Like every horse-crazy child, 7-year-old Julie Brougham had a dream: competing at the Olympic Games. It’s taken her 55 years, but she finally rode down centerline yesterday in the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.
At 62, Brougham is the oldest Olympian at these Games, two years ahead of fellow New Zealand veteran Mark Todd.
“I’ve been very slow to get here,” she quipped. “It’s always been a dream, but the thing is you have to have such a good horse to be at the pinnacle of this level. I’ve trained lots of good horses through to Grand Prix, but they were never quite good enough. It costs us so much to get a horse from New Zealand to Europe. I’m so lucky when I did go to Europe and buy a horse that I bought one that’s good enough to get to the Olympics.”
Todd and the fellow Kiwi eventers came out to cheer for her and watch her test.
“It was reassuring to have them here,” said Brougham. “It’s so nice to see them being supportive.”
Brougham paired up with Von Feinsten eight years ago via a sport horse auction at Aachen (Germany) thanks to help from Ton de Ridder. This March Brougham and Von Feinsten traveled from their home to de Ridder’s farm in Germany to compete in six European CDIs to get some practice against the best ahead of the Games.
Aboard Vom Feinsten, a 13-year-old German-bred Rheinlander (Fidermark—Wellcome, Weltmeyer), Brougham scored a 68.54 percent in yesterday’s Grand Prix, highlighted by lovely extended trot work and tempi changes.
Brougham was able to afford the journey thanks to saving money from horse sales, and plenty of outside support.
“It’s amazing how New Zealand’s got right on behind me and supported me,” she said. “I received quite a bit of funding from unexpected places, and I haven’t asked for it, they’ve just generously given it to me. Friends, Dressage New Zealand, New Zealand High Performance Sport—and I won the Charisma scholarship. That was pretty neat. It’s not huge amounts, but you know certainly enough to help pay some bills.”
Vom Feinsten and Julie Brougham earned a mark of 68.54 percent during their Grand Prix test at the Olympic Games. Photo by Lindsay Berreth.
Brougham lives in in Manawatu, New Zealand, and “Steiny” lives at her home along with a few other horses, enjoying his own private paddock. Brougham spends her days riding, and has a working student she teaches as well.
Though her Olympic Games isn’t over yet, Brougham’s already thinking ahead to the next FEI World Equestrian Games.
“I had a dream, and I haven’t ever stopped trying,” she said. “I still have other horses I’m bringing along at home. I’m not hanging up my spurs quite yet.”
Mollie Bailey and Lindsay Berreth are on the ground in Rio de Janeiro for the Chronicle and will be reporting with all the news, fantastic photos and behind-the-scenes details, all posted on www.coth.com. Your go-to page for all things Olympic is http://www.chronofhorse.com/2016-Olympics
We’ll have live blogs of competition sessions, Twitter updates, blogs, photo galleries, stories about each day’s competition and so much more. Don’t miss a thing—we’ll have everything you need to know. Also make sure to follow along on the Chronicle’s social media outlets: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat (@chronofhorse).