At home with Andrew Hoy | An Eventful Life

At home with Andrew Hoy

       Andrew Hoy (in triplicate) with (L-R) Lanfranco, Cheeky Calimbo, Rutherglen and Composer

 

The person standing in the middle of the outdoor arena at Somerby Stables looks uncannily like Andrew Hoy but, as I’m standing next the great man in person, that can’t possibly be the case.

“Even I still get a bit of a surprise to see someone standing in the arena” admits Andrew as I admire the show jumping wings featuring a life sized image of him “Sometimes I’m coming down from the fields and wonder who it is!”

The fence, designed and built by superstar course designer Frank Rothenberger, was commissioned by Andrew’s partner Steffi Strobl and is a feature of Andrew’s new yard in Leicestershire, England.

The seven time Olympian may have been born and brought up in Culcairn, NSW but came to England in 1978 for a training stay and since 1993 he has been based mainly in England. In the intervening years he has been a long-standing tenant at the high profile Gatcombe Park, home of Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal and spent time in various other parts of England and Germany but at the start of 2014 he moved to a facility in a new area which provides everything that Andrew had been looking for.

The small village of Somerby is only a few miles from Burghley House, making the prestigious Burghley Horse Trials now his ‘local event’. Centrally located, the well-known horse area provides a picturesque rural setting and is practical for travelling to not only UK eventing competitions but also has good access for continental excursions

He had not previously considered living in this particular area but, having been looking for a yard offering the space and scope for not only his own horses but those of clients and visiting riders, Andrew was pleased to find what Somerby Stables offered and quickly moved in

“I saw the place in early December 2013; it suited all of my needs and I was able to rent the whole facility so we moved in on New Year’s Eve”

 

The indoor arena at one end and the outdoor arena at the other end are connected via stable blocks and indoor walkways

 

The 23 acre property has a large stable and arena complex at its hub. The indoor arena is light and airy thanks to large overhead skylights and retracting blinds providing the perfect place to work the horses through the best and worst of the English weather

“It’s important to be able to work in all weathers. It doesn’t matter if it is snowing – we can still work the horses through winter in the indoor arena and even the outdoor arena is well protected from the wind so we can work outside in quite bad weather if we want to” points out Andrew as we walk through the wide central laneway of the connecting stable block between the two arenas

There are now 32 stables on the facility after few changes were made on moving in. The boxes are now 50 percent larger than previously, the entire facility was thoroughly cleaned from top to bottom, new rubber matting laid and some areas moved around to create a more flowing work space. The horse wash bays were enlarged and practical facilities such as rug rooms and an area for washing machines and drying upgraded, making it a very practical working environment for the Team Hoy grooms as they busily prepared four of the horses for our photo shoot.

 

 

Andrew may be one of the sport’s top professionals but his affection for his horses clearly shows as he introduces each of them. When asked if there is a particular characteristic that he looks for in a horse, Andrew ponders then says “The most important thing with all horses is that they’re sound but then it’s their character.  Every horse has its own individual personality and for me it’s important to find out about that personality and how to work with it”

 One horse that has a very individual personality and a reputation for being a little tricky is Lanfranco. The 14 year old Trakehner gelding, who was previously ridden by Andrew’s ex-wife Bettina but who came to Andrew in March 2014, has had two good results at Aston-le-Walls and Burgham but recently had a few problems on the cross country at Blenheim. Andrew, who calmly sat as Lanfranco put on a little exhibition of rearing after leaving the Starter Box, may not have found the right button just yet but is patiently working on it

“I’m trying hard to find a nice way with him” says Andrew “The horse had some difficult years and I was very pleased with his behaviour in the dressage and showjumping.  After not being able to complete his three day events recently I believe he came home with a very good experience from his first three day event with me which is important to build on for next year. I like him as a horse so it’s important that I find a good way”

 

     Andrew and Rutherglen "I took some photos of him myself this morning - he looked such a picture"

 

As Andrew pats Lanfranco, Cheeky Calimbo calls out for some attention from a few boxes down. The 12 year old by Contendro I, winner of the CIC3* at Luhmuhlen this year and star of the personalised fence, is clearly a favourite along with Rutherglen, Andrew’s ride for the Australian team at the 2012 London Olympic Games

“I bought Rutherglen as an entire when he was four years old and then had him gelded” says Andrew “Later I was looking for a horse with potential for the 2012 London Olympic Games and, as I was trying various horses I started to realise that the ones I had at home, such as Rutherglen, were just as nice”

Many of the horses ridden at the top level by Andrew have been ones he has brought on from Novice/Intermediate level himself.

