After the winter break and all the wind and rain of February, excitement returns this week as the eventing calendar sees the first outside competition of the year at Tweseldown. (Now as of 6th March – rest of event abandoned due to rain and muddy conditions.) It seems appropriate to us as it is two years since event rider and commentator Mike Tucker died and is just under two months before Badminton, where he was an annual fixture for several decades, to remember Mike and his remarkable life and influences he had on the sport of eventing.
Mike Tucker was always a Gloucestershire man. He was born at the end of The War in1944 and his young life was spent on the family farm near Chipping Sodbury. Horses very soon became his life, particularly eventing, and he was a keen member of the Beaufort Hunt Pony Club. He was educated privately at Wycliff College before studying at The Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester. His ambition was to represent his country at the Olympics, an ambition sadly never realised, but he did represent Great Britain in the 1975 European Championships where he finished seventh. The nearest he got to the Olympics was as reserve for the Montreal Games in 1976. He rode his first Badminton Horse Trials when he was 19 and competed there another 12 times during his riding career. His best round at Badminton was when he rode a horse he bred himself, General Bugle in 1983 when he was second to Lucinda Green. It is believed that the 1983 Badminton was the highlight of his riding; it was the best place he ever had and it was also one of the final Badminton Horse Trials attended by The Queen.
When he retired from riding he turned his hand to course design. He designed cross country course for the 2002 World Equestrian Games in Spain and was also course designer for Burghley, Chatsworth and Bramham. He served on the board of British Eventing from 1999 to 2005 and in 2004 he was chairman. He also served on the Olympic committee in 1988 at Seoul and was the cross country controller. In 1992, for the Barcelona Olympics, he was the eventing technical delegate.
Mike Tucker was first seen and heard on the BBC in 1977, still keeping his association with Badminton where he commentated for the first time. The BBC, at this time aired a lot of equestrian sport and he was one of the main commentators of the time along with Raymond Brookes-Ward. He became the lead commentator for equestrianism in 1992. His style was very much his own with his very distinctive voice and his ability to convey excitement. He was the lead commentator for six consecutive Olympic Games for equestrian sports. Some of his best known commentary highlights were in Aachen, when Zara Phillips, (now Tindall) won the European Championships in 2006, the London Olympics when Charlotte Dujardin won Gold, along with the British showjumping winning team gold in 2012. His most emotional commentary though has to be when Nick Skelton, at the age of 57 took the individual gold medal for showjumping at the Rio Olympics in 2016, Mike’s last Olympic commentary. By his own admission afterwards, he said that “everyone was in tears”.
Mike Tucker’s commentary was not without its critics. He made a considerable amount of mistakes during his career, right from day one when his first commentary at the Lockinge Point to Point, he got the two runners in the first race the wrong way round. He received quite a lot of flack for his commentary in the London 2012 Olympic Games when he was accused of talking far too much during the dressage and constantly getting names wrong. However, what he did have was the ability to inject real excitement, something that was his very special trait.
Among other things, Mike Tucker continued with his farming, and went in for Wagyu cattle to produce Kobe beef. It was sadly, while he was feeding his 70 animal herd one morning when he died suddenly of a heart attack in 2018, less than a year after he retired from all commentary work. He was also a Master of the Beaufort Hunt as well as serving on countless committees and organisations with the aim to bring a better experience for all within, and those who watched equestrianism.
At his funeral in Cirencester, the whose who of the horse world were present to pay their respects including The Princess Royal, with whom he was great friends and Zara Tindall. He is survived by his wife Angela and a son and daughter.
His son Andrew in 2020 keeps his Father’s presence at The Badminton Horse Trials where in 2019, he was appointed assistant director of the event. For someone who gave so much to eventing throughout his life and who was so connected with Badminton as a local, rider and commentator, many think that it would be fantastic to have a permanent cross country fence at Badminton named after him. Maybe one day!
The editor Bernard Simpson has been involved with horses and the industry for over 40 years. Together with his wife, he bred many flat racehorses including some which were Royal Ascot winners. He is also experienced in equine media using video, photography and journalism. Bernard currently lives in Wiltshire. He and guest authors now present this blog and hope you like our articles.
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