By David Leggat
No prizes for guessing the topic of conversation round the Price dining table most nights.
Chances are that Jonelle and Tim Price know exactly what they have been up to each day.
The New Zealand eventing stars are among the world’s elite. Both have won two of the top level four star classes; both sit in the top echelon of their sport and are firm candidates for New Zealand’s Olympic eventing team in Tokyo next year.
As such they compete against each other regularly. They have lived in England for 14 years, and can laugh that they’re almost accepted as locals in their home town of Marlborough in Wiltshire.
Both are competitive but if they can’t nab a win they have an obvious second preference.
‘’Sometimes it’s good, sometimes less good,’’ Jonelle Price laughed about the dynamic under their roof.
‘’We don’t know any different. We’ve been together a long time now, the whole time we’ve been over here we’ve been living together. It’s normal for us.
‘’We’re definitely arch-rivals, but if we’re not going to win then naturally we want the other person to win.
‘’The prizemoney comes to the same bank account at the end of the day.’’
Jonelle Price was part of New Zealand’s bronze medal-winning team at the London Olympics, riding Flintstar. In Rio she finished 17th while Tim was eliminated before completing the cross country leg. They were the first husband-and-wife team competing together in Olympic eventing.
Her memories of the London experience remain strong.
‘’It was just incredible. For me it was a bit of a breakthrough moment.
‘’In terms of Olympics, I think it was pretty special. Toddy (Mark Todd) and (Andrew) Nicholson, who have seen a few, said it was definitely one of the more special ones. The city was alive and a bit more accessible so you had family and friends around.’’
Add in the arrival of first child Otis, who will be two in August, and it’s a hectic life for the pair.
‘’We have to be a little more organised and we certainly rely on a lot of help, but in terms of our professional careers we’ve been able to resume as normal.
‘’Otis travels a lot with us. He’s really fun, certainly one of the more well-travelled toddlers around,’’ she quipped.
Last year was a breakthrough for the pair. Although Tim had one four star title to his name (riding Wesko at Luhmuhlen in Germany in 2014), both won four star titles in 2018 – indeed they bagged three between then.
Jonelle and Classic Moet won Badminton, then at Luhmuhlen aboard her other top line horse Faerie Dianimo, while Tim won Burghley on Ringwood Sky Boy.
Tim is the world No 1-ranked eventer, while Jonelle is leading the Event Rider Masters Table.
One year out they’re not getting ahead of themselves but have half an eye on Tokyo, where the rules are changing, trimming teams by one combination, down from four to three.
For Jonelle, at 38 two years younger than her husband, her best horses are now getting long in the tooth at 15 (Faerie Dianimo) and 17 (Classic Moet) but she has a promising 11-year-old Grovine de Reve, which could yet be her best chance in Tokyo. It was fellow Kiwi Dan Jocelyn’s World Games ride last year.
So what advice would she give to an Olympic first-timer come Tokyo?
‘’The problem is nobody knows quite what it is that makes it special.
‘’Everybody from your kindergarten, or schoolteacher, to your neighbour from when you were growing up, to the kids you went to school with associate with the Olympics. Whereas with the likes of the world championships you have to be equestrian enthusiasts to know it’s going on.
‘’There’s something very special about the Olympics. Everybody wants to be there, and at the top of the podium.’’
Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games Tim Price Jonelle Price Equestrian - Eventing