Super Pony With The Heart Of A Winner

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 “Teddy” and Karen O’Connor win the Gold
at 2007 Pan American Games in Brazil

~~~

Good things are said to come in small packages. And “Super Pony” Theodore O’Connor proves it.

Teddy, also known as the Flying Pony is the exciting new star of a tough equestrian sport called eventing.

At 14.1 hands high — a little more than 56 inches at the top of his shoulder — this mighty midget is a hair short of the height of a horse. But that hasn’t stopped him from winning big — really big.

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Teddy thrilled the horse world by winning an Individual Gold Medal and helping the United States win the Team Gold at the 2007 Pan American Games in Brazil this past July.

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If he continues to perform at this level over the winter in Florida and into the spring, he and his rider, Karen O’Connor, of The Plains, Va., could make the U.S. Olympic equestrian team next year and travel to Beijing.

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Teddy once again displayed his amazing athletic ability, under the skillful guidance of his Olympic veteran rider, to the delight of their growing throng of international fans.

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Teddy, Karen’s bionic pony partner, is a 14.2h sport pony, bred by P. Wynn Norman. “He doesn’t know he’s small,”   says Karen.

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He has tremendous springs and a huge jump, making even the most difficult combinations look like simple gymnastics.

Teddy is 3/4 Thoroughbred, 1/8 Arabian, and 1/8 Shetland Pony and, with Karen on board, thinks all things are possible!

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Eventing is a demanding three-part test of horse and rider.

Part I is usually dressage. The goal is to make a difficult set of carefully controlled movements look simple. It requires precision, balance and grace.

Part II is usually cross-country, which involves 25 to 40 jumps strung across a course of several miles. Cross-country showcases strength, endurance and smarts.

Part III is show-jumping, which is done in a ring. This measures speed, nimbleness and accuracy.

In all three areas, Teddy makes up for his size with something that can’t be measured in inches: a huge heart.

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“It doesn’t cross his mind that it can’t be done,” says O’Connor, even though Teddy is so small he sometimes can’t see what’s on the other side of a cross-country jump.

As Teddy approaches a jump that might be four feet high and 6 1/2 feet wide, O’Connor’s job is to keep him “wanting to be careful but also brave and confident.”

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Eventing takes a lot of training, which takes a lot of time. Many horses in the sport are teen-agers. Teddy, a chestnut gelding, is 12.

Several trainers passed on a chance to work with Teddy because they thought of him as a kid’s mount. O’Connor saw past his size to his potential. The result is a champion pairing that’s the talk of the eventing circuit.

Teddy comes from a breeder who has been experimenting with a mix of thoroughbreds, Arabian horses and Shetland ponies. Although Teddy is worth $300,000 to $400,000, the group that owns him isn’t looking to make money; it just wants to support his career.

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O’Connor’s husband, 2000 Olympic gold-medalist David O’Connor, compares Teddy to a wide receiver in football or “a 5-7 point guard” in basketball.

Teddy beats much larger competition because he is so quick, intelligent and athletic, David O’Connor says.

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 His wife agrees. “Size is never going to stop Teddy,” she says. “He feels like a giant out there.”

~~~

Update
Farewell, Teddy
May 29, 2008

News Link: Washington Post

Link: O’Connor Event Team

Link:  Photographs from O’Connor Pan Am Gallery

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11 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This reminds me of a horse in South Africa and his rider, who’s name I can’t remember right now. I think I have some scans of some photos I shot of them. Anyway he was small probably around the same size as this “pony”. One of the big 3 phase events at the time in SA was the Dunhill Derby in Johannesburg and they had monstrous jumps, which included banks to slide down and some of the most terrifying jumps I have ever seen, it was Adult A grade and the jumps were taller than some of the smaller riders when they had to walk the course, and this little thing blew all the competition away the last year I saw the event which was shortly before I left for England.

    Great memories thanks.
    Lori

    ~~
    Lori,
    What a fantastic story that would be. Hope you post photos and write about it. Would love to know all the details. What a great time that must have been for you!

    Now, you have brought back memories for me.

    At the LA International Equestrian show, years ago, I had an open jumper in the show. He did great and I was proud of him. But what caught everyone’s attention was this little non-descript “pony” from Mexico.

