The Comeback Kid. Against all odds… NEVILLE BARDOS!

I am not an Eventer.

To be honest, some of those hazards really scare me.  I swear, cross country jumps look like the humans totally lost their marbles while setting them up…  And, when I read about horses going down at a jump (and never recovering), I get angry.  (A topic for another day.)

Having said that, I do find myself ooohing and ahhhhing over the profound athleticism of these horses and riders.  For me, I think it is admirable that any human and horse could have enough talent and train so diligently to compete in one event, let alone three (dressage, show jumping AND cross country).  Wow.

Today, I’d like to introduce you to the Eventing horse NEVILLE BARDOS.

Everybody loves a comeback story…

His profile



It seems that Neville was bred as a racehorse in a very prestigious Australian barn.  Neville’s sire was an American stud who had been flown over for the year to do as much as he could during that breeding season.

Anyway, Neville wasn’t too great of a racehorse.  So, he was then repackaged as a jumper. However, he must not have shown much promise because nobody bought him as a jumper either.  But, just by happenstance, Boyd Martin was hanging out the day Neville was last tried.  Boyd was recovering from a broken leg so he was hanging around, watching the goings ons.  When the prospective buyer didn’t want Neville, his seller said that the horse was going to the slaughterhouse.  At that, Boyd offered $850 and Neville was his.


Neville. (I love his forelock.)



Training didn’t start out too terribly smoothly.  His first show was a disaster…  Ridden by Boyd’s wife, Silva, here is what they said about that day:

“Neville started his eventing carrier with Silva in late 2002.  It started terribly at the first event with Silva falling off at the second fence.  It took 15 minutes to catch him, but Neville did complete the course!”

Anyway, it got better after that, obviously.  They had an ingredient change… that change was Boyd Martin.  Boyd would ride Neville.

Happy Camper.



Things got waaaay better for Neville and Boyd Martin.

I don’t know much about these shows or events except that they are prestigious.  I will list them here:

In 2006, Neville started showing great promise winning the Coffs Harbour CIC**, and then going on to win Melbourne CCI**.  He was later imported to America at the beginning of 2007.  He ran a credible 11th in his first CCI*** at Jersey Fresh and then in the fall of 2007 he had his best performance yet.  He came an amazing 4th at FairHill CCI ***.  In 2008, Neville hit the international stage, placing 9th at Rolex Kentucky CCI****.  He was short listed for the 2008 Bejing Olympics.  His results to date stand for themself! He won Fairhill CCI*** in 2009, and then went on to place 4th at the Rolex CCI**** in 2010. After that, he was named on the US team for the World Equestrian Games. He ended being the highest place US horse, placing 10th against the best of the best at the WEG

Winning Rolex




(paraphrased from a story I read in EQUESTRIAN magazine – Jan 2012)

Boyd and his herd had just moved to the US to continue his career.   On the evening of Memorial Day, he was fast asleep.

Then the phone rang.  His barn was on fire.

When Boyd reached the barn he tells of watching the humans watch one of their beloved horses burning in the aisle.  There was nothing the firemen or any of the helpless humans could do but stand there – memory Boyd will never forget and one that still haunts him to this day.

The emotion Boyd felt in that instant pushed  him to enter the burning barn.  He said it was totally black with smoke.  Boyd cannot remember any of the details of what was going on around him, only his search to find his horses.

Here is what he said:

“I went into one stable and I could hear the gurgling noise in the corner and I put my hands out and I felt a horse’s shoulder.  I ran my hands up the horse’s neck and I felt a windsucking collar and right then and there I knew where I was and what stable I was in.”

Neville was a cribber.  Boyd was in with Neville.

The aftermath.



Neville had been trapped in the fire for 45 minutes and didn’t have enough air to move himself.

(another excerpt)

“I couldn’t move him.  but then, like a ghost out of nowhere pops up Phillip (Dutton)- it seemed like he just appeared out of nowhere.  He said ‘pull his had that way’ and he put his arms round him, sort of like someone loading a horse into a starting stall at the start of a race.  I started pulling Nev down the breezeway and Phillip got his shoulder in behind him and pushed him.  We dot him out of there and I handed him off and I thought if I can get one, I dan get another one.  So I went back in and I held my breath as deep as I could.  I got to another stable door but that stable ws empty.  I was starting to spin.  I started feeling like I was going ot lose consciousness – the smoke was that thick – so I dived out and laid on the ground gasping for air and I remember seeing Phil there doing the same thing.”

Can you even imagine?  Tragic.


Neville was caught in the fire for 45 minutes. He couldn't move. Boyd heard Neville gurgling in the corner of his stall...



