Blyth Tait will rekindle golden memories of 28 years ago when he competes at the World Equestrian Games in North Carolina this week.

The 57-year-old will return to national duty for the first time since the 2004 Athens Olympics when he takes to the saddle on 14-year-old bay gelding Dassett Courage.

He joins a team featuring Dan Jocelyn, Jonelle and Tim Price, and Sir Mark Todd as they look to emulate the victories of Kiwi teams in 1990 and 1998.

Tait won individual golds on both those occasions at Stockholm and Rome, but the earlier performance aboard Messiah ignited his career.


The thoroughbred was blessed with speed and stamina. Tait once described him as "brave as a lion and very agile". He had one close call at a water complex in the Swedish capital, but survived to jump clear.

"The venue was right in the heart of the city and I remember the massive buildings around me [on the cross-country]," Tait told the Herald.

"I kept thinking 'how does a person from Whangarei, on a horse bred in Northland, end up riding through the streets of Stockholm in a world championships?'

"It was an eye-opener and the first time the World Games had been held [with all the equestrian disciplines in one place], so everybody was green to the whole thing."

Tait's recollection fits with Todd's description of riding the course in his 1998 autobiography So Far So Good: "It seemed as if half the city didn't know there was an event going on, so we had to pick our way through amorous couples, which certainly added interest."

The WEG website estimates more than 400 athletes from 37 countries made the trip to participate in jumping, eventing, dressage, vaulting, driving and endurance.

Events were scheduled for the renovated 1912 Olympic stadium and the city's Royal Park.

Tait was spurred on by a tragedy four years earlier at the eventing world championships in Gawler, Australia. His mount Rata died of a heart attack in the build-up.


"I remember how naive I was in Stockholm, because I hadn't competed on the international circuit for long, and had come to England the year before.

"When I left New Zealand it was to prepare and ride at WEG - there was no plan after that. Winning meant I could remain in the UK and develop a career by securing sponsors and owners.

"They say winning's not everything, but a major title like that opens up opportunities."

So did offers flood in?

"That's what I thought would happen, but it took me about six to seven months from the date of the championships to secure a commercial sponsor. It didn't happen as easily as I'd hoped."

Tait exceeded the expectations of any deal, as he fashioned a gilded career. His CV includes four Olympic medals - individual gold and team bronze at Atlanta in 1996, and individual bronze and team silver at Barcelona in 1992 – and Burghley four-star titles in 1998 and 2001.

He backed up his Stockholm double at Rome on Ready Teddy, when the country was arguably at the peak of its equestrian powers, at least until now.

"We won the team gold by a country mile," Tait says.

"I was first, Mark was second, Vaughn [Jefferis] was fourth and Andrew [Nicholson] was fifth.

"Mark led on Broadcast News, who was a good showjumper, but Ready Teddy was as well. I'd already jumped clear and Mark knocked a couple of uncharacteristic fences down, so I got the gold.

"He will be keen to go one better this time, because it's the one major title he hasn't secured."

Tait left his Cotswolds base for the United States on Friday. New Zealand look every chance of emulating past WEG glories, especially with either Tim Price (Burghley) or Jonelle Price (Badminton and Luhmuhlen) claiming each of the three European four-star events this year.

"Outside teams looking at that line-up must say they're a force to be reckoned with," Tait says.

"I'm going to North Carolina as though it's my first time on a squad, because after a break [2005-2011] I haven't had the horse power to get back.

"I don't know how much longer I'll go on, but it's pretty satisfying to get back to this level. I'm thrilled to bits."

New Zealand eventing medals at World Equestrian Games

1990 – Blyth Tait on Messiah, gold; team, gold.

1994 – Vaughn Jefferis on Bounce, gold.

1998 – Tait on Ready Teddy, gold; Sir Mark Todd on Broadcast News, silver; team, gold.

2010 – Andrew Nicholson on Nereo, bronze; team, bronze.