezgom as one of his favorite memories during their career together, and things were just getting started.
The following year, Ostholt and Cave were named to the team that would represent Germany at the 2008 Olympic Games. His 25th place performance in Beijing helped secure team gold for Germany. Later that same year Cave competed in his first four-star at Les Étoiles de Pau in France, finishing in third.
Two years later in 2010, Cave made his first trip to the United States as part of the German team competing at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Together he and Ostholt finished individually in 21st place.
In 2011, Cave returned to the United States under the ownership of the Mr. Medicott Syndicate, which included Sarah Broussard, Ms. Jacqueline Mars, and Suzanne Lacy, as a prospective mount for Karen O’Connor to take to the London Olympics in 2012.
“He’s so smart. He’s a horse that absolutely loves his job,” said Max Corcoran, who worked as a groom for the O’Connors for more than 10 years. “Cave and I sort of met at a funny time because he arrived and we had this job to get done to get him to the Olympic Games in less than a year and I knew nothing about him. When he came, I didn’t know his barn name, I didn’t know what he ate, I didn’t know anything, and he is very particular about what he likes.”
“I have such an admiration for horses that show up and love their work a lot, and that horse showed up for work every single day,” Corcoran continued. “It wasn’t easy for him – he was with Frank for so long and he got picked up and chucked into a program with such high intensity that he knew nothing about. He had no reason to be as good as he was because his world had been completely tossed upside down. He’s a chestnut, he’s a hot Thoroughbred, he’s all those things, and he could have been harder and tougher than he was, but he wasn’t. He loved the job and continued to do his thing.”
“Because the horse had been ridden by a German man, it took Karen a little bit of time to figure him out,” Corcoran said. “Linda Zang was teaching a lot down in Florida that winter and we were trying this bit and that bit, and finally she said, ‘Karen, this horse has been ridden like a German man. You have to ride him like a German man. That’s all he knows.’ So, she established a program and taught Karen how to ride him because he was so different from anything she had ridden and produced herself. And we were under the gun – we got the horse in December and we had to be at Kentucky in April.”
Ultimately, O’Connor would only ride Cave for a single season, but it was an impressive one. They placed in the top five at the CIC3* at Red Hills and The Fork before going on to finish fourth at the 2012 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event. From there, the pair went to Bromont in Canada, where they won the CIC3*, and then traveled to Europe for their final Olympic prep run at Barbury Castle. At the Olympic Games, O’Connor and Cave added only 5.6 time penalties on cross-country to their dressage score and jumped clean in show jumping to finish in ninth place individually, the highest-placed U.S. pair at the Games that year.
Following O’Connor’s retirement at the end of 2012 and with the help of Dr. Mark Hart and the Event Owners Task Force, a group of owners including Bruce Duchossois, Annie Jones, Stephanie Speakman, Tom Tierney, and Caroline Moran came together to join the existing Mr. Medicott Syndicate and secure the ride on Cave for Phillip Dutton. “It was really exciting to get the ride on Cave,” recalled Phillip. “I’d obviously seen Cave with Karen and had admired him.”
“I didn’t have a lot of time to get to know him as I remember as we started to compete straight away, but fortunately we clicked from the beginning,” Phillip said. “Cave is a very enthusiastic horse – he always seems excited to be ridden and to go about his day. At the competitions this excitement can take a bit of managing, however I always felt this came from Cave loving the sport and his job.”
Phillip and Cave came out swinging, placing 16th at their first CIC3* together at the 2013 Richland Park Horse Trials and then fifth the following month at the CIC3* at Plantation. From there the pair traveled back to Europe for Cave’s third appearance at Les Étoiles de Pau, where they finished in fourth place.
In the spring of 2014, Phillip and Cave competed at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event. They were lying in third place following a brilliant round across the country, but Cave had aggravated an old tendon injury on cross-country and was withdrawn before the final horse inspection.
Cave spent the next two years battling injuries, returning briefly to international competition in 2015 before sustaining another injury which would sideline him all the way through the 2016 season. At the time, Phillip’s groom Emma Ford stated, “He loves life [and] wants to work. We’re taking it day by day. He’s not ready to quit and we’re not ready to quit on him.”
It’s a good thing they didn’t because one of Cave’s most impressive career accomplishment still lay ahead of him. At the age of 18, after nearly three years away from the level, Cave returned to the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event once more to take home the 2017 USEF National CCI4* Championship title and overall fourth place, proving to the world that his love for the sport could overcome even the greatest obstacles.
“Probably the most rewarding time with Cave was the last event I did on him - the Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI4* where he was fourth and the highest-placed U.S. horse,” Phillip commented. “Because of injuries we hadn’t competed much for two years, so we were pretty under prepared, but Cave’s heart and class carried us through.”
While retired from four-star competition, Cave wasn’t ready for complete retirement, and so Phillip passed the reins to his daughter, Olivia Dutton. “I was really excited when I heard I got the ride on Cave,” Olivia said. “I always admired him and loved his quirky personality when my dad was riding him. A part of me was also nervous because I knew that he was a big strong horse, and I didn't know if I would be able to ride him.”
Olivia needn’t have worried though, because she and Cave were successful right from the start. The pair earned a slew of top-10 finishes at the national Training and Preliminary levels during the latter half of 2017 and early 2018 before tackling their first international competition together at Fair Hill in April, where they were third.
“Cave was very different from any horses I had ridden before,” observed Olivia. “I was used to riding little and quiet horses. It was a big adjustment for me, but we took it one step at a time and I truly think that Cave knew he had to take care of me. We grew a strong relationship where we could both trust each other.”
Olivia and Cave had their sights set on the CICOY2* at the North American Youth Championships (NAYC) in 2018. “We focused a lot on fitness, but it was a balance to look after his legs,” Olivia said. “Instead of galloping him often, we swam him so there would be less impact on his legs.” They earned their two-star qualification for the NAYC in the Jersey Fresh International Three-Day Event CIC2* where they added 9.2 time penalties to their dressage score.
Cave and Olivia were selected to represent Area II at the NAYC, which was held at The Event at Rebecca Farm. An unfortunate 20 penalties on cross-country kept Cave and Olivia out of the individual ribbons, but their double clear show jumping round still contributed to Area II’s team gold medal. “I am so thankful I had the amazing opportunity to ride Cave,” Olivia shared. “He is such an amazing and talented horse who knew his job and worked very hard for his riders. Cave had such a lasting impact on me, and really helped me as a rider.” Cave was formally retired following show jumping at the NAYC in a moving ceremony with the Dutton family, Corcoran, and Sarah Broussard, who was a major part of bringing him to the U.S.
All in all, Mr. Medicott completed 50 FEI events over the course of his career with five different riders, finishing in the top 10 at 30 of those competitions. He completed five CCI5* events with three different riders, always finishing in the top 10, and attended two Olympic Games and one World Equestrian Games for two different countries. Cave is now happily retired at Ms. Jacqueline Mars’ Stonehall Farm in Virginia.
The USEA Horse Heroes series celebrates equine athletes who have contributed to the sport again and again, competing with multiple riders at the upper levels of the sport. Do you know of a horse hero who deserves recognition? Email your tips to [email protected].
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This article will be updated to include statements as they are released from upcoming USEA recognized events regarding actions they are taking due to the coronavirus (COVID-19).