    It was a timing event with the height of the jumps being increased with every round. Style didn’t matter. And … believe me, neither the rider nor the pony had style.

    The rider looked like the stable boy, but he was incredible. They both looked like energizer bunnies. Needless to say, they won. And the crowds went absolutely … wild.

  2. amazing! My old Guy, Scooter is 14.3. perfect size horse for me but I wouldnt try eventing on him, lol

    Teddy is a remarkable horse indeed! he looks so tiny compared to the other horses in his sport.

  3. I have heard about Teddy before, that is really cool! I’m glad to hear he’s doing so well. Those snobs at those upper levels need to learn to be more open to the possibilities. Teddy is giving them an education!

    I have a mare with a heart like that. I was going to market her for pony club but have decided instead to keep her. She is so talented and smart. She will try anything she is asked. I’ve always known that she was a horse that shouldn’t be overlooked because of her size.

    ~~~
    MiKael,
    You’re so right. The big fancy-dancys have a lot to learn about the little guys.

    I hope you keep your mare with the “can-do” attitude. What a great advertisement she is for your stunningly beautiful Arabians!

  4. What a wonderful story! I hope this starts a new trend. I’m tired of horses being overvalued just because they are big, with little tiny women riding these monsters.

    Who would have thought to throw in Shetland pony genes? But you know, Shetland pony genes could give a lot of toughness (and orneriness — forget I said that) to other breeds. I like TBs that flunk out at the track, preferably before racing, and they have such thin hoof walls and dainty feet. It might be a stroke of genius to throw in Shetland pony genes to that.

    The Arabian could add some interesting qualities, too.

    Wonderful story. Thank you!

    ~~~
    Anne,
    I’m all for that new trend! I, too, was fascinated with the Shetland pony genes. Like you suggested, it just might be the Shetland mix that gives that cute little guy the “I can do that” attitude. It’s just such a feel-good story

  5. Very good article. Just goes to prove that physical size really doesn’t matter, its what is in the heart that does! I love those short horses, they’re powerful in their own way. Thanks for sharing about Teddy! Love his name too. ;)

    ~~~
    MudRanch,
    Just imagine how many other “little” horses are out there that could really make us proud. Too often they are passed over for horses that require a ladder.

  6. He is so elegant looking. Very interesting cross—may be the new trend in “sporthorses.”

  7. What a refreshing story!

    As a breeder of the American Classic Shetland Pony, we strive in our breeding program for Classy, Elegant and wonderful minded ponies that anyone can handle and enjoy(no orneriness). We are raising ponies that look good on an end of a lead but can perform in the show ring as riding or driving ponies as well. Stop by our website for a visit!

    Fiddlestix Miniatures & Shetlands

    http://www.fiddlestixponyfarm.com

    Thanks again for a wonderful story on a small pony with a huge heart. They do steal your heart and seal it with love!

    Karen Shaw
    Burleson Texas

    ~~~
    Hello Karen,
    I must say … after looking at your website I am quite smitten by your irrestible horses/ponies. In fact, I thought I saw my name on especially one.

  8. thank you for this article! I love it! I have ridden purebred Arabians in open dressage competition for many years and have done well with the breed of horse I really love. I purchased a couple of Trakheners a few years back, lost one to Pigeon fever & sold the other. I just really love working with Arabians.

  9. We lost a wonderful pony on May 28th to a freak accidnet. “Teddy” was humanly euthanized due to severing the tendons and ligaments on a back leg from falling after bolting from the barn at the O’Conners his owners/trainers.

    Rest in Peace Teddy! You will be missed by all whose lives you have touched.

    Karen Shaw
    Fiddlestix Pony Farm
    Burleson Texas

    ~~~
    Karen,
    What a heartbreak! So, so sorry. He was so admired and will be tremendously missed by so very many!
    Marvel

  10. Teddy was really awesome. I plan to do a presentation on him for a competition and wanted to know if anyone knew about Teddy’s past…from foaling to death. How many owners has he gone through and who were they? Who trained him? Who bought him from Sportsponies Unlimited?

    ~~~
    Hello PeppysGirl,
    Let’s hope someone will be able to provide the answers to your questions. Many would also be interested to know these details.

  11. Aww he is so cute! My neice has the Breyer of him!


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