Remembering Calypso

He was everybody's hero in the 1980s, a little horse who thought he could jump anything - and he usually did. His impressive credits include a 1984 Olympic gold team medal. Calypso died last weekend at age 29. Owner/rider Melanie Smith Taylor delivers a touching farewell to the horse that has been so much a part of her life.
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He was everybody's hero in the 1980s, a little horse who thought he could jump anything - and he usually did. His impressive credits include a 1984 Olympic gold team medal. Calypso died last weekend at age 29. Owner/rider Melanie Smith Taylor delivers a touching farewell to the horse that has been so much a part of her life.

December 16, 2002 -- The partnership of Melanie Smith Taylor and Calypso is best known for its contributions to many important U.S. show jumping victories, including the 1984 Olympic team gold medal.

But it was also a wonderful friendship that continued into the bay gelding's long retirement, ending only with his death last weekend at the age of 29. When they were going for it in a major competition, the determination in Calypso's eyes matched his rider's expression of resolve, a combined mental toughness that usually got the job done.

"I always felt we could win any class over any course on any day if luck were with us," Melanie recalled about the era when her Dutchbred son of Lucky Boy was competing.

"He gave you that kind of confidence. The faster you went, the higher he jumped. He was so careful and quick and always kept his head."

Career highlights for the pair included the 1982 World Cup finals and the bronze medal at the 1980 Rotterdam alternate Olympics. They were also the only horse/rider combination to win the old triple crown of show jumping, the American Invitational, the Jumping Derby and the American Gold Cup.

Melanie considers her victory in the 1982 Invitational before a big crowd in Tampa Stadium one of her "most exciting jump-off rides ever, although Calypso's first grand prix win as a 6-year-old at the Jumping Derby stands out as well. "But equally important to me were the team wins we had in the Nations' Cups," she emphasized. "Lyps was just one of those horses that when you needed a clean round most, you knew you could count on him."

The shows where he anchored major U.S. Cup victories with clear rounds included Rome, Dublin and Spruce Meadows.

By jumper standards, Calypso was a relatively small horse, standing only 16 hands and 1/4 inch. He made up for that, as Melanie observed, "with an enormous heart and great mind."

Melanie retired from show jumping in 1987 and at the end of Calypso's career, he was sent for sale to Rodney Jenkins. Financial problems at the farm for which Melanie used to ride meant she was barred from buying Calypso. It seemed the two of them would never get together again.

Then her husband-to-be, Lee Taylor, stepped in. He got in touch with Jenkins, never mentioning Melanie, and struck a deal. Calypso soon had a new home at Taylor's farm in Germantown, TN, where he was reunited with Melanie.

"I was so excited to see him," she remembered. "I rode him around the farm the next day. There was a 4-foot wooden fence around the track, and I headed toward it and jumped into the ring and out the other side. I took off galloping, because I felt like a kid again."

That was the last time Calypso wore a saddle. Retirement agreed with him. He looked "like a Thelwell pony enlarged. No girth would ever fit him," Melanie said.

"For 14 years, he admired the young fillies in his pasture, wallowed in the lake, snoozed in the sun and munched grass to his heart's content. "The morning before he died, he galloped across the field as usual towards his beloved feed tub."

This fall, Syd Eustace Goodrich, Calypso's loving caretaker during his career, came down to see him for what turned out to be a final visit. Melanie was glad the three of them had a chance to be together again. Thoughts of Calypso will never be far from Melanie's mind, no matter how many years roll by.

She always liked to say, making a word play on his sire's name, that "Lyps was a Lucky Boy and I was a very lucky girl to have had him as my horse of a lifetime."