Neville Bardos

Photo courtesy of Samantha Clark
(1999 – )
Owned by Neville Bardos Syndicate
Inducted: 2013

Photos

Photo courtesy of StockImagesService.com/USEF Archive
Photo courtesy of Amber Heintzberger
Photo courtesy of Shannon Brinkman
Photo courtesy of Shannon Brinkman
Neville Bardos' competitive record, taken by itself, places him among the very top Eventing horses of the past decade. A hard-fought victory under challenging weather conditions at the prestigious 2009 Fair Hill CCI*** in Maryland catapulted him into the public eye, then a year later he and rider Boyd Martin finished tenth individually, on their dressage score, at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Lexington, KY, showing that they could challenge the world's best horses and riders.

But his competitive triumphs pale in comparison to his greatest achievement: survival.

In May 2011, Neville nearly lost his life in a horrific fire at rider Boyd Martin's barn. He was trapped in the building for 45 minutes before Martin was able to pull him to safety. Left with critical injuries, including extensive throat damage due to smoke inhalation, Neville was given a grim prognosis. But Martin, who had already rescued Neville once when he purchased the ex-racehorse in Australia for a mere $850, wasn't ready to give up.

"The doctors said his chances were poor," Martin recalled. "But he never was at the point where it looked like he wanted to lay down and call it a day." Neville received careful treatment and began to recover, and Martin slowly put him back into training. Neville thrived on the increased exercise, growing stronger and more eager each day. Although it seemed far-fetched to think that the horse could return to the highest levels of eventing, a demanding discipline requiring peak physical condition, Neville had other ideas.

"I think part of the secret of being a good trainer is being able to read the horse and feel what he wants to do, and I really had the feeling he was keen to get back to it," Martin said. Martin, who lost six horses in the barn fire and also had to cope with his father's untimely death soon afterwards, was inspired by Neville's progress.

"He was the only thing I had to look forward to on a day-to-day basis," Martin explained. "Neville's recovery saved me, too, because every other aspect of my life at the time was pretty bad"¦ It's funny how horses do that."

And so, only three months after the fire, Martin and Neville took on the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, known as perhaps the world's toughest event. Against all odds, the pair not only completed the grueling cross-country, but went clear and fast to finish the event in seventh place against a top-notch field.

On the strength of his finish at Burghley, along with a promising second place earlier in the year at the Red Hills CIC*** in Tallahassee, FL and ninth-place finish at the Rolex Kentucky 3-Day Event, Neville received the 2011 USEF Horse of the Year award. In 2012 they were named to the short list for the Olympic Games, and the pair may have more achievements yet to come: Martin is readying Neville for a new competitive season after resolving some physical problems that hindered the horse in the second half of 2012. Martin is optimistic for Neville's future. "I think Neville's career is far from over," he said.

According to Martin, the resilience that helped Neville recover from his injuries is also what makes him such a successful event horse. "He's a horse that tries like no other horse I've ridden before," said Martin. "One of the best qualities in a cross-country horse is a horse that digs deep when they're tired. And I also believe it's one of the characteristics that got him through the barn fire."

Neville's toughness, determination, and what Martin described as "enthusiasm in everything he does" have allowed him to conquer all of life's obstacles, from the imposing jumps he faces on the cross-country course to the physical and mental challenges of recovering from the traumatic fire. Like the mythical phoenix, he has managed to rise from the ashes, rebuilding his life "“ and bringing Martin along for the ride.