Michael Phelps’ horse Water Cube might have a future in eventing, according to two-time Olympic gold equestrian medalist Phillip Dutton. Dutton is testing out the horse at the suggestion of mutual friends, who realized Water Cube might not cut it as a racehorse.
Eventing is often called horse triathlon and is designed to challenge the horse to compete in three very different equestrian disciplines: dressage, cross-country and show jumping.
In May, Phelps noted in a Facebook live chat that none of the horses that he co-owns with longtime coach Bob Bowman were fast enough for the major races of the year.
“None in the Preakness or the Derby yet, but maybe one day. We didn't make the cut this year," Phelps said with a laugh.
Dutton said Water Cube – named for the venue at the 2008 Beijing Olympics where Phelps won a record eight gold medals – was potentially well-suited for eventing due to his build. He also said Water Cube seems to enjoy attention and is enthusiastic but is very quiet.
“He carries himself in a nice, elevated way, which is helpful. All that stuff plays a part especially when it comes to jumping and the dressage world,” Dutton told NBC Olympics. “He looks like an athlete, basically, and that’s what we want. He’s still a young horse and his muscling will change now when we see a lot of jumps. Once we stop the racing all the time and we start working on the dressage work, that starts changing the shape of the horse and the muscling. They develop a lot more of the top line of muscles. I think he’s going to really develop into a great looking horse.”
Water Cube, who is 4 years old, is too young to be eligible for Rio, but could be ready by the 2020 Tokyo Games. Plus, with a name like Water Cube, he’s already got plenty of Olympic ties.
“Some people say it’s bad luck to change the horse’s name,” Dutton said. “I would think that he’ll keep the same name.”
Dutton is known for rehabilitating racehorses and turning them into successful eventing competitors. Dutton competed in three Olympic Games for Australia – winning gold in 1996 and 2000 in Team Eventing on racehorses-turned-eventers – before moving Stateside and competing in 2008 and 2012 for Team USA. The U.S. Eventing team will be announced later in June.
Carrie Waltemeyer contributed to this report.