Ep5. Transcript: Julie Brougham and Vom Feinsten's Story
Today, it's a complete honor to bring you the horseshoe story of New Zealand dressage Olympians Julie Brougham and Vom Feinsten (or Steiny as he's affectionately known). Before we start, I want to let you know that this is the first episode of a two part story. Over the next two episodes, Julie is going to take us for a stroll down memory lane and share her story of her once in a lifetime horse Vom Feinsten (which did you know translates in German to the finest?). In today's episode, Julie shares about her early riding days, why she chose to pursue dressage as a riding discipline, what led her path to cross with Steiny's and of course the time preparing for and representing New Zealand at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. And then next week, we're going to launch into part two whereJulie shares about representing New Zealand at the World Equestrian Games in North Carolina, as well as her battle with cancer and what equestrian life is like for her now.
Welcome to The Horseshoe Storyteller podcast where I believe every horseshoe holds a story. I'm Kate Bolton, horse rider, creative and accidental storyteller. You see storytelling isn't something I set out to do. But over the last few years since starting my business Horseshoe Mementoes, I've had the privilege of clients sharing with me the inspiring, deeply moving and entertaining stories behind the horseshoes I have transformed into personalized lasting memories. Incredible tales of partnership, beating the odds, loss and success. Stories that speak of the love we share for our noble friends. Stories that are too good to keep to myself. And so I've become The Horseshoe Storyteller to share them with you. If you love a good horse story, you're in the right place. Let's get started.
It's an absolute honor to be chatting to you today Julie, thank you so much for joining us. We're going for a trip down memory lane.
We are definitely
I thought that we would start by hearing what your earliest memory of being around horses is, or of horse riding.
That really goes back to when I was a child. I think you know, my first times was sitting on ponies and riding was about the age of four. Then duly later being able to go to Pony Club with my oldest sister, just developing a love of riding and jumping horses and ponies and yes, just grew up with them. We were on a farm, so we were able to ride around the farm and we built our own jumps and had friends that rode too and we were very fortunate to be able to do that.
I understand that you enjoyed eventing growing up.
Yes, I grew up in the era where Pony Club champs were really important. The A1 and the DC champs at Pony Club that was definitely a focus of what we wished to do competition wise. At that time dressage wasn't a big deal in New Zealand at all. It was you either show jumped really or you were eventing. I particularly loved the cross country. The thrill of that was just so exciting.
So you're an adrenalin junkie?
Probably, probably. And we got through the dressage, I mean, back then we didn't have a lot of dressage trainers. I was always very conscientious about it. So my tests were at least accurate.
I was going to ask you did you dread the dressage phase because I know most eventers dread the dressage phase, don'tthey?
Yes, I think probably I would fall into that category. It wasn't very often that I was happy with it.
In time, what turned your attention and your focus to dressage?
It was really that time had gone by and I had met and married David. We had two young children and we had been living in England. When we came back, I did have a very good horse that I had leased out. So I initially got back to eventing but it was terribly demanding with having children. And if I went to an event and tried to get the family to come with me to support me, my mother was very good about coming to look after the children, it was such a huge long day. And it coincided with Chelsea Park being built by Pat and Helen Williams at Aokautere. A friend of mine, who was more into dressage than myself said, why don't you come and compete at Chelsea Park? By that stage, I had quite a promising horse called Top Gun and my very first dressage test I won, which was quite a surprise to me. And I then had another test. I don't know if I placed, I don't think I placed on that test. But I did think, well, it's been so easy just to come and do a dressage test mid-morning and do another one after lunch and the family had tuned up and had lunch there too. And we all went home happy. So it was quite easy to make the transition to a discipline that fits in with the life of the family so much more easily. I was also fortunate because Top Gun even though he wasn't a rawly bred warmblood he was a capable horse and very trainable, and he actually turned into my first Grand Prix horse.
When did you really realize that this was dressage was something that you could really go far with? And also, when did you make the goal of riding at an Olympic Games or World Equestrian Games?
