Australian 19yo FEI Eventer Eliza Harvey has recently relocated to Hartpury University in the UK, to pursue her equestrian dreams while continuing her studies. Eliza will update us here on the in’s and out’s of British Eventing, and what it means to be a YR based overseas.
My grandpa has been my biggest fan for my whole riding career. Every thrill, spill and in-between, he has been the first person to call and ask about my horses. Never once has he said anything discouraging, always telling me to ‘try again’ if something went wrong.
So when we ended our call a few weeks ago, after he had said I ‘might just be the unluckiest person’, I realised that this Eventing journey in the UK was definitely not going to spare me any heartbreak or tribulation..
Thankyou for the fantastic response to my last blog, I am thrilled it resonated so well with everyone! I left off hoping that my beautiful boy Evergem Perfection (Ollie) would arrive safely in the UK after departing from AUS.
Flying horses is quite a stressful scenario, and Ollie is a quirky character at the best of times. He doesn’t like tight spaces, new trucks/boxes, and he is not the best travel drinker. Travel sickness is always at the forefront of our conversation when we transport him, making sure we prepare him well with appropriate electrolytes/fluid management before and after his journeys. I had hoped (prayed) that he wouldn’t be too stubborn this time around, as he was in transit for approx 33hrs total.
He started by not loading on the truck, but the amazing 4* eventer Chelsea Priestley was there to help and finally got him on. Shane Rose Eventing then posted a photo of Virgil and Ollie in the travel box they would fly in, so I knew he had gotten on safely- mission accomplished! I wish… About 10hrs in I received a call that he was still refusing to drink.. oh Bollie! The company he flew with then made plans to have a vet meet him at Heathrow, and the team at Hartpury had organised a vet to either treat him here and give him fluids, or take him straight to the clinic 20 minutes away. I contacted his old owners, who actually used to call him a ‘camel’, and they said he liked to drink flavoured water. So off to the shops I went to buy apple juice, cordial and a million carrots.
He was cleared quite quickly from Heathrow and was in great spirits. We decided to bring him home here to Hartpury, where I met him at 2 am. Straight away I knew he was feeling very well, but something else was quite off. I monitored him all night, and he drank from the bucket I offered him as soon as he arrived- he is such a ‘mummy’s boy’! He was cleared by the vets the next morning, and I monitored his temp and fluid intake incredibly closely for a week.
Ollie's first morning in the UK
Unfortunately, the fairytale that we had been planning for so many years wasn’t meant to pan out the way we so hoped it would. Although Ollie was very well in himself, he was quite sore. We did a lot of scanning and I liaised closely with Ollie’s incredible vets at The Equine Practice back home. Heartbreakingly, at some point during his journey (probably his naughty loading antics), he sustained a significant enough injury that has him sidelined for quite a while.
Injuries are tough, and they are an inevitable part of the sport, but there is nothing quite like being on the other side of the world, alone, with no team or family, and people you don’t know, then receiving tough news like that. Injuries are also something people keep so hush-hush, for understandable reasons. Even now as I write, with tears streaming, I wonder if I want to share this news with the world. But I want people to know they aren’t alone, and I want to honestly share my story. Whether it be horse injuries or human injuries, we all experience the heartbreak that they entail.
I rang my sports psychologist straight away, I am pretty sure it was midnight at home but bless her, she answered. I was hysterical, ready to pack up, come home, have Ollie treated by people we know and say ‘adios’ to the sport for good. It’s been a tough year, and my team worked so hard to get us here, I couldn’t fathom how something like this could happen. I then rang my mum and cried. Then my grandpa, and that’s when he told me I was incredibly unlucky. Yep, those first 24 hours weren’t very fun!
Here is the thing though. I am not ‘unlucky’. I don’t even believe in luck. I am however, a risk taker. A big one at that. Sometimes we fly- and sometimes we fall, hard. We put all our eggs in one basket in coming here with only one horse, and this time, we missed.
I am not giving up the sport, not even close. I just needed those 24 hours to grieve dreams that I will have to say goodbye to for now, a very first world problem at that! In reality, my beautiful Ollie is here, safe and sound. I get to give him a big hug every morning and night, he is my connection to home and everyone and everything I love. I get to study at an amazing school. Our education is incredible. I am meeting people from all around the world, learning content from world-leading professionals and putting some serious time into my own fitness and training. I am helping other students with their horses and reaching their goals, and I am, genuinely, the happiest I have ever been.
Having a little ride on 'Cleck' and Merron Norman's 'Hazza'.
So, after I had settled down, I rang my Sports Psychologist again. We talked through my options, knowing that coming home just wasn’t possible, and wasn’t something I really wanted to do anyway. She put me in contact with one of our Australian Olympians here and I chatted through options with him. I also met with the academy director at Hartpury and asked her what she thought my game plan should look like. Unfortunately, Young Rider Eventing is massive here, and it is unlikely I will find an owner in the UK to invest in a Young Rider Horse, but I am not going to give up! My family is, as always, doing everything they can to help me, we are a determined bunch, and will make it work!
Horses are heartbreaking. This sport will get you down. Although we may not all plaster our heartbreak on social media, or always share our news, it doesn’t mean we aren’t upset, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t get to us. It is okay to cry, and in my case have a big old hissy fit. But this sport isn’t something we can only do until we are 25. We are in it for the long term.
I speak now to everyone, but especially the young riders I know are following me closely:
You will take risks. Big ones. Sometimes, you will land, and sometimes you won’t. The key to being the best you can in bad situations is hope. My dream is my drive. I wake up each day, I think of where I am going, I think of my little sister who I want to make proud, my grandpa who will always have my back, my family and my team, and I keep grinding. There is always a way.
Sometimes things change for the better, and I certainly hope that is the case! I will never forget how lucky I am to be here, but I will also never forget where I want to go. So ‘onwards and upwards’, I am off to chase some dreams.. they say miracles can happen right?!
Until next time
- Eliza x
Well written – can I ask who your sports psych is? After just getting the hang of the good horse I have been given the opportunity to ride, I have very badly broken my leg. I had to have the dream yearling I bought last year pts, and the year before that another young horse that I had just got pts.
I would love to hear some more in your blog / articles about the benefits of a sports psych, what they do and how they might help riders at different stages and levels.
One foot after the other… Horses are just like that! Think of the Australian Olympians who have done just as you’ve done, and taken their horses across the world, to have them injured by roofing nails, or other haphazard lamness issues or injuries. Horses are so fragile and wonderful and will take you from the depths of despair to glorious heights. The winners in this sport are not ‘lucky’ – bursting onto the scene winning everything, but the ones who are still there… Still there, believing in a tricky horse that’s taken a while to get a breakthrough, the one that has injured itself every time you look away, or the less naturally talented one who gives you his best every single time you get on… Persist Eliza… All the best…