It is a bit unbelievable really.  This horse had suffered severe smoke inhalation.  His lungs and throat were charred.  The vets at Bolton Center said he shouldn’t be standing upright with the amount of oxygen circulating in his system yet Neville was standing there – eating.  In fact, the vets re-did all their tests because they were sure they must have received incorrect results.

Nope.  Neville was very, very sick.  He just didn’t know it.

In fact, immediately thereafter Neville started (continued) cribbing on anything he could find, even though it had to have hurt so badly!  Neville’s throat had burns all the way down his esophagus and windpipe.  When the scope accidentally brushed against the side of his trachea, it bled.

But, he continue to eat and suck.  Atta boy!




Five horses had been saved, six were lost in that fire.  Everyone felt incredible losses.  Owners, trainers, handlers and the horses who had survived would be scarred for life.

Except Neville.

With everyone feeling horribly, Neville was the crusading cheerleader.  He ate, he drank, he cribbed and he yearned to get outside his stall and MOVE!

So, the vets decided to go with it.  Why not send Neville to a hyperbaric chamber (high levels of oxygen – you can read about HBOT here from a previous blog) to speed up his healing and see what would happen?  So they did.  Every day.  And to everyone’s surprise, Neville started healing – rapidly.

What happened next was pretty amazing…


Neville wanted something to do so Boyd saddled him and rode around for 5 minutes...

A MONTH LATER… (another excerpt from Boyd’s interview)

“Something just told me that Imight as well start riding this horse, so I get on him and his ears are pricked and he’s happy.  He was still doing the hyperbaric chamber every day.  I got this feeling that the old horse was OK – part of being a good horseman is reading your horse’s spirit.  His spirit ws there ad he had spring in his stride.  I was lucky the biggest guider in this whole thing was Dr. Keane, who’s a very practical vet.  I didn’t really have a splan, but he kept on passing all th tests.  We just took it one day at a time.  Before I knew it we did a five-minute trot – he kept on feeling goodand positive and happy.”

And then Boyd got the idea that this horse could compete in the 2011 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, just a few weeks away on Labor Day.




Neville was in the barn at the time of the fire because he was on stall rest.  He had injured his shoulder two months prior.  Then Neville endured the fire and recovery.  So, in essence, this horse had been out of commission for 4 months.

Now, they had 8 weeks to get him in tip-top shape.

Neville was game.  He thrived.  It was awesome.

So they flew to England for the race.

Neville, the hurt and burnt, recently rehabilitated horse came in a roaring 7th!  A HUGE victory and the crown erupted.

So they continued…

Fit as a fiddle!



And then it happened on January 12th of this year…






The horse who was once destined for slaughter and then survivied a barn fire is now hoping to find a seat on the 2012 US Olympic Equestrian Team.

(As an aside from a lay person… is it possible that his wind sucking cribbing habit strengthened his respiratory system to where he was stronger to withstand smoke inhalation and recover more rapidly?)


Anyway, winning a spot on the Olympic Team sounds like a walk in the park after all he’s been through, eh?


HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth… if you like this, please pass it around!



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HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth... if you like this, please pass it around!

5 comments have been posted...

  1. ~ cheryl mendenhall

    Wow – what an amazing story. Thank you for sharing it – I loved it and have shared it on facebook and with many friends via email. You’re a tremendous writer and I so appreciate your sharing of horse stories.

  2. nancy

    He is so beautiful. My heart goes out to the owners and horses lost in that fire. And to the Crains.

  3. dawndi Post author

    We to lost all of our horses and cats in a barn fire May 16, 2009 we were home only 50 feet from the barn didn’t smell or hear a thing due to a party going on our road. My husband tried to get inside only to be pushed back by the flames it was totally ingulfed in 15 to 20 minutes. We lost all 3 barns which were attached we didn’t have anything plugged in at the sockets something that was never done. I have read about fires in barns before and the hardship that people go through that is why I more than anyone always kept cobwebs down from stalls, lights and sockets. I had only been out in the barn 25 minutes before from when they figured the fire started. I left the barn as usual going through the barn giving each horse a pat and calling them by their names I even took time out to sit and pet all 3 barn cats walked out the door as usual telling them all see you in the morning who would have thought that this night would be any different from any other night. My husband and I still have a hard time dealing with the loss we buried them in a mass grave all together including the cats. The tears still flow and the memories of that night are so real to this day. We have rebuilt and now have some new horses but the others will never leave our hearts. I’m so glad that you were able to get your horse and a few others out of the fire. The Crains

  4. horse care courses

    Cribbing, wind sucking usually develops in horses as a means of stress relief (then become a habit / addicion a bit like humans smoking cigarettes) they actually release endorphins in the brain so effectively the cribbing will have helped Neville Bardos – he was on happy pills!

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