Categories: Rolex Three Day
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Day 3 Interview with Bruce Davidson Sr on Cruise Lion
Bruce Oram Davidson (born December 31, 1949 in Rome, New York) is an American equestrian who competes in the sport of eventing.
Davidson was not born into a "horsey" family, but was able to work his way into the horse world when he moved to Westport, Massachusetts. His businessman father, Francis, and ex-concert pianist mother, Annette, wanted him to learn to work for what he earned, and so each summer he would buy a pony at auction, train it, and then sell it before school started. He would then use that money to buy a slightly better horse the next year. He finally came upon his great partner Irish Cap in this manner, but decided the horse was too special to sell. Irish Cap provided Davidson with the means to compete at the sport's highest levels. The pair went on to win the gold medal at the 1974 World Championshipships.
Originally Davidson wished to go into veterinary medicine, but decided to drop out in his third year at Iowa State University where he was getting his undergraduate degree. Instead, he went to train with the USET.
Bruce was brought nto the USET by Jack LeGoff, the French trainer who became coach of the USET three-day team in 1970 and built it into the most successful team of the 1970s by developingriders who excelled in all three phases, and Bruce was his first star pupil. However, later Bruce broke with Jack and became quite critical of his former mentor.
Davidson began competing at the international level in 1971, and completed his first Olympic Games in 1972, winning the team silver medal.
In 1974 Bruce married Carol Hannum, another three-day rider. This was something of a dynastic match, and can be seen as Bruce's declaration of independence from LeGoff -- part of Jack's power was his control of horses owned by or loaned to USET, but now Bruce got access to the Hannum fortune and connections. Carol's mother, Nancy Penn-Smith Hannum, was Master of Foxhounds of Mr Stewart's Cheshire Foxhounds, breeder and owner of steeplechase horses, and a major landowner. Carol's brothers, Buzz and Jock, were both successful steeplechase jockeys. Bruce and Carol have two children, Nancy and Buck (Bruce Jr), himself a leading event rider.
Bruce's Chesterlands Farm was a wedding present from his mother-in-law, carved out of her Brooklawn Farm. For many years Chesterlands hosted the fall U.S. three-day championship. In 1989 the event was moved to Fair Hill, Maryland.
He now lives at his Chesterland Farm in Unionville, Pennsylvania, where he had a Thoroughbred breeding program and where he trains horses and riders alike. He also competes regularly, often against his son, Buck.
* 1 Major accomplishments * 2 Davidson and the Rolex Kentucky CCI * 3 Bruce and the Olympics * 4 Pan American Games 1975 * 5 Record
Davidson has had an outstanding career, boasting 2 team silver (1972, 1996) and 2 team gold (1976, 1984) medals at the Olympics, receiving his first at the age of 22. He is also a 2-time World Champion (the only equestrian to be a back-to-back winner), bronze medal winner at the 1990 World Equestrian Games, has won the Rolex Kentucky Three Day a record 6 times, and is one of only two Americans to have won the Badminton Horse Trials. Davidson has had top placings at the Burghley Horse Trials, has been the USCTA's leading rider a record 14 times (1980-1995), and was leading event rider in the world on the FEI rankings in 1993 and in 1995.
Bruce Davidson's win at the 1974 World Championships gave the United States the opportunity to host the 1978 World Championships. This led to the creation of the Kentucky Horse Park, and the event later became the annual Rolex Kentucky Three Day, the only CCI**** held in the United States, and one of only five currently held in the world. Davidson has had a long-spanning career at the event, having ridden over the course 68 times on 30 different horses, with a record 6 wins (although none of these wins has been the CCI****).
Bruce's victory in the Kentucky world championships was controversial. Irish Cap was lame and could not compete, so Bruce rode the promising youngster Might Tango, who was only seven and had never contested an advanced three-day before. The heat in Lexington in September was ferocious, and took a toll on the horses on cross-country day, including Michael Plumb's Laurenson, the dressage leader and favorite. Bruce somehow kept his young horse on his feet and brought him galloping home to take the lead, but the horse was cooked, and required extensive veterinary treatment with fluids, ice, and oxygen to recover. A number of European teams criticised the way Bruce had pushed Might Tango around the cross-country course.
