She didn’t want to rush into things, and he was on the brink of an entirely new career. This is the story of how Fiona met Jimmy.

The horse: Late 2009, a flashy Chestnut Colt by the name of Excentrique (Exceed and Excel x Native Jester) started his racing career in Sydney. Well-bred by racing standards, he was run under the Darley banner and showed a lot of potential. Excentrique gained a total of 6 starts for 2 placings before he unfortunately developed a wind problem that ended his racing career. Donna Waterhouse who part owned the horse with Darley at the time, donated Excentrique to the Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Program as it was gaining its legs.

The Rider: Fiona Oosthoek was one of the first TRT followers before the Rehabilitation Program existed as we know it today. Fiona’s involvement through Corrective Services NSW meant she saw the program unfold from conception to reality.

How did they meet? Like any true equine enthusiastic, Fiona was intrigued by the program and asked if she could volunteer and come and watch the horses in work. ‘I loved being around the horses and in the back of my mind I was planning on getting back into horses after a 2 year absence. Once they are in your blood, you always seem to come back to them!’ Fiona told us.  ‘I didn't want to rush into anything and for a time was content to volunteer when I could as I work fulltime and lead a busy life’, that was, until she met Excentrique (better known as Jimmy).

‘He seemed to be around every time I volunteered there so I got to see a lot of him. I wasn't very concerned about the wind issue as I did a lot of research and most eventing people all agreed that it may stop him from going to the top as an eventer but that it wouldn't stop him going around in the lower grades and becoming the wonderful all-rounder riding horse that I am ultimately working towards.’ 

When did you decide that he was the right horse for you? ‘I started to critically assess the rest of him to be sure that I wasn't making an emotional decision and still decided he was rather close to perfect for me and just what I wanted; good size (I didn't want a big horse), a great temperament, and an athletic physique (both typical of this sires progeny I discovered). Also all the staff at TRT spoke highly of him and said he was a nice ride, great to handle’
‘Volunteering was a great way to see all the horses and I found myself dismissing all the others as unsuitable for me and being drawn back to Jimmy and his many charms every time!’

Fiona decided to spoil herself with an early Christmas and birthday present in 2011. ‘I rang my husband and said "You know how it's Christmas and my birthday soon? Don't buy me anything because I have already bought my present, his name is Jimmy, do you want to come and see him?" I had my first ride on him on my birthday and he was delivered on the 22nd of Dec 2011.’

‘I have had him for about 14 months now and he is well settled now and we have come to know each other very well. We have had a few issues but nothing that I didn't learn from, correct, and change to eliminate the concern in the future. Taking a racehorse straight out of the sheltered stable environment is always going to provide challenges and I have enjoyed the personal learning I have gained from the experience of caring for him. He loves his paddock, his shelter, lots of carrots, as well as all other food and horse company. He is very thin skinned with a fine coat and dislikes any insects -flying or biting, and being over covered and too hot in summer. He also dislikes being brushed or scrapped after washing but likes a head rub with a towel after the bridle comes off. Horses are all so different, it's no wonder they say it takes 12 months to get to know a new horse.

So far Fiona and Jimmy have been trail and road riding as well as at many other venues, ‘I would love to take him to the beach so that will be something we will hopefully do in the future - he loves to roll in the sand - he eyes up any pile of stuff, anywhere, that looks like it would make a good rolling spot!’

What have they accomplished so far? His first eventing competition was at SIEC (Sydney International Equestrian Centre) on February 23 2013. The weather forecast wasn't great and Sandy Lucas (Fiona’s Instructor) who had planned to ride the horse had recently injured her leg.

‘We discussed our options and rang a friend, Penny Austin, to see if she would be prepared to ride Jimmy instead. To me this was a huge ask as obviously there is risk involved for Penny getting on a brand new horse on the day, particularly one that is young and inexperienced, and considering the forecasted weather conditions, even in a 60cm class!’
After speaking with Sandy, Penny agreed to ride the horse and as it turned out they made a great team. Their dressage score was 58.5%, with 4 faults (1 rail down) in the show jumping and 5.2 time penalties but clear in the cross country phase.

‘They finished a very creditable 7th and I was thrilled with the result as, at all costs, I wanted the experience to be a positive one for him. Penny reported back that he was "unflappable" and that she was very happy with the way he went, settling in well and enjoying the jumping phases.’

So what does the future hold for you both? ‘The future looks like a whole bunch of fun and lots of Eventing hopefully! Since SIEC, Jimmy has had a week off as I feel being a young horse, there is merit in getting regular mental breaks and this seems to suit him too. I have a few jump lessons planned as the Police and Emergency Services Games are on early April and I will be riding him myself. It’s likely we will compete in showjumping this year, all going well and leave the Eventing for next year when he is more experienced and I have had more jumping lessons on him! ‘

‘To be honest, he is only 5 ½ years old so there is no rush. Sandy has agreed to ride him at Equestriad in May in an intro class if all is going well.  After that who really knows? If Sandy is happy to carry on riding and competing on him longer term as far as he can go - I will be thrilled as I love watching what he can achieve and seeing the continuous improvement in him. I do plan to do a bit of eventing on him myself eventually in the lower grades.’

At the TRT, we strive to ensure that our horses and riders are compatible before they leave the yard. Fiona and Jimmy are a testament to that theory as she told us ‘I seriously think I have the right horse for the job.’ – we’re so pleased for you both.

Excentrique during his days on the Racetrack
(image © Bradley Photgraphers)

Excentrique during his training at the Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Program

Excentrique and Fiona reunite with previous owner Donna, who donated ‘Jimmy’ into the program

Excentrique at his first Eventing competition at SIEC Feb 2013 (image © Main Event Photography)

One of Excentrique's first outings with new owner Fiona at the 2012 Police Mpounted Games (image © Free Rein Photography)