California Riding Magazine • July, 2008

Flying Changes

Super Pony, Theodore O’Connor, Euthanized After Tragic Accident

Theodore O’Connor, the 13-year-old eventing “super pony” was humanely euthanized on May 28, after injuring himself in an accident at Karen and David O’Connor’s barn in The Plains, VA.

Ridden by three-time Olympic veteran Karen O’Connor, Teddy (as he was known) made friends and picked up fans everywhere he went. Seeing was believing with Teddy as it seemed impossible to imagine that a pony of his size could do his job with such tremendous ease and enthusiasm.

Standing only 14.1 hands, the Shetland/Arabian/Thoroughbred cross gelding was the reigning team and individual gold medalist from the 2007 Pan American Games and had top six finishes at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event in 2007 and 2008. He was the 2007 USEF/Farnam Horse of the Year and recently had been named to the USEF Short List for Eventing for this year’s Olympics.

In a statement released by the United States Equestrian Federation, the O’Connors said on his way back to the barn after his morning workout, “Teddy got frightened and bolted. He slipped running back to the barn and suffered a severe laceration to his hind leg, severing the tendons and ligaments. Dr. A. Kent Allen was on the scene immediately, and it was determined after examination that the injuries were catastrophic. Everyone who knew Teddy is devastated.”

If you would like to share your thoughts or condolences with those closest to Teddy, e-mail them to The USEF will make sure all messages are delivered to their intended recipients.
This information was provided courtesy of the USEF.

Historic Equestrian Center Restored in San Fernando Valley

The Bell Canyon Equestrian Center was originally designed by architect Cliff May, known world-wide as the father of the California ranch home. Located in Bell Canyon, it was built in the early 1960s and is one of very few stables designed by May. It is noted for combining the western ranch house and Hispanic hacienda styles with elements of modernism.

The restoration project took nearly two years and cost over $537,000. One of the San Fernando Valley’s few remaining full-service equestrian centers, Bell Canyon is now open to all for boarding, training and lessons. 

Champion of the Caspian Horse, Louise Firouz

Louise Laylin Firouz, who popularized the ancient breed of horses she found in the Iranian hill towns along the Caspian Sea, died on May 25. She was 74 and lived in a small town in northern Iran. The cause of death was lung and liver failure of pulmonary and liver disorders.
Louise attended Cornell University in the 50s with plans to become a veterinarian, but she failed a physics class and obtained her degree in animal husbandry instead. At Cornell she met her future husband, Narcy Firouz. She returned with him to his native Iran in 1957.

While in the town of Amol, her eye was drawn to a small horse pulling a cart much larger than his 12 hands warranted. He was not a pony in type—finely boned, with the dry tendons and chiseled head of an Arabian. He seemed perfect for the children’s equestrian center she was running in Teheran. She negotiated the purchase of the small stallion, Ostad.

Ostad turned out to be a gem, a Caspian horse; a breed that was believed to have died out 1,300 years ago. Louise set off in search of others. She learned that the locals often caught them from the wild herds that still sought sanctuary in the high valleys of the Elburz mountains. Further DNA testing done at the University of Kentucky in 1990 directly linked these horses to other ancient Egyptian and Persian horse, establishing the Caspian horse as a forefather of Arabian and Thoroughbred horses.

Elwyn Hartley Edwards, author of The Encyclopedia Of The Horse, wrote, “The discovery of the Caspian, a breed of great antiquity, was a matter of the greatest scientific and historical importance in equine studies.”

Word of her discovery filtered through Iran’s high society. The country was then ruled by Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. In 1971, Prince Philip of Britain visited the Shah, who gave him two Caspians. Fascinated, the prince went to Louise’s academy and persuaded her to export some of her rare horses. Over the next eight years, she exported 29 Caspians, initiating foundation lines for a rebirth of the ancient breed.

But the Iranian revolution of 1978 and the exile of the Shah in 1979 brought troubles for the breed. They were associates of the Quahar dynasty and Louise was jailed, along with her husband Narcy Firouz and his brother. She was released after three weeks, but her husband remained in prison for three months.

The Firouz family fortunes were wiped out, so she sold jewelry and silver. After her husband’s release, as Iran began to normalize relationships with the West, Louise started a business of taking Western tourists on horseback tours of the Iranian countryside, using the Turkoman horses they kept at their farm in Gara Tepe Sheikh. She tirelessly promoted these small horses, along with the other breeds of Iran and Turkmenistan, and ran international horse tours that also introduced travelers to these breeds. In 1999 she began to gather Caspian horses again, and continued to ride and lead treks until her illness.

There are now nearly one thousand Caspian horses around the world, with strongly established breeding populations in England, Australia and United States, as well as Iran.