Across the competition at Tokyo 2020, Andrew and Vassily de Lassos — a Selle Français Anglo-Arab gelding, by Jaguar Mail out of Illusion Perdue (Jalienny) — were the only combination to finish on their dressage score from an original start list of 63 combinations. “I think with where I’ve come from with Vassily de Lassos and his dressage, I believe it’s the maximum that we could have had [in the dressage phase]. There were tiny little things that I can always improve,” said Andrew of his dressage test.
Heading into the cross country, Andrew felt the time would be a challenge to get, however, he also felt he was “sitting on one of the greatest cross-country horses in the world” and that it was achievable. He was correct; Vassily produced the equal-fastest cross country round of the competition (on par with Germany’s Michael Jung and Chipmunk FRH). Their cross country round was not without drama; after the fall of another combination on course, Andrew and Vassily were held for a considerable time early on in their round. It was certainly a moment not often faced by competitors, and it’s when experience and mental toughness come to the fore — as well as the incredible trust between horse and rider.
“When I was stopped, the cooling system, I have to say was absolutely excellent; until I got under the tent, I could feel the temperature rising all the time,” said Andrew, praising how officials handled the situation of having horses stopped on course in the Tokyo heat. “When you are galloping, you have wind on your face and wind on your body, and so you stay very cool. As soon as you stop, you don’t have that wind and so your temperature rises. Vassily’s temperature went up half a degree from when it was first taken in the cooling area, but [it was] still very low. And his heart rate, he was back to 100. He’s just phenomenally fit. A horse would normally be at 125-135 pulling up like that.”
Heading into the jumping phase as the final Australian rider to go, the team was less than a rail ahead of France; Andrew and Vassily simply had to jump clear to claim silver. Fortunately, Vassily is one of the sport’s most reliable in the jumping phase, and has only ever had one rail down in international competition since being partnered with Andrew. They jumped clear.
“We’ve got the most wonderful relationship, this horse and myself,” said Andrew following the team showjumping round. “[Vassily] was so fresh he was having a little buck in the warm-up, it’s as if I did a dressage schooling exercise with him the day before. It’s an absolute joy to work with him every day; every day he puts a smile on my face.”
Andrew described winning team silver as a very special moment. “We don’t come to these championships, especially Olympic Games, to finish in fourth, fifth or sixth. We only come to get a medal, and look, it’s been a complete team effort; if it wasn’t for Kevin, and also for Shane in the team, and this complete support team, we wouldn’t be here.”
However, Andrew’s Games didn’t end with a team silver medal. Returning to the arena for the second round of showjumping to decide the individual medals, it was another clear round and a bronze medal — just one rail off gold on 29.6.
“The joy that I get riding this horse is just unbelievable. I always use one word to describe what I’m trying to achieve: that word is harmony. And that’s what I’m working towards. Doesn’t matter whether it’s the dressage, the cross-country, or the showjumping. And when you see the great riders and there’s harmony, it’s then just poetry in motion,” said Andrew of his special relationship with Vassily. Interestingly, Andrew rides the horse in the same bridle and bit in all three phases.