Harvey’s Heroes – The horses behind Nathan Harvey’s equestrian success by Aiden Taylor
In the equestrian world, success in the arena wouldn’t be possible without a reliable team of horses behind the scenes.
North McLean local Nathan Harvey takes that to heart as an equestrian athlete specialising in dressage.
His horses, part of what he proudly calls Nathan Harvey’s Equestrian Team , led him to the Olympic podium and on to become Logan City Council’s most recognised sports person last year.
Nathan’s spent his whole life working up to these moments. The tireless hours day and night he’s spent getting to know his horses – at times having to break them in from scratch – and building the trust needed for them to put their faith in him is one aspect of Nathan’s success that doesn’t make the spotlight on the podium, but this, along with the horses themselves, are just as important to his story.
Pictured here is one of Nathan’s most cherished members of his team. Meet 17-year-old Dom the Stallion.
Dom’s what you call a Trakehner warmblood breed of horse. Dom has been getting a bit cheeky lately as a result of not being able to get out and about at competitions, which have been cancelled because of COVID.
Lifting up Dom’s mane, Nathan points to a birthmark in the shape of a love heart on Dom’s neck, which Nathan says compliments his loving nature.
Time to introduce another treasured member of Nathan’s team. Meet Flip the 17-year-old thoroughbred, the kind you’d see on the race track – best known for their agility and speed.
In fact, that’s exactly how Flip started out before he came into Nathan’s care.
Flip’s personality pretty much speaks for itself, his name referring to his skittish nature.
When Nathan first met him, Flip was incredibly shy and didn’t trust people easily due to rough upbringing he had. But you wouldn’t pick that on face value as he, like Dom, has the most affectionate tendencies.
In 2019, Nathan won two gold medals in dressage and a bronze medal in show jumping at the Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
To get there, Dom and Flip were his riding companions for countless hours of training and tests leading up to the Olympics. Nathan rode Flip in the qualifiers for the special Olympics.
“He has such a great way with horses. Nathan will actually count [and memorise] the number of steps in a sequence because he can’t see what’s in front of him.”
Nathan’s Mum, Kim Harvey, speaking about Nathan’s ability to memorise patterns for dressage events, a skill that he’s honed through being blind.
“We had a pony called Tommy. One day, when Nathan was 7 years old, he was in the stable tickling Tommy’s belly, talking clear as day… and that was the first time he spoke.”
Kim Harvey reflecting on the moment Nathan spoke for the first time.
Nathan also starred at last year’s City of Logan Sports Awards, winning both the award for the Elite Person with a Disability and Sportsperson of the Year, neither of which had been won by an equestrian rider until then.
The 2019 City of Logan Sports Awards night was the most memorable both for Nathan and his family. Standing either side of Nathan is his Mum, Kim Harvey (left), and Laurie Lawrence (right).
Nathan was the first person with a disability and an impairment such as autism to be named Sportsperson of the Year.
At this time of the year, Nathan would be at weekly tournaments located anywhere from near Park Ridge down to Melbourne, competing across several categories, including in the special, the para, and the open ‘official’ dressage.
Despite experiencing years of last place results, Nathan has really hit his straps and is starting to hold his own across all three categories, which include events such as walk, trot, canter, dressage, english equitation, and trail testing.
“He spent years coming last and getting things wrong, because it takes a long time to train a horse to get it thinking what you’re thinking. Many riders spend years getting things wrong and then it all pops and comes together.”
Kim Harvey speaking to Nathan’s extraordinary amount of resilience.
Earlier this year, Nathan and Flip finished in the top 10 at two events against able-bodied riders.
On the side of competing, Nathan welcomes lots of people aged 13 to 65, who also have disabilities, to learn about horse riding.
Nathan’s message to any rider is to show the horses a deep level of care and affection:
Pictured here is Nathan with one of his regular visitors, a 65-year-old lady who has autism. She visits once a month and absolutely loves her time with Nathan and Dom.
By doing this, Nathan wants people with disabilities to do sport and realise they can achieve more than they think they can.
So where now for Nathan and his equestrian team? With COVID bringing eventing to a halt in 2020, all attention is on the next big tournament.
The road to the Special Olympics World Games in Berlin 2023 starts with the Tasmanian State Dressage Championships 2021. If Nathan does well there, he will be in a solid position for selection.
Dom and Flip will once again be key to Nathan’s success in the arena, accompanying him to local events between now and then.
But Nathan has other exciting news.
This mare right here is the beautiful Adela, another Trakehner who lives on the paddock next door to Flip. Admired for her quiet temperament and youth, Adela is Nathan’s future in the arena.
Nathan’s dream is she will be the main horse he uses to get to the next Olympics, but the reality is that she may not be ready in time.
Having only recently been broken in, Adela will not be rushed into taking that next step into dressage.