If the Gifford family had not been involved in horse racing they would very likely have been vets. There’s such a history of nursing sick horses back to health that the success of Tina Cook in contributing to the three day event team silver medal at the Olympics today might have led to its own book and film had her father not got there before her.
Her father, the late Josh Gifford, was the nursemaid of Aldaniti, who went on to win the 1981 Grand National. No doubt Cook took heart from that when last year her eventing horse Miner’s Frolic developed a lump on his back that turned into colitis, a disease which kills half the horses that contract it.
Miner’s Frolic, known as Fred at the family stables in Sussex, was taken to Arundel Equine Centre for treatment. Cook said at the time, “One evening they said ‘we have done all we can, it’s cruel to keep him alive any longer.’” But after a series of blood transfusions he pulled through and with his rider met the Olympic qualifying standard at an event in Ireland.
The last few days have shown all the worry of that time to have been worthwhile, as clear rounds from Cook in both the cross country and show jumping phases of the competition moved the British team up the leaderboard to the silver medal spot.
Although Cook has spent most of her career in the saddle in the eventing sphere, she is no stranger to the racecourse. She was barely 16 years old when taking part in the Newmarket Town Plate, and as recently as March this year, won the charity race at the Cheltenham Festival on Pascha Bere, trained by her brother, Nick.
There’ll have been none of the banter she was subjected to then by her brother over the last few days. Just intense family pride, mixed with regret that dad wasn’t here to see it. But how proud he would have been.