“There’s no real formula to finding a horse. I usually hear of horses or people ask me to ride their horse and then we go from there. And, although at the moment my top horses are mainly warmblood breeding, that’s just how it’s happened. I don’t really have a preference for warmblood or thoroughbred; it all depends on the horse”

In 2009 Andrew won the 5 Year Old Bundeschampionat title (German Young Horse Championship) riding the talented Composer, a horse he had bought at the Holsteiner Elite auction.

“As it was an auction, I only sat on him for 4-5 minutes but I bought him there and then after simply riding him around the arena a few times and jumping three or four fences on him. I loved what I felt but at that point he was quite a weak horse that needed to be developed. I think he is a star of the future but only time will tell”

Apart from these four main competition horses, there are also a few others looking for a pat and a treat as we pass by. There is the very tall but young Roscoe who has come to Andrew for some basic training, the ex-racehorse Furie Glory and the 2* eventer Quizzical.

“Roscoe came from Paul Schockemöhle and is owned by an American lady – he’s a very talented jumper and a sweet horse with a lovely nature but is likely to be destined for a career as a Grand Prix show jumper while the mare Furie Glory is being produced for sale. Quizzical is owned by a Thai sponsor but I have been training and competing him this year to prepare him for a Thai rider.”

As well as being Australia’s most capped team rider, Andrew has been involved with training riders from several other countries including coaching the Thai eventing team. It was while coaching in Thailand that he came to know Australian rider Natalie Blundell; Nat subsequently based herself with Andrew for several months this year during her campaign to compete at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy (view our interview with Nat here)

 

Time for tea with Nat Blundell and Andrew in a sunny spot outside the grooms' quarters which Steffi has comfortably decked out

 

The concept of having visiting riders and pupils staying at Somerby Stables is one of the driving forces behind renting the entire facility. Andrew sees coaching and providing a base for overseas riders coming to the UK as pivotal in his future plans

“I don’t intend to fill 32 stables with my own horses” he told us in a recent interview “It’s really designed as a facility where I can have students and where people can train with me here” (view the full video interview here). Recently Molly Peters, a student of Natalie Blundell, spent a four week training stay with Andrew at Somerby Stables.

Although Andrew’s partner Steffi can often be seen watching him on the sidelines at events she may also be there in another capacity. Her equestrian marketing consultancy company, HMC works with clients involved with major equestrian events in the UK and Europe however she has still found time to add her creative touches to the new yard. In addition to the aforementioned distinctive fence, avenues of trees have been planted, hanging baskets resplendent with summer flowers adorn all sides of the arena and comfortable seating areas give some small indications of Steffi’s style. In years to come the property will continue to benefit from the planning and improvements that are being implemented now.

 One of those improvements is a new house that is currently being built as a part of the facility but Andrew is unsure if they will move into it when it is complete; the couple are very happy living in the Manor House in the village, only ten minutes walk from the stables.

“In a way it’s very nice to live off-site and be able to leave work at the end of the day” says Andrew “But we’re still very close by and there is staff accommodation on site so there is always someone there. It may be that we utilise the new house for visiting riders while their grooms use the staff accommodation then everyone can enjoy separate living areas, which I think is important”

At 55 Andrew is obviously looking to the future and his career after his competitive riding days are over but for now, he still has some very talented horses that have yet to reach their full potential. Will we see him at an eighth Olympic Games? We hope so

 

Take a full tour around Andrew's yard and facilities in our photo gallery here