A decade later, Bruce was back in a controversy about heat at Kentucky, but with the shoe on the other foot. By this time Kentucky was established as the spring championships, but with a date in late May when heat was again a problem. For years the riders asked that the date be changed, but the organisers insisted the Horse Park ws not available on the desired dates. Finally in 1987 Bruce led a riders' strike in which about half the riders refused to run their horses. The result was that the next year the event was moved up to a more temperate date in late April, but the strike was a divisive event which became a fault-line in American eventing for years. The riders who struck felt betrayed by the riders who rode. One of the prizes for a good showing at Kentucky was a grant to go to Burghley in England in September. Enough riders rode that the authorities could stick to their guns and choose the Burghley squad from from amongst them, punishing the strikers. The result, though, was an inexperienced team that rode into a bloodbath at Burghley, with horses and riders endng up in the hospital, and only one, future legend David O'Connor, completing the event.
For all Bruce's accomplishments, one thing has eluded him: an individual Olympic medal. Twice he has been in a position to win, in 1976 when he placed second in the dressage behind a German horse who could be expected to wilt on cross country (and in fact ended up third) only to inexplicably fall n the water despite a clean jump in. In 1984 he won the dressage and had his destiny in his own hands, only to have JJ Babu record the only stop of his international career.
During the Three-Day Event, Bruce Davidson, who officials mistook for disqualified Canadian Jim Day, was halted in mid-run, but was allowed to continue and won the silver medal after the error was discovered.
Note: CCI star ratings have been converted to the new style, so for example, Badminton is shown as CCI**** throughout
* 10th Burghley CCI**** (Jam)
* 7th Rolex Kentucky CCI**** (Little Tricky) * 13th Rolex Kentucky CCI**** (Arrow)
* 8th Rolex Kentucky CCI**** (Little Tricky)
* 5th Rolex Kentucky CCI**** (High Scope) * 14th Rolex Kentucky CCI**** (Apparition)
* 4th Rolex Kentucky CCI**** (Little Tricky) * 9th Rolex Kentucky CCI**** (Apparition) * 10th Rolex Kentucky CCI**** (Eagle Lion)
* 7th Rolex Kentucky CCI**** (Eagle Lion)
* 17th Rolex Kentucky CCI*** (Status Symbol) * 31st Rolex Kentucky CCI*** (Little Tricky)
* Team Bronze, Individually 21st at the World Equestrian Games (Heyday) * 3rd Badminton CCI**** (Eagle Lion) * 7th Rolex Kentucky CCI (Squelch) * 8th Rolex Kentucky CCI (Heyday)
* 2nd Blenheim Horse Trials CCI***(Heyday)
* Team Silver and 9th individually Atlanta Olympic Games (Heyday)
* Leading Rider in the World Three Day Event Rider Rankings * 1st Badminton Horse Trials (Eagle Lion) * Individual Gold Medal at the Pan Am Games (Heyday) * 16th Burghley Horse Trials (Heyday)
* 2nd Rolex Kentucky CCI (Regent Lion) * 7th Rolex Kentucky CCI (Heyday) * 17th Rolex Kentucky CCI (Happy Talk)
* Leading Rider in the World Three Day Event Rider Rankings * 1st Rolex Kentucky CCI (Happy Talk)
* 8th Rolex Kentucky CCI (Happy Talk)
* Individual Bronze Medal, team finished 4th, at the World Equestrian Games (Pirate Lion) * 4th Rolex Kentucky CCI (Pirate Lion) * 7th Rolex Kentucky CCI (Needles Prince)
* 1st Rolex Kentucky CCI (Dr. Peaches)
* 1st Rolex Kentucky CCI (Dr. Peaches) * 2nd Rolex Kentucky CCI (JJ Babu)
* 1st Stockholm CCI*** (JJ Babu)
* 2nd Burghley Horse Trials (JJ Babu) * 6th Badminton Horse Trials (JJ Babu)
* 4th Rolex Kentucky CCI (Dr. Peaches) * 11th Badminton CCI**** (JJ Babu)
* Team Gold, 13th individually Los Angeles Olympic Games (JJ Babu) * 1st Rolex Kentucky CCI (Dr. Peaches)
* 1st Rolex Kentucky CCI (JJ Babu) * 14th Rolex Kentucky CCI (Beacon Charm)
* 2nd Badminton Horse Trials (JJ Babu)
* Individual gold, team bronze at the World Championship in Lexington, Kentucky (Might Tango)
* Team Gold Montreal Olympic Games (Irish Cap)(10th individually)
* Team Gold and Individual silver medal Pan American Games (Golden Griffin) * 1st Ledyard Farm CCI (Golden Griffin)
* Team and individual gold at the World Championship in Burghley, England (Irish Cap)
* Team Silver München Olympic Games (Plain Sailing)
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