Digby and Nathalie: Remembering an amazing royal and Olympic team

8 min.

The royal team Digby and Nathalie said their final goodbye to each other last fall. Olympic star Digby (the then 23-year-old gelding) had to be put to sleep as a result of a bad case of laminitis. His rider Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg and her vet agreed that it was best to let the former bronze medal winner from the 2008 Beijing Olympics go to sleep for the very last time. As we await the outcome of the 2021 Olympics, let´s take a look back at this amazing team and their journey.


Here we remember the dressage horse that has assisted the now 46-year-old danish national team coach from the time it was born until he passed away. There are not many horses that experience having the same owner throughout their entire life – but Digby did. Here we have highlighted 7 memorable facts and moments – beautiful as well as funny. Highlights by which we can pay tribute and remember the very special horse Digby and his collaboration with Princess Nathalie.

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1. Digby’s greatest strength

Digby did not have a tremendous gait. But he knew his stuff, thanks to a skilled rider and tons of routine. His greatest strength was without a doubt the piaffe and passage, which often gave the team the highest scores through their many rides.

Digby and Nathalie together in the autumn of 2017. Photo: Kunddahl Graphic Photography / Erik Kunddahl.

2. No, Digby did not know he was going to the Olympics

“Digby does not know he is going to the Olympics. Digby knows he is going to a competition”

Princess Nathalie to Ulla Therkelsen / TV2 Denmark during the London Olympics, 2012.

This is what Princess Nathalie told TV2’s correspondent Ulla Therkelsen when she was asked during the 2012 London Olympics whether Digby was really aware of what he was a part of. Smiling and slightly indulgent, Nathalie explained that Digby, of course, could not sense more than what any animal would.  A statement, that Nathalie – and Digby – later became quite known for in the general population.

Digby and Nathalie at home in Berleburg. Photo: Kunddahl Graphic Photography / Erik Kunddahl.

3. Castrated on his birthday

A little funny thing that you may not know is that Digby was castrated on his birthday. It happened when he was 9 years old. Actually, it was just a pure coincidence, Nathalie explained grinning to danish tv-host Anders Lund Madsen when he interviewed both the princess and Digby, during the 2012 Olympics in London. The castration happened as a consequence of Digby needing to be able to concentrate more on the competition tracks, Nathalie added at the time.

“I do not think he would have been concentrated enough, been listening to me, and preformed his best in the arena (if he had been a stallion) as he does as a gelding”

Princess Nathalie to Anders Lund Madsen / DR national danish broadcasting during the Olympics in London, 2012.

4. Never used in breeding

Despite the fact that Digby first became a gelding when he was 9 years old, he has never been used in breeding. He was home bred, owned and bred by Princess Nathalie’s mother, H.R.H. Princess Benedict. Nathalie herself received him when he came into the world, just as she stood by his side when it was time to say goodbay. But no mini-Digby was ever made it, so he was definitely unique.

Digby and Nathalie in the riding arena at home in Berleburg, Germany in the autumn of 2017.
Photo: Kunddahl Graphic Photography / Erik Kunddahl.

5. World traveller

Digby managed to see more parts of the world than most people ever get the opportunity to. Among other things, he has carried Nathalie around Qatar, Hong Kong, Beijing, Kentucky, London and of course back home in Germany and Denmark. Digby was to that extent a world star – a very well-travelled horse.

However, the gelding did not make it to Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics in 2016. He quite deservedly retired in 2013. It happened during a nice farewell in at a big show in Herning, Denmark where the team took part in their last big competition together.

Watch the video of the emotional farewell when Digby retired

6. Fit until the very end

Although in the end it was the laminitis that ended Digby’s life, he was fresh and joyful until the very end. When H.R.H. Princess Benedict turned 75 in the spring of 2019, he lined up with Nathalie to celebrate his owner – at the age of 22. There is absolutely no doubt that Digby meant the world to both Princess Nathalie and her mother.

Digby and Nathalie during the celebration of H.R.H. Princess Benedict’s 75th birthday in April 2019.
Photo: Kunddahl Graphic Photography / Erik Kunddahl.

7. From the green meadows of Berleburg to the eternal meadows

As a retiree, Digby lived every horse’s dream life. As seen in Nathalie’s own video of him running around his meadow at home in Berleburg in the spring of 2020. Half a year later, he was put to sleep. May he rest in pieces.

“An era is over…. Digby is no longer alive.

Digby – from horse to world star.

Digby’s long life ended where it all started, in the fields at home in Berleburg, Germany. He has traveled the world, always given his best and been a true gentleman”

Official statement on Nathalie Horse Care’s Facebook

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