Oh there's probably two parts to that. As a child, I had always had this dream of competing at an Olympics but I had, of course thought about it more in terms of eventing. I was very lucky with Top Gun that I was with a group of good riders, including Penny Castle and Sharon and Kallista Field. So we had quite a strong group of dressage riders in the Manawatu area. And I trained with a German instructor who would come regularly to the Field's home called Clemens Dierks. And that's where I trained with Top Gun. And we went through the grades and as I said, earlier, he became my first Grand Prix horse. Now, having made one Grand Prix horse, you then really have a map in terms of making a second Grand Prix horse. And I realized that I had the skill to do it, but I probably needed to acquire better partners, better horses to be able to compete internationally. So it was just something that evolved really, and from that time on, you know, I always sought to try and improve the quality of my dressage partners. So that really took me through a lot of horses to I eventually came to purchase Vom Feinsten or Steiny as we call him.
Yes. And can you tell us the circumstances that led your path to cross with his?
I think with every rider there's probably people that come into your life, that are game changes for you. I had this point where I had a new young chap, trainer, an Australian lad called Bennett Conn come and become my trainer and the trainer of a lot of other people locally. We ran clinics at our place for Ben every four to six weeks and Ben commented at the time. He said, Julie, in terms of New Zealand, you have good horses, but he said European horses are better. So he encouraged me to think about purchasing a horse in Germany. And in addition to that, he also encouraged me to travel which fortunately David was an agreement of. So I did many, we did many trips over to Germany to see the big shows like Aachen CHIO and the National Dressage Champs at Balve and other big shows. We went to the yard of Herbertus Schmidt and I was able to take and the training that he gave to horses there right through from being very young horses right through to Grand Prix and what the versus we then traveled to a wonderful show called Langheim, which was a German show put on for those that were looking to go to the next Olympics. It was a German calling qualifying shows what it was called. And then in other years I, it may even have been the following year, I returned and trained with a well known trainer called Leonie Bramall, who she has lived all her life really in Germany, but speaks good English because she was initially Canadian. And there were other trips as well. So following that, we decided to make a special trip to try and find a suitable horse for me that I could think about training through to Grand Prix. This sort of came at a very fortunate time because I had just sold a horse that I'd taken through to Grand Prix called JK Supersonic. I'd sold him as a schoolmaster so it was helpful having some dollars in my pocket that I could afford to go and look at buying a German youngster.
Can you paint a picture of the first time that you meet Steiny?
Yes, Ben Conn had just purchased a young colt from a person in Aachen. I can't quite remember his name, but it was definitely Martin, I think Martin Small, and I rang him and he said, Julie, I have 150 youngsters here, but they're not broken in. And I was definitely looking for a horse that I could at least get on and ride. So I asked him if he could recommend anybody else in the district in Aachen because that was where we were staying at the time, and he suggested Ton de Ridder. He said that he probably did have some riding horses available at the time because he had taken in extra horses for a forthcoming Aachen Auction. So through him I got Ton's number and duly rang him. And he invited us to come the next day and look at the horses that he had there that were for sale.
It just really was totally by chance that I was walking past a stable and I said to him, what is that horse? And I could see an elegant chestnut horse inside the stable. And he said Oh, he is a young horse by Fidermark which immediately I pricked up my ears because at Hubertus Schmidt's there had been a beautiful Fidermark stallion called Furst Fabio. In fact I don't think he was a stallion, I think he was a gelding that Hubertus had a huge amount of time for and actually wanted to purchase. And then subsequently when we followed him to Langheim I noticed a couple of other horses I really liked also by Fidermark so I knew he was a top stallion in Germany. Then it turned out that Steiny also had a very good dam line as well. He was out of State Premiere mare by Weltmeyer. So it's such a risky business, finding a young horse, but if you know their breeding, that does take some of the risk out of it. And so I expressed an interest in him and I also happened to say to both Ton and his wife Alexandra that I was looking for a smaller horse. I'd had a lot of big ones but I was also looking for a horse that was very sensitive and forward going. Because so often when the horses get to Grand Prix, then they start to get lazy because the work is so hard. So they need to be a horse with a great capacity for energy. So anyway, we did watch some of the horses that Ton had there and there was a very nice mare that he wanted me to be interested in but for some reason she didn't really appeal. Steiny had just been gelded a few days earlier. So he was brought into the arena and just walked around quietly. But Alexandra suggested to Ton that he might be a horse that would really suit me. Ton was reluctant for me to ride him at that point because of his recent gelding. So we arranged that we'd really gone to Germany to also go to the German National Champs (where Ton was also going) as Alexandra was competing at it. We arranged that we'd return after we'd been to the National Champs to Hoffrosheide, which is Alexandra and Ton's home. At that point have a ride on Steiny meantime, we did have other horses to look at in Germany that we had organized, but none of them appealed as much as Steiny. So we did end up going back, and I did end up riding him. He was a safe horse to ride but he certainly was a Ferrari with a stuck accelerator. And, you know, trying to slow him down and even come back to a walk was not easy at all. He was so hot. Ton just left me to ride, and they turned up about half an hour later and said, how you getting on? And I said, Oh, I think your horse is too hot for me. And he said, but that's what you wanted. And I do. But I guess I'm just not used to it. So Ton gave me, he helped me. He gave me some instructions. And David felt watching that we were quite a good fit. So we decided that yes, we were interested in the horse. And we just needed to Ton needed to talk to the owner breeder and we needed to go home and sort through a few things from there and take my videos back to my trainer, which was Ben Conn and see what he thought. Anyway, at the end of the day Ben really liked him, and loved his, what we call the biomechanics of his movement. And so the decision was made to purchase him.
