Jamie has served as a youth ambassador and panellist at the 2018 FEI Global Sports Forum in Switzerland, and is a member of Equestrian Australia’s High Performance Squad.
I’m Jamie Hocking, a 25-year-old Australian Equestrian Vaulting Champion, member of Equestrian Australia’s High Performance squad, and ranked 12th globally.
I grew up on a farm at Woolsheds, South Australia, and now live in a barn in Denmark so that I have easy access to the major European vaulting competitions. Since 2016, my lunger and coach, Lasse Kristensen, my beautiful Danish mare French Kiss, and I have competed for Australia, including earning a third place finish in our first World Cup competition in Paris.
French Kiss is currently on maternity leave, so I’m competing on Lasse’s German Warmblood gelding, Sunday Song (Sunny). Sunny started vaulting with us in 2019 and in our first outings together in 2021, we represented Australia in France and Sweden. Our 2022 plans include a World Cup final in Leipzig in April and the World Equestrian Games in August.
Last year I was invited to meet a fellow Aussie, the lovely Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark. I met other guests, presented flowers, and made it through a Danish TV interview with no embarrassing stuff-ups! Another honour was an invitation to be a Youth Ambassador and panellist at the 2018 FEI Global Sports Forum in Switzerland, where I met international equestrian sports leaders and made new friends from other equestrian disciplines. Unforgettable!
In 2019, I had the chance to give back to my sport as Chef d’Equip (team manager) to the talented Aussie juniors at the World Championships. It’s been disappointing not to be able to come home to coach in Australia in recent years, but I did enjoy coaching at clinics in Finland and Norway. And I’m still shovelling manure, maintaining the barn, helping with equine disability therapy horses, studying at uni, training with Sunny and Lasse, and learning to ice skate without breaking my neck!
What was your dream or what were your goals when you first set your sights on top level equestrian sport?
I was 11 when I discovered there was an international vaulting world beyond anything I had known in Australia. My only goal in those early days was to travel overseas to see the world class European and American legends competing. I had no idea that I would get hooked, working my way through an exchange trip to International Juniors and finally to the elite level, where goals require a bit more thought and hard work.
We believe in the great value of mentors, did you or do you have a mentor that has made a significant impact in your life or career?
Good sports coaches are vital to succeeding as a rider, but good mentors understand what you go through as an athlete and sometimes as a flawed human being. When I was in my teens, I focussed on learning how to be technically good at sports. It took time and straight talking from people wiser than me to realise having technical competence and physical strength isn’t worth much without mental strength. If you don’t have specific values, attitudes and communication skills, you may miss opportunities in sports and other aspects of your life. Life can be complicated, but a good mentor looks into your head, tells you the hard truth, and guides you through the tough stuff.
My first great mentor was Stefan Csandl, an Austrian champion vaulter who helped me and other Aussie vaulters get a start overseas. He was a long-time vaulting idol of mine and later he became my coach and mentor in my first Junior Individual competitions in Europe. Stefan ensured I remained realistic and focused on personal growth, as well as the thrilling experience of significant competition, but not so much on my placings – and that helped me to stay confident. However, I was often at the bottom of the field. Without Stefan’s mentoring and sportsmanship role modelling, I likely wouldn’t have returned the following season, or the next!
What is the best advice you were ever given?
I’ve been fortunate to have received great advice from older, more experienced vaulters from around the world, but my current mentor is from Brisbane. Amon Woulfe’s background is in team sports and ball sports, but mental skills are the same for all sports and he has significantly influenced how I compete and measure success. He’s taught me that wasting even one second worrying about performance errors (or a horse playing up) puts you at an immediate disadvantage in a competition arena, especially in vaulting where you perform to music with no room for re-dos or timing stuff-ups. Staying focused on what’s next stops you getting rattled and sacrificing even more points.
The person who stays cool, maintains perspective, doesn’t dwell on an error and moves on the quickest, succeeds (in all aspects of life). In August 2021, I was forced to withdraw from the World Championships only 30 minutes before my start because my horse was injured. With Amon’s words in my head, I didn’t feel bitter and overwhelmed with disappointment as I would have done only a few years ago. My brain jumped straight to ‘but you’re still right here with all your competitor friends, the horse will recover, it sucks, but this is another chance to practice good sportsmanship – more competitions will follow’. It sounds like the obvious way to think, but it’s not easy, and that’s where a good mentor can help you work through things.
What roadblock or roadblocks have you overcome to be where you are today professionally?
The biggest and most frustrating roadblock is the battle to keep going financially. I run out of time to train, study and to work within limited visa conditions, and I’m not eligible for Aussie student loans because I live overseas. I find it frustrating to miss out on training clinics or competitions because I can’t afford them. Having a mentor who helps me keep things in perspective doesn’t make the struggle less, but having support helps me to deal with it. I’m finding life easier as I get better at focusing on my blessings. It’s incredible for an Aussie guy from Woolsheds to be living in Europe, doing what he loves and living the life of his dreams