While the events of 2020 have undoubtedly brought challenge and heartache for a large number of people, lockdown has also allowed many of us to press a pause button on our busy lives, focus on specific goals and spend more time with our families and horses. Leading Australian eventer and Bombers Bits partner Andrew Hoy and is no different, as he shares his lockdown experience and ponders his plans for the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games.
“The events of 2020 have really allowed me to focus on the basics with all of the horses at our base, Somerby Stables,” explains Andrew, whose Olympic hopefuls include David and Paula Evans’ Vassily de Lassos and Creevagh Cooley, Odaria Finemore’s Bloom des Hauts Crets and John and Louise Ayre’s Basmati. “The foundation work I’d normally do in winter I’ve been able to extend through lockdown and into summer, which has been really beneficial.
“It’s also given me the opportunity to work with my team of seven at home and help them understand why I do things a particular way, bettering their skillset. They now have a better appreciation for the range of work I do with each horse to lead them to become well-rounded athletes. During lockdown, we’ve done lots of work focusing on biomechanics to make sure they’re level on both sides with guidance from vet Dr Rachel Murray, for example, and honing our flatwork via video sessions with top dressage rider and trainer Gareth Hughes.”
“We’ve been riding on fields and along the sides of hills to optimise equine biomechanics, proprioception and strength – plus everything else across the spectrum,” Andrew continues. “The horses are now in very good shape. Any horse that’s running at the top level thrives on competition and enjoys it – so they’re really looking forward to getting out. Once allowed, we started cross-country schooling, which has been really good. I’d usually be going throughout the year with the youngsters, and even the more experienced ones, but we’ve been able to focus much more on their individual training programmes,” Andrew adds. “Even though we’ve not been at competitions, I’ve been able to spend more time with the horses and my team, which has been invaluable.”
Family time is also imperative to Andrew, who’s married to Stefanie and has two young children, Philippa and Oscar. “If I’d been competing, the children would have been with us – albeit in a different environment – but lockdown has meant we’ve spent time at home instead. It’s helped me realise and appreciate how beautiful our home, and the area we live in, is,” Andrew says. “During the first part of lockdown Stefanie ordered a Wendy house for the children, so we were busy putting it up and painting it – this precious time together has been fantastic. Phillipa is almost three and loves riding her pony. Oscar isn’t one yet and is more reticent – he sits on our tiny mini-Shetland, but one day I took him onto one of the bigger horses I was sitting on and he cried – it was maybe a bit high!” Philippa has an exciting third birthday ahead of her, with the secret, imminent arrival of a new pony that the family found quite by chance, who Andrew deems ‘quite special’.
In terms of competitive plans, Andrew’s first UK eventing competition takes place in a weeks’ time, at the time of writing. There are also events in countries including Italy, Spain and Portugal that may run past the conclusion of the British eventing season, which he and his owners will consider running at.
Andrew’s pre-Olympic plans for already-qualified rides Vassily and Bloom aren’t yet set in stone, but he knows he won’t be doing any five-stars with them, instead planning to run the horses at both short and long-format four stars. “If I have any horse who’s going to Tokyo, he’s got to be able to be competitive – they have to be able to run and compete, and do what they’d normally do,” he adds. Basmati has completed 50% of his Tokyo qualification at the time of writing, while relatively new ride Creevagh Cooley also needs to qualify. “Her previous rider, Michael Jung, had qualified her for Tokyo, so I need to qualify her too. I’m in discussion with her owners about particular events,” Andrew explains.
To conclude, Andrew says that lockdown has emphasised an important lesson for him and his team. “You should never be in a rush with the horses,” he says, before heading off for another day’s holistic training with his string of much-loved horses.
In addition to being an Elite Rider with Bombers Bits, Andrew Hoy is a Technical Development Partner with the innovative South African brand. “Andrew is such a well-respected equestrian figure, so to have his support and involvement in the development of our pioneering bits is a wonderful accolade,” Bomber Nel, proprietor of Bombers Equestrian Equipment Ltd, explains. “We’re proud to support his ethos of gold-standard horsemanship, which also applies to our own processes.”
“Bombers develops and produces bits meeting the highest scientific standard for horses. We know that a Bombers bit helps achieve enhanced communication and feel between horse and rider, incrementally helping boost overall performance,” Andrew adds.
For more information, visit bombers.co.za, or call 01825 840002 for Bomber Bits stockists.