Do you have any memorable moments about the early days of his arrival at your place and settling in?
Yes, we all remember it well because we did have a clinic on here at the same time for Ben. We got the transporter, which was Majestics to stop at our gate. We have a long hotmix drive, so we unloaded Steiny and David led him on one side and myself on the other down the drive. Everybody that watched him come down the drive will never forget it. That had never seen a horse ping off the ground like it before. Even though he was really walking. He lifted his front feet and his hind feet so high off the ground, they just couldn't believe it. It was, nobody had ever seen a horse walk like that before with such energy and he just danced really, right up the drive.
That must've been exciting for you.
It made a lasting impression with everybody that saw him at the time. He's got a big stallion neck and he so of course he walks very proudly. Yes. So that was quite memorable. The reaction of people seeing him just being led down a drive.
I felt terribly sorry for him because he was so un-used to our whole environment. It's such a big trip for a horse to come from one side of the world to the other, and everything was so new and so strange.
How long did he take to settle in and adjust?
Quite a while. Although he had been gelded he had been gelded when he was five, so it was late enough. And certainly the testosterone was still zooming around through his veins I feel. He was still very stallion-ish to handle. He was ever so interested in my mare Kinnordy Global. Any of the geldings around the place he decided needed to be attacked and put in their place. So we really had to keep two fences between him and all the other horses. And he was such a dominant personality and very uptight about everything around him. So it really took, I think, 18 months for him to settle in to living at our home. And I think a lot at that point, it was really the testosterone beginning to leave as his body in his system and he was becoming more adjusted to life in New Zealand.
At that point, what emerged as his personality?
Very dominant, very wilful, very much a big ego. We used to say he was typical of little man's disease. He's not a big horse, but he, he thought he was. He's got a very powerful personality. He's very alert. And he's very smart. He thinks all the time. And he works out how to get people to do things for him, like give him tid bits and feed but he's very good at nickering and talking and pricking his ears and catching people's attention. We've become his servants or slaves, I think
He sounds very clever. So you mentioned that Ben Conn was your coach at the time.
Yes. As I said, Ben was a game changer in my life really. He really liked Steiny right from the beginning. He loved the way he moved. He loved his energy and his enthusiasm. And even though I got frustrated with it, because it slowed our training progress down. Ultimately he said, look, he's going to be a top horse. You just have to be patient and he was absolutely right. So even if I got a little bit down about things, Ben was always positive. He always said, it's just a matter of time. This is a really fabulous top horse, which proved to be true.
How long did it take for you to come together as a combination and really start making your mark on the New Zealand equestrian scene?
It really was two years. When we first competed him which was probably at about 15 months and we only took him out because I said to David, look, we need to get him out. New Zealand wasn't really quite ready for such an energy alive-o horse. But then when he came out at level four, then he started to do some very good tests with fabulous extended trots, and he really started to be noticed and start to get some high scores. And then he went from level four, we did a complete jump to the FEI Small Tour level which is called Pre St. George and Inter One so once he started to train on well and get his flying changes he was away really. He turned into a top performer at Pre St. George and Inter One. At his second test only, he won the World Dressage Challenge the FEI World Dressage Challenge at Taupo with a score of over 70%, which no one had done before. Then he went on to sort of have about 18 wins in a row with scores over 70%. Everybody just loved his enthusiasm for his work and his fabulous extended trots and he just bounced off the ground. And at that point, he definitely looked like he was going to be a champion horse in the future. He already was a champion horse.
