Few things are more exciting in the sports world than the Olympics. The 2012 Games, being held this year in London, get under way very shortly and I'm very excited to cheer all the horses and riders on in eventing, dressage, and jumping.
But as you're watching the Olympic equestrian events, keep an eye out for spectacular senior athletes; horse (and rider!) ages might surprise you. Here are just a few of the aged competitors hoping to bring home the gold:
Lenamore (NZL)--At 20 years old, Lenamore is probably one of the oldest horses in the competition this year. This gray Irish Sport Horse gelding, by Sea Crest, will compete in eventing, partnered with his long-time rider Caroline Powell from New Zealand. At 15, Lenamore finished 15th at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and at 17 years old he won the prestigious 4* Burghley Horse Trials.
Flexible (USA)--Ridden in jumping by American Rich Fellers, Flexible is a 16-year-old Irish Sport Horse by the stallion Cruising. The chestnut stallion will make his Olympic debut this year, but he's no stranger to tough competition...or winning tough competitions for that matter. Earlier this year Rich and Flexible won the Fédération Equestre International World Cup in the Netherlands, making them the first Americans in 25 years to win the prestigious event. By the way, Flexible was the oldest horse in the competition. TheHorse.com blogger Jennifer Bryant recently featured Rich and Flexible in her Olympic-themed blog. Take note of Rich's minimalistic approach to taking care of the senior stallion...it seems to work for them!
Rafalca (USA)--Yes, we all know that presidential candidate Mitt Romney's wife is a part owner of this German-bred Oldenburg mare, but did you know that she is still bringing home blues at age 15? Partnered with Jan Ebeling, the bay mare by Argentinius has found much success in the dressage arena leading up to the Olympics. Rafalca, her political ties, and her recent appearances on "The Colbert Report" were the topic of a recent blog by TheHorse.com web producer Megan Arszman. Check it out.
Twizzel (USA)--At 16, Twizzel will be representing the United States in eventing at the Olympics for the first time; it's also rider Will Coleman's first Olympic Games. The bay German-bred Westphalian gelding is also by Argentinius and has been competing at the top level of the sport for several years.
Hiroshi Hoketsu (JPN)--No, Hiroshi Hoketsu isn't a horse, but at the age of 71, I think he deserves a spot in the "spectacular senior" section. This talented equestrian first competed in the Olympics 48 years ago--the 1964 Games held in Tokyo--in show jumping until his dwindling eyesight reportedly caused him to make the switch to dressage. He represented Japan in the 1988 Seoul Games and the 2008 Beijing Games, and also at the 2010 World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Kentucky. This year, Hiroshi will represent Japan as an individual, as the country did not qualify a team.
Whisper 115 (JPN)--Coincidentally (or not?) Hiroshi's horse also falls into the ranks of the spectacular seniors. Whisper 115, a 15-year-old German-bred Hanoverian by Wolkenstein II, will accompany him into the arena at London. The chestnut mare was Hiroshi's mount at the 2010 WEG, where they finished in 31st place after the Grand Prix Special. According to one news report, Whisper had some lameness issues back in November and nearly didn't qualify for the Olympics as a result. But a rigorous (and successful) competition schedule allowed the pair the chance to ride for the gold.
What sports are you looking forward to watching this year? Are there any other super senior competitors you're looking forward to watching at this year's Olympic Games? Share your favorites below!