After a stellar equestrian career, Vicki Roycroft is an icon of the sport. Her love of thoroughbreds has led her to represent Australia in three Olympic Games and three World Championship Teams. She also was the first female to win the Rome Grand Prix. All of these which Vicki competed with a Thoroughbred.
“When I first started riding, my sport horses were always thoroughbreds. And they are still my preference of horse today,” Vicki said.
“I think certainly for amateur riders’ thoroughbreds are a better horse as, generally, they are quiet. Whenever I return to riding from an injury or something I always ride thoroughbreds as they are a pleasant horse.”
Vicki is regarded very highly in the equestrian community for her passionate love of thoroughbreds. “The best thing about thoroughbreds is their attitude. They are forward-thinking, intelligent horses, more so than other breeds of horse. Thoroughbreds have beautiful faces and eyes which they look at you and show their love,” she said.
Thoroughbreds are Vicki’s breed of choice for competing, such as her iconic Apache who she got straight after his retirement from racing.
“It’s actually a funny story how I got Apache. I was in Cowra doing a clinic when the guy running it mentioned that he has a little horse that just jumps too high for him and asked if I would have a look at him. I wasn’t at all fussed but eventually agreed. I got on and rode him and after the first jump, I thought ‘Wow, he was pretty good’. His owners didn’t want to sell him though, so I just forgot about him for the time.
“3 weeks later the guy called me and said his owners are going to sell him, did you want him, but I didn’t remember what horse he was talking about. He was only selling for $500 and $50 for transport so I thought why not and sent a cheque in the mail. I went down to Bankstown to pick him up but forgot how small he was! Driving back, I was thinking how Wayne (her then husband) was going to kill me because he was such a small chestnut like under 16hh. Turns out to be the best horse I’ve ever owned.
“This was a perfect example of how you don’t find good horses, they find you,” Vicki said.
This dynamic duo achieved the unimaginable in 1987 when they won the Grand Prix in Rome, with Vicki being the first Australian and women to do so. Apache was also ranked in the top 20 for the best horses of that year.
“I trained him (Apache) from cross rails to the Grand Prix. He just came out of nowhere to win and won the biggest class. We won a lot of competitions together until I had to sell him for financial reasons,” Vicki said.
Vicki’s success didn’t just stop in Rome, but instead spanned across the globe. Competing in 3 Olympic games, Vicki was awarded an Australian Sport Medal in 2000.
“I have been very blessed to travel with this sport taking me all over the world. The 3 Olympics I competed in were very special and all great in their own way. My first Olympics in Los Angeles in 1984 was probably my favourite as we had a great team and Wayne was the flagbearer for the Australian team which was incredible,” she said.
As Roycroft became Australia’s golden girl in showjumping, the pressure from home started to mount. “You need to expect pressure. I always felt less pressure overseas as you’re more of an underdog but in Australia, I always felt the home crowd expectations,” Vicki said.
Although the pressures were there, Vicki had a great support team behind her every step of the way.
“The great American trainer, George Morris, was a very big mentor for me as he has been there to help me in Rome and places like that. He is still a dear friend now and I bring him out to Australia to do clinics with me,” Vicki said.
Despite being separated now, Vicki’s husband Wayne Roycroft was also influential in her career.
“Wayne was an outstanding coach of 3 of our Gold Medal winning teams. He and his father, Bill taught me a lot and I was able to learn through their coaching,” she said.
Winning more World Cup Qualifiers than any other Australian rider, Vicki’s determination is backed by the advice, “You’ve got to earn what you want. People expect things to be put in their laps, but you must work for it,” she said.
Vicki’s drive to succeed is still alive today, with the idea of retiring never being an option for her.
“The thing with this sport is you can do it at whatever age. I still enjoy producing horses, especially off the track thoroughbreds as you get them off the track and make a sport horse out of them.
“That’s the pleasurable part of it, getting to work with the horse and improve it. That’s what I’ll be doing more of now,” Vicki states.
As Vicki continues to coach the next generation, her best piece of advice for new and upcoming riders is, “You’ve got to let your horses let down a little bit before training them. Let them get the racing syndrome out of their brains.”
Subscribe to Redzel’s Roundup, the Team Thoroughbred e-newsletter, and be the first to know about our special events and activities, receive important information from our equine welfare veterinarians, read good news stories, go into the draw for Team Thoroughbred giveaways and most importantly be part of a passionate community of Thoroughbred lovers!