Australian Grand Prix Horse Utopian Cardinal Passed Away

Fri, 04/12/2024 - 11:29
Heath Ryan and Utopian Cardinal in 2015 :: Photo © private

Australian internationally competed Grand Prix horse Utopian Cardinal has passed away. He was 19 years old.

Utopian Cardinal was an Australian warmblood gelding by Regardez Moir out of Wynella Lantarna (by Lanthan x Mendip Man). 

Heath Ryan

Bred by Anthony and Jewels Thornhill, Utopian Cardinal was produced to Grand Prix level by his rider and actively competed on the international show scene between 2012 and 2016. 

Utopian Cardinal was owned by Anthony Thornhill at the start of his career. The pair made its international debut at small tour level in 2012 at the CDI Orange and moved up to Grand Prix level in 2013. They were regulars at all CDI's in Australia (Sydney, Boneo, Orange, Brisbane, Melbourne)

competing for an Olympic position in the Australian Olympic team for Rio De Janeiro 2016. Cardinal has scored over 70% in National competitions and has scored over 70% with individual international judges in CDI competitions. 

With Ryan at the 2016 CDI Sydney
In May 2015 the ownership on the horse's FEI passport changed to Mary Nitschke even though Thornhill continued to be mentioned in the press as owner through 2018 - probably an administrative mistake.

In September 2015 Ryan offered the horse for sale as a Rio Olympic hopeful, but he ended up not selling. They won the 2015 Australian Intermediaire II Championship and the 2016 Australian Grand Prix Championship. In 2017 they were 11th. Heath continued to compete the liver chestnut through 2018.

In 2016 they had their best season, winning the Grand Prix and Kur at the CDI-W Melbourne and the Kur at the CDI-W Sydney. They rode for an Olympic position. They did not make the cut. In 2018 they were fifth at the Pacific League World Cup Final in Boneo.  Ryan offered the horse for sale in the 2018 Auctions of the Stars on account of Thornhill, where the Nitschke family secured him with the highest bid.

Mary Nitschke

Nitschke took place in the saddle as of 2019 and showed the horse at Under 25 Grand Prix level. 

For four years the pair were a solid combination on the Australian scene, showing all at CDI's across the country: They debuted at the 2019 CDI Sydney, where they were sixth and third and went to CDI's in Brisbane, Boneo, Bawley Point, Caboolture, and Melbourne.

The pair won the gold medal and title at the 2022 Australian Under 25 Championships. The pair's last show was at the 2023 CDI Bawley Point in February 2023, where they finished third in the U25 Kur to Music. 

Untimely Passing

After his retirement from sport, Utopian Cardinal stayed at Heath Ryan's farm. 

Nitschke announced the passing of the gelding on her Facebook page on 10 April 2024. 

Mary Nitschke and Utopian Cardinal
"The horse that changed my life. Not only did he change my life but he touched the lives of everyone around him. He was the most gentle and kind soul," said Mary. "I never could have imagined the journey that Cardinal and I ended up on together. We travelled all over Australia together. I learnt so so much from him and am so grateful that I had the opportunity to learn from such a magnificent and generous horse like Cardinal. While I am sure there are a few people that could tell you stories of Cardinal running around loose somewhere after pulling back or spooking…he was the kindest most gentle soul who was an absolute warrior when it came to competition. No matter the conditions - Cardinal knew that competition arena and would always put his best hoof forward."

Nitschke added, "Thank you to everyone at home - Mum, Dad, Claire and the team at HorsemedSA Hills Equine Veterinary Clinic who looked after Cardinal right up to his very last minute. He was a very special horse to a lot of people and he was my absolute world. I am very grateful to have been part of his life and had the opportunity to love him."

Photos © Franz Venhaus

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