Yes, that leads us into the Olympics. I understand you set off to Aachen and March 2016 to train with Ton and to prepare for Rio selection. What was it like training and competing in Germany the mecca of dressage?
I probably just need to go back with a little bit here. Ton de Ridder was without doubt the other game changer in my life. It had just been fortunate for me that Ton became an advisor to the Australian Dressage team. So I ended up meeting up with Ton again over in Australia when I took Steiny to Australia to compete him at the Grand Prix level. And I asked him there did he think he had, was sufficiently talented to go to the Olympics. And long short of it was he said, yes. Having watched him in a couple of big shows. He said, yes, he was. So given time we reconnected. It was probably in 2015 that Dave and I really set our sights on getting Steiny to the Olympics, and preparation from that point.
So off we went, we left Auckland Airport and travelled to Heathrow in England, your of course aren't then on a charter flight. Horses go as cargo. So we were accompanied by Balmoral Sensation who's Clarke Johnson's horse, which is nicknamed Ritchie and his groom, who is a lovely girl, Leah. The two horses travelled together in a flight stall. We first stopped at Singapore where cargo was unloaded and more cargo was put on, then we stopped off at Abu Dhabi and the same thing happened again. And each stop is about six hours. So we finally arrived at Heathrow 38 hours later. The horses were unloaded and we went through Customs and all that kind of thing. And then loaded onto separate trucks because we were going in different directions. I went down to, it was on the Gloucestershire border, to a lovely place called Paunceford Court. We resided at Paunceford Court for 10 days prior to then getting on another transporter and going across to Belgium. We travelled through Belgium to Aachen. Our GPS didn't work on the way so we ended up losing our way, but fortunately I managed to contact Ton on the phone and get some directions and duly arrived at his place. I'm not sure how long that all took but both Steiny and I were exhausted!
I had an apartment above the stables, a little apartment. So we settled into Hoffroschiede, which was to become home for the next six months. I was actually away for seven months in total, but I spent the last month back in England at Paunceford Court. I intended to go and train with Ton and compete Steiny in as many shows as we were able to in Germany. And my hope was that I would also get to compete at Aachen CHIO.
In terms of dressage in the world there's four pinnacle events, obviously the Olympics and the World Equestrian Games. And then there's an event called the World Cup that goes on over the winter for European's. And then the other fourth major event is Aachen CHIO, which is the most amazing show in the world. It is sort of like a mini WEG really. And it's very hard to get entry into Aachen CHIO. Particularly if you come from a country like New Zealand that's not known as a dressage nation.
So I did get to compete at a lot of shows. And our second major show that we competed in, in Germany was down at Munich, it was called Munchen International Dressage Festival. And at that show, Steiny finished 10th in the Grand Prix, so he made the cut to go into the Grand Prix Special. He then did the most fabulous test, and he landed up fifth overall. We had four riders in front of us who were all German riders who had been in the German team whether it was Olympic level or European level. The person that got first was a girl called Jessica Bredow-Werndl who is usually in the German team, and she was riding a top horse called Unee BB, and she had represented Germany the year before at the European Championships. Then we had Dorothee Schneider who is always in the Olympic team. Then there was a young girl, who is not so young I suppose, called Victoria Max-Theurer and she's actually Austrian. She's the best rider in Austria. So she's always in the Olympic and WEG teams. And then Beatriz Ferrer-Salat and Beatriz has twice been a bronze medal winner, and she got the silver medal at the World Equestrian Games in Herez in 2013. And fifth was Steiny and myself. And in that very star studded class there were a lot of other top international riders, even the likes of Fabienne Lutkemeier, she had been in the previous World Equestrian Games and the German team that was in Normandy. So that was a huge thrill for us. And also for Ton. We got a very good score we were almost 69%. So that was a wonderful start and from there on Steiny was always in the line-up, no matter what show we were at. And so, you know, it was very thrilling. But that's probably one of the most special memories I do have.
At the time. Of course, I was on my own. I only had Ton to help me. So it was quite lonely. We were lucky with where we were positioned at Hoffroschiede. We were just sort of almost in the suburbs of Aachen. I didn't hire a car because of the cost, but I was able to get on the bus that took me from outside, literally outside the stables into town, and I also got a bicycle to get around on. So I always managed to fill my days.
