Banburyshire foursome get in shape for Rio Olympics

Equestrian trio off to the Rio Olympics. From the left, Alan Walker, vet, Ben Benson, farrier and Fiona Elliott, riding for the Irish team. NNL-161207-181330009
Equestrian trio off to the Rio Olympics. From the left, Alan Walker, vet, Ben Benson, farrier and Fiona Elliott, riding for the Irish team. NNL-161207-181330009

Four members of Banbury’s thriving equestrian community will be leaving north Oxfordshire for Rio in a few weeks.

While Izzy Taylor of Aynho will be competing in the three-day eventing contest alongside other medal hopefuls in the sport, such as William Fox Pitt and Kitty King, a farrier and two vets from the area will also be flying out to Brazil.

Ms Taylor, 33, will be riding Allercombe Ellie and competing against Hook Norton vet Fiona Elliott’s 1o-year-old gelding, Cooley Rorkes Drift - stable name Art - who will be ridden by Jonty Evans for the Irish three-day event team.

Senior Hook Norton vet Alan Walker will be a first response expert on the cross country course, while farrier Ben Benson of Swalcliffe will be in charge of shoeing for dressage, eventing and showjumping. He will also be lead farrier for the paralympics.

Mr Walker, who was one of the veterinary team at the London Olympics four years ago said he was first asked if he would go to Rio at that time.

“The senior Brazilian vet came over to London to see how it was done and asked if anyone wanted to volunteer for Rio. I said I did,” said Mr Walker.

“I’ve learned Brazilian Portuguese online for this trip.

“I’ll be on the cross country course as a first port of call for any problem or emergency.”

Mrs Elliott, who has an 11-week-old baby, will travel to Rio with her mother and joint owner of Art, Ann Nobbs. A vet and equine chiropractor and acupuncturist, she will treat any of the Irish horses in need of treatment as well as enjoying watching her horse compete.

Art was one of Ireland’s team in this year’s Nation’s Cup.

Ben Benson was head farrier for the London Olympics and described his forthcoming trip to Rio as ‘really cool; awesome’.

“A quarter of teams take their own farriers but there will be a lot of work to do with injuries and conditions that need specialist or remedial shoeing.

“There is a huge difference between the level of farriery in Europe and South America which is really a developing nation. Other teams from around the world may need our advanced techniques.”