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Get to know Tim Price…

GREG GRANT SADDLERY FULL FLIGHT THURSDAY STAR PRESENTER

Tim Price’s nonchalant happy go lucky appearance belies the fierce competitor bubbling just below the surface. The former world  no.1 eventer is generous with his knowledge, and a real team player who is happy to spend time encouraging other riders, giving advice or just shooting the breeze. He truly is one of the good guys and a naturally gifted horseman who manages to get the best out of each of his rides.

He worked his way to the top the hard way, often taking on horses others had given up on or couldn’t get a tune out of. 

Tim spent his very early years in Christchurch on New Zealand’s South Island. When he was around five the family moved to a farm near Oxford, in Canterbury. It’s a small town that services the farming community and well known as one of the best places to see the Milky Way and other dark sky goodies with the naked eye.

He adored farm life where he was surrounded by horses and quickly learnt to ride “on a little hairy pony” called Silver.

“He was a very cool little grey pony . . . a giveaway one that I would hoon around on with my brothers. We’d ride to school and just do all those fun fast things.”

His natural talent was clear from an early age and he barrelled around doing Pony Club. 

“I don’t think there were many red ribbons being collected at Pony Club in those early days, it was more just games.”

But he progressed to represent the club at the Springsteen Trophy. “It is a competition throughout the South Island that Pony Clubs all go out and try to win. I think we won it a couple of times which was quite cool as it was a lot of fun as well.”

He also went to Pony Club Champs where he rode for Canterbury who also managed to win the much coveted crown.

He excelled at showjumping, competing to world cup level and then moved on to eventing – only because he felt the horses he had at the time would be better suited to the triathlon of the equine world

Tim and wife Jonelle Price are the golden couple of the world of eventing and created history as the first husband and wife to ride at the Olympic Games for New Zealand and then for claiming the top two slots in the FEI world eventing rankings.

The trek firstly to their long-time base at Mere Farm in Wiltshire and more recently to their new digs at Chedington Estate in Dorset, is well worn. Many an aspiring young Kiwi has headed there for their first taste of international eventing and been kindly nurtured by the couple.

Both Tim and Jonelle are fiercely competitive but equally each other’s biggest cheerleader. Between them they have eight CCI5*-L crowns – the highest ranked competition in the world for eventing – with Olympic Games and World Champs also on their CVs.

 

Tim won his first 5* aboard Wesko in 2014 at Luhmuhlen in Germany, a victory he calls his “breakthrough” moment. That was followed by Burghley (2018) with Ringwood Sky Boy, Luhmuhlen again (2019) on Ascona, Pau in France with Falco (2021) and Maryland (2022) aboard Coup de Coeur Dudevin.

He made his first Olympic team at Rio in 2016 with Ringwood Sky Boy, then Tokyo in 2021 with Vitali where he placed 24th individually and the team fifth. Tim made his debut for New Zealand at World Champs with Wesko at Normandy (2014), again at Tryon (2018) aboard Cekatinka, finishing eighth individual and the team seventh, and then donned the silver fern again in 2022 for Pratoni, Italy where he went double bronze with an individual aboard Falco and as part of the team.

He spent 15 weeks at world No.1, filling the slot first in 2019, and more recently in 2023. 

But it is with a wry smile that he admits he would have thought all would be “a bit far-fetched” if someone had given his 18-year-old self the heads up on his future.

“Nothing gets dished up to you on a platter,” he says. “You’ve got to earn it but it does help if you have some backing because then you can fast track the whole process. I do think though it is really important what fighting for it does in terms of your ambition, cause and robustness in a sport that knocks you physically, mentally and financially.”

Tim felt it was tough for Southern Hemisphere eventers to just drop into the UK scene and pick up a string of good horses. “There’s no fast track to that one. You’ve got to come over here and get yourself established both with the sport and the people within the sport.”

An open friendly face goes a long way. “I think that is why Kiwis tend to do quite well with collecting a few owners but you’ve still got to be doing a good job on whatever horses you’ve got – within reason. If you are on an average horse you’ve got to be seen to be doing a better than average job. That turns a few heads.”

People remembered things like that. “Unless you are very lucky or have some sort of leg up into owners it is going to be about those things and that just takes time.”

A massive part of the whole picture was how you looked after people, how you communicated, ran your business and managed to deliver on what you said you would with owner’s precious horses.

Tim knows only too well what it is like to have a slew of mostly average horses and saying yes to riding anything that came your way.

But he and Jonelle are a lifetime away from that now. “It was cool to be world No.1 and No.2 at the same time but it is just a part of the journey. The next step is for us both to be on a medal-winning team at the Paris Olympic Games.”

He’s not sure who would be his preferred Paris mount, saying he is pretty fortunate to have a few suitable horses including Jarillo, Coup de Cour Dudevin and Falco. “We’ll see who puts their hand up the highest!”

He’s very excited to have the Olympic Games hosted in a horse-loving country. “It is going to be incredible and so beautiful,” he says.

“I am very happy with my string at the moment – I have good depth and breadth and they are all very nice horses.”

Tim’s favourite of all time is somewhere between Wesko and Ringwood Sky Boy. “Skyboy was such a great horse because he tried very hard every time and actually holds the world record for the amount of 5* completions – 18 completions out of 22 attempts.  

It was when Tim won the 5* at Luhmuhlen in 2014, he suddenly realised he could foot it with the big guys. “I figured it was actually easy if you are on the right horse and have the confidence and preparation in place to go and deliver good results.”

From then on, he got serious about things. “I thought I really could be a force to be reckoned with rather than just an also ran.”

But as everyone knows, it’s not all beer and skittles. When there is a disappointing day at the office, Tim reminds himself of the words of basketball great Michael Jordan. “The list of losing attempts he made far outweighs the winners . . . that’s how it is at the top.”

He’s quick to add the team behind the scenes is critical to the action in front. “You are only as good as the team behind you. They almost need to be as competitive and competitive minded at least as ourselves. It is our job to emphasise to them just how important it is that they do their jobs well so we can do our jobs well. It is critical that they have their eyes in every corner of all facets of running the yard and looking after the horses.”

They’ve had some real crackers over the past decade including Kerryn Edmunds who in 2022 won the FEI Best Groom Award and Lucy Miles.

Tim and Jonelle are parents to Otis and Able. “They are just little kids being little kids doing everything. I have just been skiing with Otis and he loved that. Able likes to ride but doesn’t beg for it. We’re not about to shove it at them.”

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