Theodore O'Connor

Photo courtesy of Lisa Barry
(1995 – 2008)
Owned by Theodore O'Connor Syndicate, LLC
Inducted: 2013

Photos

Photo courtesy of Diana DeRosa/USEF Archive
Photo courtesy of Amy Troppman
Photo courtesy of Amy Troppman
Photo courtesy of Amy Troppman
Photo courtesy of Amy Troppman
Photo courtesy of Amy Troppman
Photo courtesy of Shannon Brinkman
Photo courtesy of Shannon Brinkman
Photo courtesy of Shannon Brinkman
Theodore O'Connor's eventing career was a crusade to prove the truth of Mark Twain's famous quote: "It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog." And "Teddy," as he was called, had no shortage of fight. Despite standing only 14.1 ¾ hands, he partnered with eventing legend Karen O'Connor to take on the big boys with courage and style.

In doing so, he captivated the public, who cheered on the "Super Pony" as he went where no pony had gone before. From its inception in 1978 until Teddy's first attempt in 2007, the Rolex Kentucky 3-Day Event had never had a pony compete. Just making it through the daunting cross country (Eventing) course at America's premier event would have impressive enough, but Teddy took it a step further. He picked up just 4.4 time faults in cross country to finish third in his debut at the four-star level, collecting the Best Conditioned Horse award as well.

And Rolex was just one part of a remarkable competitive season in 2007 for the Super Pony, who was bred by P. Wynn Norman and owned by the Theodore O'Connor Syndicate. He'd prepared for his trip to Kentucky by coasting to victory at The Fork Horse Trials, defeating a field of top-quality horses and riders. After Rolex, Teddy was named to the United States team for the Pan American Games, held that year in Rio de Janeiro.

Teddy's dazzling performance at the Pan Am Games erased any remaining doubt of his talent and ability. He blew away the competition, winning individual and team gold medals over the best eventers in the Americas. Among those left in his dust were fellow Americans Gina Miles and McKinlaigh, who went on to win the silver medal at the 2008 Olympic Games.

The medals at the Pan Am Games confirmed what fans of Teddy already knew: even in eventing, which tests horses' courage, scope, and athleticism to the highest degree, a little horse with a big heart could overcome the highest of obstacles. "He had a huge amount of heart," said Max Corcoran, Teddy's groom. "He never stopped trying, he had immense scope for jumping and an amazing work ethic, and he was incredibly smart. He also had perfect conformation and was very sound. It is very difficult to find all those traits in one horse."

When 2007 year-end awards were announced, the honors rolled in for Teddy: he was named United States Equestrian Federation Horse of the Year, United States Eventing Association (USEA) Horse of the Year, USEA Pony of the Year, and Chronicle of the Horse Overall and Eventing Horse of the Year.

Early in the 2008 season, Teddy seemed poised for another groundbreaking year. He took on Rolex Kentucky again, finishing sixth, and was short-listed for the U.S. Olympic team. But tragedy struck: on May 28, he suffered a freak accident at home in The Plains, VA, and had to be put down. His many admirers were distraught, and they created numerous websites, videos, and photo collections to honor his memory. The USEF even set up a memorial fund in Teddy's name.

Karen O'Connor, who forged a close connection with Teddy, treasured him for the way he inspired his fans and influenced his rider. "Even more amazing than his accomplishments was the way he touched lives all across the world," O'Connor said. "He was the people's pony, the underdog who inspired so many."

"I've never known a horse to have this kind of impact on an industry," O'Connor continued. "It's a tribute to him and how many lives he touched - none more than mine. For me personally, I had a relationship with him that I've never really had with another horse. His trust for me went beyond what I thought was possible. He would do anything for me because I said it was OK. He trusted me and I trusted him."

Corcoran agreed that Teddy had a phenomenal effect on the sport of eventing. "He was a hero to our sport," she said, noting that eventing was going through a difficult time with horse and rider injuries and resulting bad press for the sport.

"And then in came this PONY," Corcoran said. "He was a very bright point when there was too much darkness. He gave people hope and made people believe again. In many ways, that may be the biggest highlight in his career."