The Australian eventer is steering his star-studded career in a new direction by taking on the technical advisor role for the Canadian eventing team, which was recently vacated by David O’Connor. While attending Toronto’s Royal Winter Fair in early November, Clayton Fredericks sat down for a chat.
By now the news is out: Australian Clayton Fredericks, winner of an Olympic team silver medal at the 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong, individual silver and team bronze medalist at the 2006 FEI World Equestrian Games (Germany), and 2007 Rolex Kentucky CCI**** champion, has been named the Canadian eventing team’s new technical advisor. He’ll take the reins in January 2013 as David O’Connor ends a spectacularly successful stint in the same role and moves on to coach the U.S. team.
Fredericks, 44, was reportedly one of several stellar international candidates applying for the position. His recent relocation to Ocala, Fla., from Great Britain is a plus for the Canadians, who are spread across North America but converge on the southern United States in the winter months.
Fredericks previously coached the Hong Kong equestrian team to a fourth-placed finish at the 2002 Asian Games, and China’s only international eventing star, Alex Hua Tian, is one of his more successful clients.
Fredericks made an appearance at Toronto’s Royal Agricultural Winter Fair to take part in the Indoor Eventing class on a borrowed horse. It proved an ideal time to get his thoughts about taking on the Canadian squad.
Q: How did your appointment as Canadian Team Advisor happen?
Fredericks: I was doing a clinic in California, and we were talking, in the evening, about the U.S. team’s nominations [for new coaches, on the retirement of Capt. Mark Phillips]. Hawley Bennett asked me if I would consider taking on coaching the Canadian team when David O’Connor left, and it wasn’t really something I was thinking about at that time, but I’d had a few drinks that evening and I said, “Yeah, that’d be great, why not?”
There’s a time in everyone’s career when they start thinking of the next steps. So it started there, and then [Canadian Chef d’Equipe and incoming chair of the Canadian High Performance Committee] Graeme Thom contacted me and gave me a little more information about what it’s all about. He asked whether I would really be interested, and I said I’d have to think seriously about my own riding career, because really, you can’t do both together.
I said to him I’d still like to apply, and I went through the process and here I am.
Q: Had you already made the decision to move to Florida at that point?
Fredericks: Yes, we’d been looking at doing something in the United States anyway, mainly with my other business that I’m in with my brother, Southern Stars Saddlery. We want to really crank that side of things up in the United States. And I was a bit fed up with British weather! I’ve been 19 years in the United Kingdom, and this last year there was no incentive [to stay] really after all the cancellations of the events [due to widespread flooding]. So I thought it would be a good opportunity. We visited a few times, and really I was looking to invest in some property, but then I got introduced to Chuck and Anne Koch, who own the property I’m now leasing, Oak Lane Farm, which was a polo club at one stage.
I’m leasing 150 acres, and there are 700 acres of estate there so there’s plenty of scope to have a competition. As I talked more with the guys who are out there, they all indicated that another competition [near Ocala] would be brilliant. It’s got some undulation, it’s not dead flat, so I think it’d be great for a good course. The ground’s very good.
To start with, I want to set it up as a venue for competitions and for training, and I’m still going to do the horse sales—I have really good contacts in Europe, and all the horses I’ve produced through to four-star level have been produced from young horses. So I still want to do that business, producing horses for sale. I’ve got another five or six horses arriving in January.
Q: Is your wife, Lucinda, going to continue to compete while you concentrate on coaching and sales?
Fredericks: Yes, Lucinda is still full-on competing. If anything she’s more busy now than she ever was. It’s always difficult with two riders fighting it out between each other, and it’s even more difficult when you’re actually married to each other! She’s going to continue to run the place in England, at least while [daughter] Ellie is in school, and I’ll be doing what we’re doing in Florida and going back and forth as much as I can.
Q: How much of a time commitment will you have with the Canadians?
Fredericks: Essentially until the next Olympic Games. It’s a fair old commitment!
I’m trying not to put all my normal activities off completely. I’ve got clinics scheduled in Texas and California, and I’m going to be teaching at the new place in Florida. And I’m still going to be going back to Germany, but time is going to be tight. I thought I was busy before! Hopefully the frequent flyer miles will pile up, and I’ll have a chance at flying business class instead of cattle class.
Q: How well do you know the Canadian riders?