Olympic gold medallist Stuart Tinney has joined Australia’s eventing squad for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, stepping up with Pluto Mio after the withdrawal of Sonja Johnson’s horse.
Australian selectors named Tinney as the replacement for Johnson, whose Parkiarrup Illicit Liaison was withdrawn last week, only two days after the combination had arrived from West Australia to Melbourne to join the team.
A devastated Johnson remains optimistic the decision to withdraw the 13-year-old off-the-track thoroughbred will give him the best chance to represent Australia in the future.
“Ben has been in good spirits since arriving in Melbourne. His injury … is only a minor one. If we give him time to recover he’ll be fine, but if we push on there’s a chance it could escalate into something more serious.
“He needs more time to recover than what we have available to us, so sadly we must withdraw from the Australian team.”
Australian team vet Dr Nathan Anthony applauded Johnson’s decision to put the horse’s welfare first.
“This is a disappointing time for Sonja as she has worked hard to prepare Ben for the World Equestrian Games but her decision to put the horse’s welfare before her own personal interests is to be commended.”
The horses were due to fly out for Europe on Wednesday, following a final fitness test and veterinary examination.
Tinney is certainly an able replacement, having competed at three World Equestrian Games (1998, 2002, 2010) and two Olympic Games, including Sydney 2000 where he was part of the Australian team that won gold.
The New South Wales based rider joins Olympic silver medallist Shane Rose (CP Qualified), London Olympians Chris Burton (TS Jamaimo) and Sam Griffiths (Paulank Brockagh), WEG 2010 representative Paul Tapner (Kilronan) and WEG debutant Bill Levett (Shannondale Titan) on the six-strong Australian squad.
Natalie Blundell (Algebra) and Andrew Hoy (Rutherglen) are the team’s reserves, which in accordance with the WEG selection policy for eventing are not ranked.
National selectors have not named another reserve combination but if required will call on one from those that remain on the Nominated Entries list, which includes the following combinations (listed in alphabetical order):
- Chris Burton and Graf Liberty
- Bill Levett and Improvise
- Kevin McNab and Clifton Pinot
- Shane Rose and Taurus
• Australian endurance rider Ben Hudson has also dropped out of the country’s WEG team, after withdrawing his eight-year-old mare Oso Edith. The decision was made with the owners of the horse and following discussions with the team vet.
The reserve combination of Sarah McLaughlin and Tonki Dee Boo Shania has been elevated into the team and will travel with the other Australian-based horses on August 13.