A lot can happen in eight months . . . just ask Bruce Goodin. At the beginning of this year he didn’t think he was remotely in the picture to make his second WEG team.
“But through a series of events it all came together,” says the 48-year-old. Not only did he go from not having a top horse, but their international début together was in New Zealand’s victorious team at the FEI Nations Cup in Abu Dhabi. Bruce rates the 10-year-old Dutch-bred horse Backatorps Danny V as possibly the best he has ever ridden.
“I feel very fortunate to get the ride on him,” says Bruce.
He’s no stranger to riding for New Zealand, with four Olympic Games and the 2014 WEG already on his CV. “To represent New Zealand at a championship is absolutely special. This is what we work so hard for – to give ourselves the opportunity to be up against the very best but getting selected is just the first step of the journey. There is still a lot of work to do.”
In the flurry of weeks following the team naming, Bruce says there has been no time to think. “Every day there is a lot of work to do – not just the physical preparation of the horse but everything else that goes on behind the scenes too.”
Bruce faces a bigger challenge than most in that he is only just getting to know his horse but he’s buoyed by the intelligence of the gelding. “He is quite extraordinary. Anyone who has worked with him in helping me train him or the physios or grooms all say very quickly just how intelligent he is. He has a strong enough character but at the same time is a super good guy – he’s not one who is trying to go against all you do. If things are explained well to him then he gets it and goes with it. He can walk into a new arena when he hasn’t had those experiences before and just deal with it.”
The support Bruce received from mostly a group of New Zealanders to secure the necessary 40% share of Danny is special to him. “There were some bigger shares but every little bit help. There were a lot of people involved.”
That support came from people who wanted to back Bruce but also the New Zealand jumping team. “We needed the horse to make the team stronger. It certainly wasn’t a given we would be selected, but it did give the country another string to its bow.”
Their efforts at Abu Dhabi were one of his greatest highlights in his equestrian career which goes back to when he was just three or four. Growing up in a very horsey family where his father David was a successful competitor and well respected horseman, it was only natural he too would do well in the saddle. However, by his own admission, that took a while.
“I liked to ride and did Pony Club from a young age but I wasn’t that successful. Mostly I went to A and P Shows and did local mini circuits but I would never get a decent prize in the best boy rider. That really annoyed me but honestly, my position was terrible. I couldn’t understand why other friends were beating me and why the judges never picked me – I thought it was crap!”
At 14 his father saved four ponies from the meat works and Bruce helped him work them. With a one day event fast approaching, he and his father did a big push. “He said I was to be up at 5am before school riding them to try and make a good effort before the Waerenga One Day Event. It seemed like forever, but it was probably just a month and I ended up winning one of the novice sections.”
That saw him in the Dorothy Campbell section at the Pony Club Champs where he finished fourth. “That really kick-started my real passion for it all.”
He was also inspired by Sir Mark Todd’s efforts at the 1984 Olympic Games. When Bruce was five, Mark worked on their family farm for a couple of years. “Him doing so well at that Olympic Games really made me aware of the possibilities.” When Bruce headed to the UK at 19 years old, he based first with Ann Wilson’s parents then to Mark’s where he stayed for two years.
Eventing was his focus for a while and he also did showjumping right up until he left New Zealand. “I liked that showjumpng was clear-cut – you either left the poles up and either the fastest or not. It wasn’t up to someone’s opinion.”
He had an eventer in Europe and even competed at one event in both eventing and showjumping.
“Those were the days of roads and steeplechase and I loved that but I remember thinking as I came into the 10-minute box that it was an awful lot of work for 10-minutes of fun. Showjumping seemed a lot more worthwhile for me and I am pretty happy with the choice I have made.”
As he builds towards WEG, he trains mostly on his own but has been spending some time with German trainer Markus Beutel who helped him and team mate Daniel Meech before the Nations Cup in Rome.
Bruce with wife Ulrika and six-year-old daughter Elizabeth this year moved back to Jonstorp, Sweden to establish their own business.
“So it is a busy year with a lot happening, but I am so looking forward to what our team can do at WEG. It is nice to be going with a group of people who have come from a similar situation and worked hard to get there. We are all our own personalities and all in different life situations at the moment but because I think we have been here for a while, been through ups and downs, it makes it easier to work through issues, talk about things, stay humble and move forward.”
By Diana Dobson – HP Media Liaison