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  • Writer's pictureFran Cleland

Sneaky ride turns into a life passion for Rory

ABOVE: Rory Hamilton and Fort Cluster have made great progress. Picture: GRAIN AND MANE PHOTOGRAPHY

RORY Hamilton, 17, was two years old when he climbed onto his sister’s pony while nobody was looking and has been riding ever since.

Originally from Tauranga in New Zealand and now living at Jindera in NSW, he has worked his way up through various ponies, first in NZ and now in Australia.

“My number one goal is to become a professional event rider and compete at five-star level at Badminton, the Olympics and internationally,” he says.

Rory’s passion for retraining Thoroughbred race horses is remarkable in a person his age.

“I first started riding off-the-tracks when I was 13,” he explained.

“I really enjoyed it and wasn’t afraid of riding a lot of different horses as I had always been used as the crash test dummy on naughty or fresh ponies for local families.

“It was a natural progression to start riding ‘OTT’s’ – some of them have a few quirks at the beginning and they all need experience, patience and understanding to retrain them, each one is an individual and they all react differently to the new challenges.”

Rory competes in many equestrian disciplines but his real passion is eventing.

ABOVE: Rory Hamilton hopes to compete at five-star level. Picture: GRAIN AND MANE PHOTOGRAPHY

He has had success at state and national level in pony club with off-the-track horses that he has retrained after they retired from racing.

“I am now competing at EA and pony club with my own two horses and bringing them up the levels,” he said.

“It is very rewarding to give 'OTT’s' new skills and see them succeed in a new discipline.”

Rory’s love for the Thoroughbred seen him to join forces with Equorum Horse Refuge, run by Sarah Berry at Gooram in northern Victoria.

“I first heard about Equorum when my mum found a post by Sarah looking for an eventing home for Fort Cluster, who had just retired from racing,” he said.

“Sarah recognised that with his build and breeding he could have a new life as an eventer and she wasn’t wrong.

“Sarah has found great homes for many retired race horses and has now set up Equorum Horse Refuge to continue her amazing work.

“I have recently become a sponsored event rider for EHR and I am really looking forward to the opportunity to work with even more OTT’s and give them opportunities post racing.”

Since joining the EHR team, Rory has been working on retraining two former race horses: EHR Duke of Brunswick and EHR King Lenny.

“Duke had a very successful racing career with Mick Price and Michael Kent before retiring, spelled and is now with me,” he said.

The horse won 38 races and more than half a million dollars in prizemoney. His determination to win was made famous when he tried to bite his opponent Sircconi in a close finish at Caulfield.

Duke’s now doing well in his new career and Rory is determined to do the right thing by him and other the retired horses.

“Through the sponsorship from EHR the horses are able to spell in the paddocks at the refuge before coming to me and then I am able to spend as much time as each individual horse needs to build confidence through training at home, at clinics, pony club and events,” he said.

“It is really important to me to be able to give each horse as much time as they need and to work slowly to give them good exposure to as many of the situations they may encounter in their lives as a riding horse.

“Of course, I would love them all to be successful at eventing but I am also realistic that some horses aren’t suited to the combination of dressage, show jumping and cross country, in which case I am happy to find them homes where they will be able to shine as a dressage horse, show jumper or even a happy hacker trail riding horse.”

ABOVE: Duke of Brunswick’s first outing after racing. Picture: GRAIN AND MANE PHOTOGRAPHY

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