I call him Nev-Bard
November 2, 2011 12:28 PM   Subscribe

Neville Bardos is a very cool horse. Actually, he was a pretty terrible racehorse. Australian Three-day Event rider Boyd Martin bought him off the truck to the glue factory for $850. Originally developed as horse trials for the military, three-day eventing combines dressage, cross-country and showjumping to test horses' obedience, fitness and stamina. It's the triathlon of Olympic equestrian sport. By 2009, glue factory reject Neville Bardos was a good enough event horse to win the Fair Hill CCI***, a United States Equestrian Federation championship event; in 2010 he placed fourth at Rolex Kentucky, the pinnacle of the sport. Then came the fire.

There were eleven horses in Boyd Martin's barn at True Prospect Farm. Five made it out alive. Neville Bardos was the last to be saved; Boyd Martin and fellow Olympian Philip Dutton ran into the flames to save him. After they got Neville Bardos out, they could not save any more. Ariel, Cagney Herself, Call Me Ollie, Charla, Phantom Pursuit and Summer Breeze W all died.

The five surviving horses were taken to New Bolton Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Neville Bardos suffered serious smoke inhalation and burns on his oesophagus and lungs. He had been entered for the Burghley Horse Trials in the first weekend of September, but no one was sure he would even recover from his injuries. It takes three months to prepare a fit horse for a four-star three-day event.

In June, Boyd Martin lost his beloved father in a cycling accident. Two weeks later his father-in-law died. Not his year, right?

Not so fast. Neville Bardos came seventh at Burghley. I swear, if he makes it to the London Olympics, I am turning this post into a screenplay.

Nev-Bard in intensive care.

Nev-Bard, ballet dancer.

Nev-Bard, cross-country machine.

His groom tells the Burghley story.

Boyd and Silva Martin's blog. Silva is a kickass dressage rider in her own right.

It's okay to shed a tear.
posted by rdc (11 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, there is so much to this crazy story:
The buzz about Boyd Martin began the minute he stepped off the plane from Australia in 2006. Who was this rakishly handsome, antipodean-accented 20-something bombing around Rolex Kentucky on a scrappy 7-year-old off-the-tracker? What was Phillip Dutton thinking, hiring as his new assistant trainer a kid best known for his drunken visits to tattoo parlors and horse auctions—from which he always returned with an unintended purchase? And was there any way in hell this character was going to make his pipedream of riding on a U.S. team by 2010 come true?
Clipped from your second link. Seriously, a silly Hollywood movie in the making. Young tattoo'd punk kid drunkenly purchases a failed race horse and turns him into the perfect cross-country horse, the punk trainer himself becoming polished in the process (but don't worry, he still has his spirited side, as he winks knowingly to the camera, before the big stunt at the end of the movie).
posted by filthy light thief at 1:18 PM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Neville - fucking - Bardos?"
- Eric Bana
posted by Napierzaza at 1:37 PM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Beautiful horse. That story about the barn fire kills me, though.
posted by ashirys at 1:58 PM on November 2, 2011

I can't even look at the barn fire link, but what an amazing story and amazing horse. I will be rooting for him and his connections all the way.
posted by OolooKitty at 2:14 PM on November 2, 2011

Oh facepalm, I missed one of the coolest parts. When he's chewing on the stable in the intensive care clip, that's a vice called cribbing. He's famous for it, and wears a thing around his neck called a cribbing collar to try and stop him doing it.

That's how Boyd led him to safety out of the fire.
posted by rdc at 2:25 PM on November 2, 2011

I'd watch that movie. If he makes it to the Olympics I'll be rooting for him, for sure. That cross-country course was brutal! But I'm most impressed by what a good dressage horse he's become. Dressage requires whole bunch of gaits that a racehorse would never learn, and most eventers are trained for them very early. You can really see the racehorse in him at the end of that cross country run. I'm trying to remember if I saw him in the Rolex on TV. Universal Sports was showing it, but it was really compressed and on at weird times, so I didn't get to see as much as I would have liked.
posted by cRamsay at 2:33 PM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks so much for this! Lovely glossy chestnut horse.... And the dressage video is wonderful -- instantly calming to watch, but you can see how disciplined horse and rider have to be to acheive it.
posted by Cocodrillo at 1:14 AM on November 3, 2011

ugh sorry "achieve"
posted by Cocodrillo at 1:16 AM on November 3, 2011

Thanks for posting this. It reads like one of those old C. W. Anderson stories about great horses with fantastic backgrounds like Snow Man or Moifaa.

It's always amazing to me watching the difference between eventers doing dressage and pure dressage people doing dressage. With eventers there is much more speed and forward movement, and the horses' noses aren't cranked down to the chest. While there may not be quite the same level of precision and accuracy, overall I think these horses look happier.

I also love the fact it looks like Nev-Bard tried to put his head down after the test to grab a mouthful of grass, as in, "I did my part, now I want to eat." Wonderful.
posted by sardonyx at 8:12 AM on November 3, 2011

Helpful data point: "Off the track" is a typical past for a Thoroughbred dressage horse. Many warmbloods get their "hot" blood from track Thoroughbreds.

Way cool nonetheless.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 10:09 AM on November 3, 2011

Lesser Shrew: I can see how my phrasing was misleading, but Nev isn't just an OTTB: Boyd *literally* bought him and then led him off the slaughterhouse truck.
posted by rdc at 11:32 AM on November 3, 2011

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