It was always interesting at Hoffroschide because Ton trained a lot of top riders and they were always worth watching when they were getting taught. And we even had the likes of Isobell Werth visit the stables she one time came in to look at buying a horse for a client and duly rode it, so there was always exciting things happening. And it wasn't too long before Andrea came over to help me and also David. So there were gaps for sure where I was on my own and just had to cope. Yes.
Then you competed at Aachen?
Yes, that was wonderful. That was after I had been named and the team. I've recently just before done a show at Cappeln which was where Vorwerk Stud stallions had once stood and Stanley had done very well there. He was third in the Grand Prix and fourth in the Grand Prix Freestyle. And then we went on to compete at Aachen.
I have to say we didn't do as good a Grand Prix as I would have liked. We were very affected by the rain and the weather. We literally competed in horizontal rain it was freezing cold, we delayed getting Steiny out of the sable because the weather conditions were so terrible. He really didn't get sufficient time to warm up before he went into the arena to do his Grand Prix. Having said that, the test we did turned up on Facebook recently and I thought well really all considered it was a pretty good test.
From that test, we then went on and a couple of days later in better weather I might add, we compete on the Grand Prix Freestyle and Steiny finished seventh in that. We were number one to go which is never helpful and a lot of people actually did say well you should have won it. But it wasn't to be but it was lovely to be placed at Aachen CHIO, not many people get that opportunity to do a lap of honour. It was also a wonderful dress rehearsal for what was going to be, for Rio Olympics, which was certainly going to be a high stress show.
Yes. And it must have also been a real boost of confidence for you going into Rio.
Yes. And no, I think I was concerned that we hadn't managed a higher score in the Grand Prix, because I knew that all the judges for Rio were at Aachen CHIO. And that potentially could adversely affect us, and I think it actually did. But it was one of those things. I could have not competed at Aachen CHIO and said, look, I've had a fantastic show at Cappeln where Steiny was third in the Grand Prix. I should just leave it and go on to Rio from there. You know, because I had a higher score there, but I knew that I wouldn't be back and Steiny wouldn't be back to ride at Aachen CHIO and it was such an important show. We just did it anyway. And strategically it might not have been the best decision but it felt the right move for us to give it a go. Regardless, you know? Yes. Just such an experience that we wouldn't be able to repeat.
Yes, we live so far away. Don't we? You know you were over there and wanted to take the opportunity.
Yes, that is correct Kate.
So just three weeks before heading off to Rio, the unthinkable happened that almost stopped your Olympic dreams in their tracks. With Steiny developing a quarter crack in his hoof. Can you share a little about that?
Yes, yes, that was an unfortunate thing to happen, but he'd actually done it once before. I had been concerned that the farrier he was getting it at Hofferoscheide wasn't quite the ideal for Steiny. It didn't cause me any panic, I think to be honest, we were always dealing with crises one after another after another so it was just another problem to sort out and in that respect. Through a lady that did turn up at Hofferscheid, we were told of a remedial orthopedic farrier called Carsten Neumann, who lived in a village called Langenfeld, which was about an hour and a half away from Hofferscheid. So we hoped he was as good as this young lady said he was, Nadine Pesch. She was adamant. She was actually his assistant and he was a top farrier. So we made an appointment with him and we duly put Steiny on this little horse van that we had hired and visited Carsten. And as it turned out, he was an absolute magical farrier, absolutely superb farrier. And so he shod Steiny and patched up his foot, put lots of sort of plaster stuff on it, and off we went to Rio, and the foot never caused us any further problems.
What was it like when you arrived in Rio for your Olympic debut, with all the media attention and the village atmosphere and all the incredible athletes that were around you? How did you find that, and how did Steiny react to the atmosphere?
That first day that Steiny and I hit Rio and it was Deodoro Equestrian Park that we arrived at we initially left Hoffroschiede in Aachen and travelled in a transporter to Liege which is in Belgium where we were going to fly out. There were approximately a bit over 30 horses going to be on the plane and we were all collected there. One group had gone down the previous day, it was a charter flight and I was going down as a groom with Steiny and I also had to look after a South African stallion. He was actually a German horse and his rider lived and rode in Germany, he was representing South Africa. And so they were my two charges. We had a 17 hour trip because it was a charter flight there were no stop overs anywhere down to Rio de Janeiro. We arrived quite early in the morning, probably not that far off, just a bit past one o'clock really.
