Up to 2008, Austrian Pepo Puch was a leading international eventer, competing in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens for Croatia. Before that, he was a top endurance rider, and was European champion over 160km in 1990 with Flip Flop & Fly.
But in 2008, a bad fall left him with no feeling in his legs. As expected, horse riding was an integral part of his rehabilitation and it brought him into the world of para-equestrian sport.
At his first major event, at the 2012 Paralympics in London, he was champion in 1b, and he is now in Caen for this fourth World Equestrian Games, but his first as a para-equestrian.
Puch, 48, will ride his London 2012 mount, Fine Feeling, a 17-year-old hanoverian mare by Fabriano. “She’s doing great and is in top form. I’ve been letting her rest up for the Games. Obviously, we’re going to do everything we can to be the best, even if at the team level I think it’s going to be tough for Austria to place in the top five. Individually, anything could happen,” he said.
In June at Magna Racino, he set a new world record, besting his previous world record of 80.917% set last year in Mannheim. Competing in the musical freestyle to Bryan Adams’ film soundtrack Spirit, Puch earned a record breaking score of 82.583% from the jury and head judge Dr. Eva Maria Bachinger.
Puch is impressed with the Games thus far. “Everything is excellent. The schedules, especially the schooling arenas, are jam packed, but I’m incredibly happy to be in Caen, right in the centre of the event. The course is just fabulous,” he said.
“I’m going to do everything possible to make the most of my Games, including supporting my Eventing teammates.”