An Eventer to Watch
PUBLISHED: 01:16 08 April 2011 | UPDATED: 21:31 20 February 2013
Sandy Thwaites meets Barbury's local event rider, Andrew Hoy, a triple Australian Olympic team gold medallist who is one of Wiltshire's biggest fans
Andrew Hoy was brought up on a farm in Culcairn, New South Wales. His mother was interested in horse riding and his father competed in Australias premier motor rally series. As a result,"Andrew says, motor racing is still my second passion (after horses) and I have had some great times driving. I still follow motor racing and get behind the wheel occasionally. In 2005, I even finished second in a race on the same day as The Melbourne Grand Prix.
But, as it turns out, it was his mothers influence which proved strongest. As a 7-year-old, Andrew started riding round the farm and in Pony Club probably the most conventional route into his sport. However, Andrews competitive riding career actually started in rodeo and campdrafting. Campdrafting is Australias version of what Western Riders in America call cutting.
Only with campdrafting you have to get the beast out of a yard and around a course a sort of ridden version of One man and his dog, explains Andrew. I was once Australias junior champion campdrafter. That taught me the most about all-round horsemanship to this day.
In fact, that would go a long way to explaining the success he has had in eventing which, with its three phases (dressage, showjumping and cross country), is widely acknowledged as the ultimate test of a true horseman.
Andrew started competing at senior level in eventing at the age of 17 and found himself on a fast track to the national team when, within two years, he was representing Australia at the 1978 World Eventing Championships. You couldnt do that now the sport is so much more regulated and competitive, he says.
Over subsequent years, Andrews training and competitive schedule had involved various trips and stays in the UK, but he was to make a more permanent move here in 1993, following Australias gold medal team performance at the Barcelona Olympics (1992).
It was a conscious decision to commit to riding professionally full-time and in order to improve and stay at the top of my game, I needed to be in Britain the hub of the sport, explains Andrew.
That was to herald a literally golden era of eventing for Australia in which Andrew was to play a pivotal part, alongside the likes of Matt Ryan, Phillip Dutton and Stuart Tinney. Andrew was on the team which went on to take Olympic team gold at both Atlanta (1996) and Sydney (2000). It was there, on home territory, that Andrew took his first individual Olympic medal Silver, narrowly beaten by USA rider David OConnor.
That made it an unprecedented three Olympic team golds in a row for Andrew and makes him the only antipodean equestrian athlete to win three on the trot.
That was such an exciting time for us all. I am very proud to have been part of it, comments Andrew.
In 2001, in Gloucestershire, Andrew married German Olympic rider Bettina Overesch, and at the Athens Olympics they became one of the few married couples ever to have competed in the same discipline for different nations in the same year. Working together mostly from the UK they have been a great partnership, which has produced four star victories both here and abroad during the noughties including Burghley (2004) and Badminton (2006) wins for Andrew.
I have been lucky enough to have some wonderful horses, including Darien Powers, Master Monarch and Moonfleet, to name just three. This season I have three younger horses in training (and am hoping to build up to four or five through the season), based at Ogbourne St Andrew, just outside Marlborough, on the edge of the Barbury Estate. They are all very nice horses, albeit they are at 2-star level at the moment, they should all be capable of going to 4-star in time.
Barbury is one of the toughest 3-star events because of the combination of testing terrain cross-country and technically quite difficult fences. You need a very fit and experienced horse. I am hoping that Rutherglen will be up to the task this year. He has won at Barbury before in fact, a few years ago,in one of their Burghley Young Event horse classes designed to bring on future talent; so l am hoping hes really going to show that this year.
Whats great about Barbury as an event is that it has a wonderful relaxed atmosphere and is in a beautiful setting where spectators can see virtually the whole cross-country course without having to move. But, at the same time, for the competitors it is a true test of the stamina and ability of horse and rider, and always hotly contested.
Andrew genuinely loves Wiltshire. He explains: Perhaps its because Im still an outsider, I always notice the individual beauty of the different areas of the UK and abroad. I like the more obviously pretty Cotswolds, for example, but its this area I really love Barbury Castle, the Manton area and the Marlborough Downs and the villages like Aldbourne. I love the openness, the green and the thatched cottages dotted around. And, of course, its ideally located for travelling across the country to compete.
With Wiltshire being such a horsey area, I asked Andrew if he can get away with being out and about in the county without being recognised.
The countryside is a great leveller. Im often out exercising the horses on the Downs and meet joggers and cyclists and get into conversations. Sometimes they ask me my name at the end, and the other day one guy said how excited his wife would be that hed met me! People seem to think that because weve had success in sport, we are somehow different from everybody else, which of course, were not, he insists.
At 52 years old, what of the future?
I would like to continue on with the riding, and I would like to take on some sort of coaching role because I think it would be really rewarding. Having just a few horses at the moment means I now also have time to focus on some new business interests as well. Eventing is such an international sport these days, but I would really love to stay in this area if I can.