The horses were unloaded and put on to Johannsman's transporters. That's a German, quite a well-known German transporter, and we were given a police escort out to Deodoro Equestrian Park. The escort was policeman on Harley Davidson motorbikes. So it was all quite exciting. And we arrived there sort of something like half past three in the middle of the night. I had my two charges and, of course, I had a lot of the possessions as well as my own bag for myself as well.
I was fortunately met by the South African girl who owned the stallion, and by that stage, Steiny had mated up with him. So he was all for following that stallion to where his facility, his stable was. I had no idea where the New Zealand team were stabled. Nobody was there to meet me at that point. So with Steiny towing me around like you wouldn't believe, I managed to find the Australian contingent. And asked their vet to help me find where the New Zealand horses were stabled which he kindly did.
Fortunately, not long after that Sarah Dalziel-Clout, who was the High Performance Manager turned up to help me and meet me and she was very apologetic that she hadn't been there. She just had trouble with transport getting out to Deodoro. So we got Steiny, stabled and water and got him some feed. Then we had to wait for my tack box to arrive and that sort of came in at about 5:30 in the morning. Everyone else's tack boxes came too. The tack boxes are a story in its own right. Anyway, Sarah immediately said I actually had a main arena familiarization to do around 10 o'clock on Steiny, which I duly did. And I was exhausted. I was.
I was included with the Dutch team, and we all rode an arena together. And then I think Adelinde Cornelissen on Parzival went first and then Hans Peter Minderhoud and Edward Gal and I followed. So we had our arena familiarization. We did get another one later, which was good. And then from there, we had to fortunately by that stage, Andrea and David had turned up from their flight. They had to get transport out to Deodoro, which hadn't been easy. And we all got on the shuttle bus to the village.
I had to very hastily there, try and sort out some clothes that we were given. They were part of our uniform to put on because we were due down town. This was the eventing personnel plus myself for interviews. Finding something that fitted and didn't slip straight off me was quite difficult. Although we've been measured up for our uniforms, there had been a lot of smaller people in the New Zealand contingent than they had expected anyway, I did find some clothes. We were then sort of running late. So Mark Todd suggested we hop on some bicycles at the base of the tower block we were in and bike across the grounds to where we could pick up a taxi that duly took us into town. And there we had, you know, quite a gruelling session with the media. And yes, I was very, very tired and desperate for something to eat. But we got through it, we got through it all. It all actually went very well. There are a lot of things like that when you are away overseas representing your country where your endurance is definitely tested, but you just have to cope and do your best.
Had you come across the other members of the eventing team before? Or was that sort of...
No, I hadn't. I had met Mark Todd before. I'd actually met him at the London Olympics. But it was probably a meeting where I remembered it better than him. And the others, no. Except Jock Paget. I did know Jock from New Zealand, I knew him quite well. And then Tim and Jonelle Price, it was really the first time I'd got to really meet them and got to know them. Well, because we of course, were all in the same apartment together at the Olympic Village.
Can you talk about your team, your husband and Steiny's co-owner, David, and your coach, Andrea, who was with you at Rio? Can you tell us a little bit about them?
They were all amazing. They all had to do more than one job. David also had to be my Chef d'Equipe and go to the meetings on my behalf as we didn't have one. I didn't have a groom, so Andrea had to be groom. And she was really wonderful about that. And she did that for me at the World Equestrian Games too. And then of course, we had Ton de Ridder. And Ton was a very important part of the team because he had been to so many Olympics and World Equestrian Games before he knew what to expect. He knew how to get the best performance out of a rider and a horse.
Ton was also looking after the Australian team, and also the Spanish team and other individual riders, including myself, but he was always there to meet us every time we had an allocated time to ride. He always had a plan of what we're going to do and where we were going to do it. I think we all appreciated his knowledge and guidance, because none of us had done it before. So he was a very integral part and a needed part. I mean, when you are as green as grass like we were you needed that experience. So he was kind of like the Godfather overseeing everything. Andrea was wonderful. I mean, all sorts of different things come your way when you are the groom and also helping the rider. She found a very, very good girl called Selena Tarantino to be Steiny's physiotherapist. And Selena over the years has since become a very good friend. She was absolutely the most wonderful physiotherapist and Steiny just adored her. So that was all due to Andrea sorting it out and finding this lovely girl.
