It covers most bases with the renowned eventer from New Zealand, recognizing not only his aptitude for remaining in the saddle even under the most hazardous of circumstances, but also his ability to maintain a position among the world’s elite for nearly a quarter of a century. Since basing himself in Britain in the 1980s, Andrew has become one of the most successful eventers of all time, rivaling only Sir Mark Todd for a record number of Olympic appearances.
Andrew won team gold at the 1990 World Equestrian Games with Spinning Rhombus and has been selected by New Zealand for seven Olympic Games, winning team silver in 1992 and team bronzes in 1996 and 2012. He holds the record for the most Badminton completions – 33 – although victory at the world’s most famous three-day event still eludes him. He has won Burghley four times and the four-star events at Pau in 2012 and Kentucky in 2013.
The Kentucky Horse Park, in fact, holds a special place in Andrew’s heart, for it was at the World Equestrian Games in 2010 that he was finally rewarded with an individual medal. Two years later in London, he finished just outside the individual Olympic medals in fourth place, although the team medal with Nereo provided consolation.
Those Games were a launch pad to an unparalleled run of success. Andrew achieved what no other has done before, winning four CCI4*s in consecutive seasons on four different horses (Burghley 2012 on Avebury, Pau 2012 on Nereo, Kentucky 2013 on Quimbo, and Luhmühlen 2013 on Mr Cruise Control). As a result, Andrew won the HSBC FEI Classics, collecting the $150,000 bonus, led the British Eventing top 100 list — for the 15th time — and concluded the year as world number one.
Horse Sport caught up with Andrew at home in England as he celebrated his third consecutive Barbury International Horse Trials win, looked forward to the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, and the launch of his book, Focused.
Life must be pretty hectic being a top international eventer. Are you on the road a lot?
From the start of March to the end of October I am away competing pretty much every weekend, normally within a few hours of my home at Lockeridge, near Marlborough. During May, June and again in September, October I will spend a few weeks away at three-day events in the US, UK and Europe. The travelling is definitely the part I least enjoy, but it has to be done.
How did you get started with horses and how did you end up in Europe?
I started back in New Zealand in pony club, and then moved on to working with Thoroughbreds, breaking them in for racing trainers and producing some to sell as competition horses. This led to my move to the UK … for the rest, you need to read the book!
Can you identify a turning point in your career when you said to yourself, “I can earn a living doing this and I can reach the top of my profession”?
I have always had to make a living from what I do, from the day I started, which may be a little different from some riders, so that was never in question. I never had any doubts I would succeed, but when you are young you are always very positive.
Horsepower aside, to reach the top of any sport you must be ultra-competitive by nature, but is there another ingredient that gives you the edge?
To be successful in any sport you need to be self-motivated, focused and be able to deal with the monotony involved in any regular training schedule, day after day and week after week.
How would you describe your personality?
You are probably best to ask someone else! [Ed. So we asked the person who knows him best – his wife, Wiggy. “Andrew has an enormous sense of belief in what he does and is capable of doing … but he does not suffer fools gladly. Anyone who is lazy or incompetent, whatever their role, will find their relationship with him short-lived. His work ethic and stamina make him hard to keep up with, but engenders enormous respect from those that work with him.”]
If life hadn’t taken you where it has, would you have had another profession?
My life would probably have always involved horses, and with my early involvement with the Thoroughbreds I could have ended up training racehorses, or farming like my brothers.
You’ve competed all over the world; what’s your favorite event?
Burghley is my favorite, because I’ve won it four times. It has a relaxed atmosphere, and the cross-country is always demanding and influential.
Have you had a horse of a lifetime?
There have been a few very good horses I have been lucky enough to ride. My two current top horses, Nereo and Avebury, are probably the best I have had.
Do you do any breeding?
The only horse I have ever bred is Avebury and his full sister Speckles. They have both been successful, so I am probably best to quit while I am ahead on the breeding side!
Where’s your favorite place in all the world?
Kihikihi, New Zealand – home.
Where would you most like to go that you haven’t been?
Rio! Hopefully in 2016 for the Olympics.
Do you have a fitness regimen you can share with us?
No, it’s top secret! Seriously, I ride all day. [Ed. Andrew rides about 10 horses a day, all day, every day, even if he has just returned from a competition on an overnight flight.]
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Gin and tonic.
If there was one valuable life lesson you would share with your children, what would it be?
Work hard, whatever you do, and you will achieve what you want in life.