Goodbye, Mr Medicott: Former Team USA Behemoth Dies at 24

Phillip Dutton and Mr. Medicott. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

We’re sad to report that Mr Medicott, the talented former ride of Phillip Dutton and Karen O’Connor, has died at the age of 24, following five years of happy retirement.

The occasionally fiery gelding is, perhaps, best known for the result he earned in the swan song of his career: in 2017, after being sidelined with injuries for the best part of two seasons, he returned with a bang to finish fourth in Kentucky’s CCI5*, and, as best of the American entrants, became the USEF CCI5* (then CCI4*) National Champion with Phillip Dutton in the irons.

But before that moment, there was much to celebrate in the Irish Sport Horse’s (Cruising x Slieveluachra, by Edmund Burke) enormously varied career. He began life on the Emerald Isle, where he was bred by the late Dr. Donal Geaney, who named him Crag Cave for a fossil-rich site in Kerry. As a four-year-old, he was started by Francis Connors, and was sold to Germany to begin his international career under the saddle of Frank Ostholt.

Together, Frank and ‘Cave’ made their way to the very upper echelons of the sport. Cave first made headlines as a seven-year-old when he finished fifth at Le Lion d’Angers, and the following spring, he stepped up to what we now call four-star, taking fifth on his debut at Marbach and then winning Strzegom’s CCI4*-S in June. Later that year, he was second at the Nations Cup finale at Boekelo and the following year, 2008, he was sixth in the German National Championships at Luhmühlen and third at CHIO Aachen, which helped him to gain the nod for the Beijing Olympics that summer. There, Frank and Cave would help secure a team gold medal for Germany, and return to the continent to finish their year off with a sparkling third-place finish at Pau CCI5*.

We wouldn’t see Cave again at an international competition until 2010, but after that first stint of time off, he proved he hadn’t left any of his greatness behind: he won the CCI4*-L at Saumur on his first FEI run back, went to the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky later that year, and then, in 2011, finished in the top ten at Pau again. That was to be his last run with Frank — because it was time for Cave to move to the US.

Karen O’Connor and Mr. Medicott show jumping at Rolex 2012.

His first partner Stateside was Karen O’Connor, who secured the ride thanks to the newly-formed Mr Medicott Syndicate, including Sarah Broussard, Jacqueline Mars, and Suzanne Lacy, with the London Olympics in mind as a goal event. Though Karen and Cave only spent one season together, it was a season jam-packed with enormous achievements: they finished fourth in Kentucky’s CCI5* that spring, won Bromont’s CCI4*-S, and got named to the US team for London, ultimately finishing ninth individually and best of the American contingent. That helped him to earn the title of 2012 USEA Horse of the Year. Marilyn Little then enjoyed two three-star runs on Cave at the beginning of 2013, deputising for an injured Karen and finishing in the top ten on both occasions, before Dr. Mark Hart and the Event Owners Task Force, which included Bruce Duchossois, Annie Jones, Stephanie Speakman, Tom Tierney, and Caroline Moran, joined up with the Mr Medicott Syndicate to secure the ride for Phillip Dutton.

Phillip Dutton and Mr. Medicott. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

One of the great injustices of equestrian sport is that so often, the truly great horses don’t get the full expanse of their career to show off all they can do, and that was certainly the case for Cave. He and Phillip gelled nearly instantly when they came together midway through 2013, and they finished their year with a fourth-place finish at Pau — one of Cave’s happiest of hunting grounds — but they had to withdraw overnight at Kentucky in 2014, while sitting in third place, due to an injury that saw the gelding take nearly a full year out of international competition before returning for one run in 2015, and then taking a further two years out. When he finally returned, it was to earn that fourth-place finish and National title at Kentucky in 2017, and after that, Phillip decided to end the then-eighteen-year-old’s top-level career and hand the reins to his teenage daughter, Olivia, who enjoyed learning from him through the first half of the 2018 season.

Cave’s career officially ended in a poignant retirement ceremony at Rebecca Farm in July of 2018 — an occasion that also marked the 50th FEI competition of his career. There, he’d helped to earn a gold medal for the Area II team at the Adequan FEI North American Youth Championships with then-16-year-old Olivia on board. After that, he began his retirement at Phillip’s True Prospect Farm in Pennsylvania, before moving to Jacqueline Mars’s Stonehall Farm in Virginia in 2019. He passed away at there on September 17th.

Cave retires at Rebecca with several of his favourite people beside him. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

“He was certainly a character,” Phillip said in an interview with US Eventing. “He was a big cribber. If he was ever in the barn you knew where he was at because you could hear him! He enjoyed life and was one of those ones that pinned his ears and tried to bite you as you were doing up the girth, but he liked the attention and liked to be hugged. He was pretty prepared to express himself, it didn’t matter whether it was good or bad. He was very confident in himself. He was certainly one of those horses who truly loved what he did.”

Our condolences are with everyone who moved through this special horse’s orbit.

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