Sports & Culture
From an Olympics spectator to Hong Kong’s first equestrian eventing competitor
Thomas Ho: “This profession requires a lot of patience, passion, and discipline.”
For many Hong Kong people, the Beijing Olympics was a most rousing and unforgettable experience. For HKJC Equestrian Team rider Thomas Ho, the Games meant so much more – they set him on the path to becoming a professional rider.
Born in Hong Kong in 1989, Thomas started riding at the HKJC’s Pokfulam Public Riding School at the age of seven. He took to riding well and went on to take part in different equestrian competitions in Hong Kong and overseas. Thomas later paused horse riding for four years to focus on his studies, going to Switzerland to learn hotel management. Then the Beijing 2008 Olympics came along and he got a sense for his life goal.
“I was interning at a hotel in Hong Kong. I was responsible for attending to the VIPs of the equestrian teams and saw so many top riders in the equestrian events of the Beijing Olympics in Hong Kong,” says Thomas. “My best friend and coach Alex Hua represented China. Watching him compete fuelled my determination to become a professional rider one day.”
In 2008, the Club supported Hong Kong’s co-hosting of the Beijing Olympics equestrian events, committing HK$1.2 billion to build the competition venues, providing 24-hour veterinary services and also testing services for equine doping control. This marked a milestone in the development - and the start of a period of rapid growth - in the equestrian sports in Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, Thomas stepped up his ambition in the saddle. At first, he was juggling between his hotel work and riding training. He went on to represent Hong Kong at the Incheon 2014 Asian Games, winning an eventing bronze with his teammates. Shortly after, he made up his mind and became a full-time rider.
Thomas doesn’t find the life of a full-time rider easy. “This profession requires a lot of patience, passion, and discipline.“ He finds the bond-building between the rider and the horse the most difficult yet also the most fascinating part of the sport. It took him three years to build a perfect partnership with his horse Tayberry. “At first we didn’t know each other. There were many misunderstandings and doubts between us,” Thomas recalls. “It took us three years of training before we could trust each other.”