I was invited to interview Andrew Hoy as he prepared to set out to the Tokyo Olympics from his Somerby, Leicestershire yard.
At 62, Andrew Hoy has been to more Olympic Games than any other Australian, a total of seven games since Los Angeles. At those games he has won a total of three team Golds and one Individual Silver.
The United Kingdom is a major hub for the equestrian sport of three-day eventing. Top riders from all over the World base themselves in this country, where competitions take place on almost every day of the week, March to November. England hosts two of the seven top flight 5* events which happen worldwide, at Badminton and Burghley.
Andrew Hoy moved to the UK twenty years ago and counts the Gatcombe Park Estate of The Princess Royal as one of his British bases, among others. When he began looking for a new long-term base a few years ago, he had a particular set of requirements, such as indoor and outdoor schools, hills to train on and plenty of grass paddocks, "where horses can be horses". When they found Somerby Stables, it had everything they wanted apart from accommodation for Steffi and Andrew on site, something the owner was prepared to build for the right tenant.
Andrew Hoy’s partner for his eighth Olympics is the 12-year-old Anglo-Arab Vassily de Lassos, bred in France and later produced to 3* level by Tom Carlile. The horse is 80% thoroughbred so the shorter, more race-like cross country course which the Tokyo Olympics will offer will suit them well. Andrew’s childhood home in New South Wales has also prepared him well for the heat and humidity of this Olympics. At the test event, held a year in advance to test out the logistics of the event, Andrew was approached by the British Team Doctor who remarked that he was walking around after his cross country ride in his helmet and body protector, with not a bead of sweat in sight.
The story of how the Paula and David Evans came to own him is remarkable. Andrew met Paula Evans through the Willberry Wonder Pony charity when Paula came to attend a clinic which Andrew had offered as a prize for the fundraisers who had raised the most for the charity. As is the way with twists of fate, Paula fell from her horse and broke her collarbone. Embarrassing though it was, this led to a friendship which culminated in Paula and her husband deciding that they would like to own a share of an event horse with the Hoys. Vassily was too expensive for their budget but Andrew suggested that they go in with another party and share the ownership. Instead the Evans’ decided that they would extend their budget and buy the horse outright, a decision which led to their first event horse being an Olympic team member.
When they kindly invited me to spend some time with them for an interview, they were preparing to start their circuitous journey to Andrew's eighth Olympic Games in Tokyo. A games like no other. Equestrians are used to the vagaries of international travel to competitions, horses needing a period of quarantine before and after travel to any destination outside of Europe. This year, however, the COVID pandemic has made the logistics even harder. The Japanese organisers have enforced an isolation period for the human team members - Andrew Hoy and his groom Clementine - which they will spend in Dorset at the base of fellow team member Chris Burton. They have also restricted the numbers of connections who can travel. Only one of each horse's owners may attend, but Andrew's horse Vassily de Lassos is owned by the Evans family and they kindly gave their seat on the plane to Andrew's wife Steffi, so that she could be there to support.