US eventing’s ‘Horse of the Century’ Biko dies at 30

Biko and Karen O'Connor.
Biko and Karen O’Connor.

Karen O’Connor’s silver Olympic medal winning eventer Biko has died peacefully at the age of 30.

Biko, who died on Wednesday, helped the US to a team silver medal at the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996. The 17.3hh Irish-bred thoroughbred gelding (Beau Charmeur – My Hansel [Prince Hansel]) was inducted into the US Eventing Hall of Fame in 2006, and holds the number six spot on the US Eventing Association’s Top Ten All American High Point Horses of the Century. In 1999 he was named Horse of the Century by USEA.

Owned by the late Mr. and Mrs. Richard H Thompson of Malvern, Pennsylvania, Biko was bought by William Micklem after his brother, John, saw the horse as a three-year-old in Jack Deacon’s yard in Co Wexford.

Biko and O’Connor represented the country on multiple occasions and competed and finished with top placings at the Badminton Horse Trials CCI**** (third, in 1995) and Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event (second in 1996 at Advanced, and fifth at the CCI**** in 1998).

During the Eventing Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2006, O’Connor described Biko:  “He had a full brother who competed the Grand National [Jumbeau, who was 17.2hh and trained by Tina Cook’s father, Josh Gifford], amazing conformation, beautiful withers – which actually kept me in the saddle most of the time, great shoulder, wonderful length hip to hock.  He was an unbelievably good looking horse with impressive size at 17.3. He had an amazing work ethic and loved to be ridden every day, and an unbelievable gallop and incredible brain.  A gentle giant.”

The gelding was an ambassador for the sport of eventing and was beloved by children and all who met him.  He was retired in 1999 at age 15, and a ceremony was held at the 2001 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event. Biko enjoyed his retirement at the O’Connor farm.

He was named Biko by William Micklem after South African anti-apartheid activist Stephen Biko.

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