Up until she was 17 years old, Olivia ‘Golly’ Barton hadn’t had a lot to do with mares – and then the tide turned. “From about age 18 onwards I ended up with a lot of mares and it was a bit of an eye-opener,” she explains. “Now, I’ve actually fallen in love with them; I love how when you get them on side, they’ll do anything for you. They can be a bit trickier, but I don’t mind them a bit quirky, I quite like the quirky ones!”
By Higgins out of an imported mare and with both jumping and dressage lines, 10-year-old Hollyander HG is one of the quirky ones. Bred and owned by Bob and Ela Weight, ‘Holly’ was broken in by Deon Stokes and came to Olivia as a four-year-old – and certainly tested the then-18-year-old. “We met Bob and Ela through mutual friends. They were wanting to get into the eventing scene and really wanted to send Holly to me and see what we could do together,” recalls Olivia. “As a four-year-old, Holly was not the most straightforward horse, she was quite opinionated. I’ve always loved her, and we’ve just really gotten along. While she’s not the most conventional eventer, she’s just got a heart of gold and always tries. So that’s what I love about her.”
Given it was the mare’s first long format four-star, Olivia, now 23, set out with realistic expectations at Melbourne International Three-Day Event. Keeping her on her toes, the mare wasn’t initially certain she wanted to enter the dressage arena – but once that decision was tactfully discussed, they posted what in the end turned out to be a winning score.
“The dressage phase isn’t Holly’s favourite. She got a bit feisty in the atmosphere, but she actually went into the arena and did the best test she could have done at this stage in her training. I was really happy with how she stayed with me and kept trying throughout the test.” The pair were placed eighth after the first phase on 35.5.
“Walking the course, it looked pretty tough. There were definitely lots of questions early on; it was really intense for the first three or four minutes,” says Olivia of the cross country. “Holly was just so much fun; she went around and made it feel like a bit of a Pony Club course. She was really cool.”