To mark what should have been the start of this year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, three-time Olympic team gold medallist, Olympic individual silver medallist and the only Australian in any sport to have competed at seven Games, Andrew Hoy joined us on episode eight of The Horse & Hound Podcast to reflect on his favourite Olympic memories and some of the special horses he’s partnered along the way.
Andrew made his Olympic debut in Los Angeles in 1984 riding Davey, an incredible little horse who failed on the racetrack before coming to Andrew as his Pony Club mount.
“I was 15 when I went to look at him with my parents,” says Andrew. “Four years later in 1978 we were selected for the World Championships in Kentucky and then 1984 was the Los Angeles Olympics. My Pony Club horse took me to an alternative Olympics, an Olympic Games, won Burghley, and went to two World Championships – I was very, very priviliged. And it all started with the relationship we developed at Pony Club through doing the egg-and-spoon race, the barrel race, the sack race and all the things you do at Pony Club – little did I realise then he was going to be the horse that would take me around the world.”
Bred on a cattle station in Queensland, the little Australian thoroughbred proved not fast enough for racing and so was shipped by train to a cattle market sale yard, where he was bought by a dairy farmer called Dave. He was then sold to a lady, who took him to two shows before selling him to Andrew.
“At that time he was called Dave, after the diary farmer,” explains Andrew. “I didn’t think ‘here comes Andrew Hoy riding Dave’ sounded too good, so I changed his name to Davey. At the age of 15 I had no idea the career he was going to give me – he was only a small horse, but a very special horse.”
Davey was just the start of Andrew’s Olympic success. With seven Games to choose from, you might expect it to be difficult for him to select a favourite, but not so.
“Every Olympics is very special, but for me the most special had to be Sydney,” says Andrew. “Not only because it was in my home town, not just because I won a third team gold medal plus individual silver – the thing that made Sydney really special was that it brought the best out of the country and the best out of the Australian people. The Australian volunteers embraced having the world come to them to be part of the Olympic Games – they just wanted everyone to enjoy the Olympics. Being in my home country and having the success I had there made it very, very special.”
That success was in the form of team gold with Darien Powers and individual silver riding Swizzle In – Sydney was an Olympics where the individual and team competitions were run seperately with different horse and rider combinations in each. So how did Andrew’s two Sydney rides compare?
“Swizzle In was a very special horse. He was very different to my team horse Darien Powers. Darien Powers was a wonderful grey horse. I would describe him as a very charismatic horse, he was very attractive and elegant in the way he moved. Swizzle In was smaller, a little brown horse – a real fighter in the right way.”
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Owned by Gina Flood, from Bermuda, the US thoroughbred was named after a pub in Gina’s native country – the Swizzle Inn. Andrew first took the ride on him at Bramham, in the days when you could pick up a catch ride at that level – and they won. That was the start of a very successful partnership at top level, but he was a horse that required Andrew to be at the top of his riding game at all times.
“If I had to put a ride down as what I would consider to be my perfect ride, it was with Swizzle In around the Sydney Olympic Games. That was because if I didn’t have the correct rhythm at the correct speed to the correct take off spot at every fence, he would have stopped.
“The last fence I went to jump in the warm-up before the showjumping, it was about 1m/1.05m and not very wide. I cantered in and he stopped – that was the best thing that could have happened because it reminded me just how positive and accurate I had to be. So I jumped one fence, went in and he jumped clear.
“He was a very special horse as long as you rode like an Olympic champion.”
If you’d like to enjoy more Olympic memories from Andrew, and hear him talking about the horses he is aiming for Tokyo, listen here to episode eight of The Horse & Hound podcast or search “The Horse & Hound Podcast” in your favourite podcast app.