The health woes of the GB Equestrian’s squad’s Toytown are in the words of the Guardian’s David Mitchell, “another reminder of how much luck is involved in determining success or failure in sport.” That doesn’t mean, however, anyone is obliged to give the horse the straight scoop.
For the second Olympiad in a row, Zara Phillips is unable to take part because of an injury to her horse, Toytown. But this is nothing compared to the evastation of Stephen Hendry’s career when his cue was broken on a flight back from Thailand in 2003. Phillips’ horse will get better, Hendry’s cue did not. He won seven world championships with that cue; with other sticks in his hand, he has won none.
So I think he’s best placed to comprehend the heartbreak of a great sporting partnership sundered by mishap. Hendry bought his cue for just £40 at the age of 14 – and, for 20 years, the pair of them bestrode the snooker world like a spotty colossus with a massive rod. Phillips and Toytown similarly are a world-class team, winning gold at the 2006 FEI World Equestrian Games. But on different horses, she’s won very little. One wonders what great things Toytown could have achieved with that cue.
Unfortunately, by London 2012, Toytown will probably be too old to compete. His Olympic dream is over and Zara Phillips said of this in June: “It’s absolutely gutting and heartbreaking … for him, who – he should be going to the Olympics … and he can’t get to go whereas hopefully I’ll get to go again but … I wouldn’t want to go this year on anyone else but him anyway.” That’s terribly sweet although, to be honest, I think she could have gone and just not told him. I don’t think he would have found out. And anyway, what’s he going to say? Personally I think it’s OK to eat animals so I don’t have any problem at all with the idea of lying to them. I don’t think we owe them the truth – I’m not sure they could handle it.