Zara Phillips and High Kingdom. www.Zimbio.com Photo
Everyone dreams of breeding a horse to compete at the Olympic Games. Equestrian author, trainer and designer of the world‐renowned Micklem Bridle, Irishman William Micklem, is about to relive that dream again this weekend as High Kingdom starts out in eventing for Great Britain with Olympic debutante Zara Phillips.
Having missed out on Athens and Hong Kong through injuries to her loyal servant Toytown, Phillips has waited eight years for this great moment to come, and she now aims to add Olympic glory to her World and European medals won on that legendary Irish‐bred horse, whose breeding, sadly, still remains a mystery to this day.
There is no mystery, however, to this great story, which began in 2008 when Karen O’Connor represented the USA in Hong Hong riding High Kingdom’s full‐brother Mandiba. That was indeed a nerve‐wracking few days for William, as a late call‐up for the reserves had seen the then nine‐year‐old face a huge challenge.
“It was really a year too early in his career and I was anxious, but with High Kingdom it is a completely different feeling. He is a class act who has a great partnership with Zara. They are ready for the challenge,” William commented.
Indeed Hong Kong may have come a year too early for Mandiba, but the top results that were to follow deservedly earned him the WBFSH Event Horse of the Year award in 2010, when they also represented their country at the Alltech World Equestrian Games in Kentucky.
This weekend marks O’Connor’s fifth Olympic Games. While her past appearances, such as that in 1996, also garnered the attention of William, who, along with his brother John, sourced her Atlanta team silver medallist Biko (as well as David O’Connor’s star performers
Gilt Edge and Custom Made), this time round William’s primary focus will be on High Kingdom.
Like Mandiba, he too was born and reared at William’s farm in Co Wicklow before embarking on an international eventing career which would take him all the way to the top. Purchased sight unseen as a five‐year‐old by Captain Mark Phillips and his daughter Zara, High Kingdom showed star potential from the outset. “His temperament and gallop were always exceptional and his jump was good enough to go show jumping. He was never on the wrong leg and never unbalanced. I had no doubt from the beginning that High Kingdom was a horse of the highest class in all departments,” William said of the 11‐year‐old, whose third placing in the Bramham CIC*** earlier this year had earned him a spot on the squad for London.
By the former Number One sire of event horses, the deceased thoroughbred Master Imp, High Kingdom is out of High Dolly, a daughter of another exceptional Thoroughbred, Chair Lift, and herself a winner of four point‐to‐point races. Of course Chair Lift also proved to be an outstanding sire and dam sire of show jumpers, with former British team member Abbervail Dream and Carling King, who placed fourth in Athens for Irish rider Kevin Babington, among dozens across the world carrying these great bloodlines.
It is not surprising, then, that William has great hopes for Jackaroo, the only entire fullbrother to High Kingdom and Mandiba. The last foal out of High Dolly before her untimely death, he is now ready to pass on these genes to the next generation as a sport horse sire.
“Sadly Jackaroo was injured and will never compete,” William said, “but I believe he has a fine career ahead of him as a stallion, and the ongoing successes of High Kingdom and Mandiba can only add to his credentials.”
William is equally excited at the prospects of the four‐year‐old colt King Jude, the last foal out of the trio’s deceased full‐sister, Nuff Kisses. “He is by Power Blade, who now stands in England with Ollie Townend, and is truly magnificent. He is almost 97% thoroughbred and
with real substance and ability.”
For the moment, however, the ability of High Kingdom will be in the spotlight across the world, and William is waiting in anticipation for the outcome.
William Micklem is a world‐renowned coach, guest speaker and author. His book, The Complete Horse Riding Manual, is the best‐selling manual in the world. He designed the Micklem Bridle, which is now in use throughout the world and fully approved for all disciplines by the FEI. He is a Fellow of the British Horse Society.