As youngsters, Andrew and his older brother Robert were surrounded by home-bred Welsh ponies at the family farm.
“Dad always had lots of ponies and we rode whatever was there. It didn’t bother me then, but it’s a fact that the older you get, the fussier you become. We became more and more interested, until, by the time we were 10 years old, we had developed the competitive nature which has stayed with us.”
Andrew’s first love was show jumping, while Robert went into racing. But Andrew’s first attempts were hardly awe-inspiring and could well have put him off for good.
“My first pony was a 13hh called Vincent. He was a ‘gangster’ and I thought that we’d done well if we got past the first fence. It was good fun, though.We would hack five miles to our local show, have a good – if not successful – time and hack back.”
Andrew persevered and turned failures into success, achieving his dream when Nutmeg took him to Wembley’s Junior Show Jumper of the Year final.
More successes followed with John’s Choice, who was sold to Lesley McNaught, and Seamus, who qualified for HOYS and earned second place at Olympia.
Leaving school at the age of 16 gave Andrew quite a culture shock. “My first job was as a tyre fitter and then I tried metalwork and that didn’t last three months. All I wanted to do was ride, so I went to work for dealer Ray Harris, then for Jimmy Maguire.”
But it was inevitable that the ambitious Andrew would want to start up on his own, and he returned home. “I messed about for a little while, bought a couple of novices and then it was go, go, go.”
Like most other riders, Andrew struggled to make ends meet, and became a travelling salesman for a soft drinks company. This allowed Andrew to become more established and he now has a promising string – and a queue of young horses waiting to come in.
“Producing novices and teaching are among the most rewarding aspects of the sport. I like to buy horses young or unbroken, as you see so many individual characters.”It’s nice to see more classes now for young horses. It’s pointless to rush them and I agree with the many other riders who say that we should not be trying them against the clock until they are six-year-olds.”
However, Andrew is the first to admit that a jump-off gives him a real buzz, so he has to rely on his established horses for excitement.
Having won the Scottish points championship no less than seven times on different horses, no one can deny that Andrew Hamilton is one of the most determined riders on the circuit.
“At the end of the day, I’m not playing percentages. I’m out to win.”