Luckily Andrea where she was staying with the groom's was quite near where Steiny was also living. For David and myself, we had to go back to the village every day and it was a good half an hour plus on the shuttle. From the time you actually left your apartment in the village till you arrived at Steiny, a good hour had gone. So having Andrea near Steiny was absolutely critical to his well-being. She always used to take him out every afternoon. There was a paddock that was available for the dressage horses. And she'd take him out into that paddock every afternoon and graze him. And that was something we didn't have at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon and was sorely missed, to say the least. It was a chance for the horses to get their heads down, eat the grass and relax.
I read that you and Steiny find a zone just before you enter a dressage arena to compete. Can you tell us about that?
Yes, it's just the place that we've done our warm up, and there really becomes a oneness between us. He's very much on my aids, but really with Steiny because he is so sensitive and so alert and forward going, I just feel like I have to think it, and he does it. It's something I've had with Steiny that I've actually never had with another horse. He just becomes totally focused on me. And so then it's up to me to be a good pilot and a good jockey and get around that Grand Prix in the best possible way I can.
I remember watching your test from here in New Zealand, you rode a lovely test, and you scored 68.54%. What was it like for you riding it?
I have to say, importantly, we had the most wonderful warm up. Ton was there and so was Andrea. And all the eventing team came and watched and Steiny didn't put a foot wrong. He just did everything to perfection. And then we went down the chute out to the big arena and he did just tense up a little bit which worried me as he can then get a little bit go-ey a little bit, you know too forward. But I was really thrilled with his test. He did a great centre line and halt and his first extended trot was quite breath-taking. And did nice half passes. At his first halt rein back it is meant to be halt and halt there for three seconds then rein back and Steiny's hotness got a little bit in the way there. We didn't have a three second halt. He halted and reined straight back. So he took over there. And never mind he went on there to do another fabulous 1extended trot and then on to the rest of the test and all his canter work was foot perfect, no mistakes in any of the changes, two times or tempi changes and dead straight. And before I knew we were coming down the centre line to finish.
We were going out there to do a test that I hoped all the New Zealander's watching from home, our very knowledgeable dressage fraternity at home and the audience there who again you have a very knowledgeable audience would appreciate and think we had done well, and that it was as near perfect as we possibly could do. And that, we achieved. Yeah, I, you know, my big goal was to please everyone at home, please the audience, and do a credible performance for New Zealand and that I felt we did.
You certainly do.
And certainly when I was... It was quite lovely when I did get back to England because we spent the last month in England before Steiny went into quarantine. There had been a commentator commenting on my test who clearly had thought Steiny did an extremely good job and was very, very complimentary. And so when I got over to England, I got from so many riders, oh, you did such a wonderful test. And those mean judges should have given you more marks.
I love that. So you finished your test you rode out of the arena, and what was running through your mind. Who did you first see, David, Andrea, Ton?
Well, I suppose the first thing was, I wondered what the mark was and felt a little bit apprehensive about that. I anticipated it would feel a bit of an anti-climax. But I didn't let that bother me. I thought, you know, this is a wonderful moment that my horse and I have had this opportunity to start at the Olympics. And I, I just okay, I think every athlete always wants to do a better performance, unless you happen to be the one that gets the gold medal. But otherwise, everybody wants to do better than they actually do. But then of course, you also have to realize, well, you could have also done a lot worse than you did. So I felt Steiny had represented New Zealand well, and I was very, very proud of him. Yeah, I was, and I was pretty, pretty happy to be part of such an amazing, incredible event. It was just you know fabulous really. I was on a bit of a high really. Yes, I would have to say that after I'd finished.
I hope you've enjoyed the story of Julie and Steiny so far. Now I want to remind you, this is a two part story and you've just listened to part one, there is more to come. In next week's episode, number six. We'll continue with Julie and Steiny's journey to the World Equestrian Games. The battle Julie has faced with cancer and what equestrian life is like for her now.
Remember to subscribe to this podcast so you'll know when that drops. And for those of you who'd like to see the fancy horseshoes that Carsten made for Steiny just prior to Rio, you'll find photos of them as well as of Julie's framed Rio Olympics Horseshoe Memento by clicking on the link in my show notes or by visiting www.horseshoemementoes.com/blogs/podcast/5
Thanks as always for listening to The Horseshoe Storyteller podcast where we believe every horseshoe holds a story.