Late Deb Kruz.
The Hall of Fame covers both Australia and New Zealand and has been established to recognize the fantastic people and horses who have made contributions above and beyond the norm. Over many years, these contributions have helped shape our event and have ensured that EQUITANA has become the success it is today.
Horse and Rider Combination: Heath Ryan and Regardez Moi
Heath Ryan could choose any one of his many world-class achievements as a career highlight, but it’s a moving moment when he chooses the EQUITANA Hall of Fame induction of himself and his stunning black stallion Regardez Moi as one of the best.
“To be honest, it brings a tear to my eye,” he said. “He [Regardez Moi] was more than just an athlete – he was my partner and he threw himself at it and certainly was a key part of dragging the standard of Australian Dressage closer to the front lines on a world stage.”
In 2009, after the combination achieved an amazing 10th at the FEI World Cup Dressage Final in Las Vegas, Heath – an Olympian and World Equestrian Games representative – had a stroke. “He went through a particularly difficult moment in my life. The stroke was debilitating…my world collapsed but he stuck with me. He was moving to top gear and because I was struggling to ride well, he basically sacrificed his best moment.”
For the partnership to be inducted into the inaugural Hall of Fame is a poignant moment in a star-studded career. “I feel like our journeys are being recognised. It can be very lonely. To be recognised like this is really beautiful but the most important part is the recognition of a horse. He has never let me down and has been the most magnificent partner.”
Heath and 23-year-old Regardez Moi have three times taken out the Australian Grand Prix crown and four times triumphed at EQUITANA. Regardez Moi was bred by Heath as part of a German-based operation he ran. Their international career began in 2007, with their last outing in Sydney in 2016 where they placed third in the CDI3* Freestyle to Music. They finished on the podium 64 times from 100 starts, with 29 wins – 16 of those in the Freestyle to Music and all of those above 70%.
For Heath, EQUITANA has a very special place in the world and is an event he has attended since its inception. “I consider it one of the ultimate showcases for Dressage and does the sport a lot of good. The exposure is wonderful, but it allows the general public to feel they are following the rider – something that is very limited in Australia. It makes a much greater contribution than anyone understands,” he said. “Allowing competition to be so accessible with people feeling more involved is the future of the sport.”
Outstanding Service: Sandi Simons
Sandi Simons is a horsewoman, an educator, an inspiration and mentor…and she is humbled to be inducted into the inaugural Hall of Fame the same year she has been made an ambassador for Horsemanship at EQUITANA Melbourne.
“To be recognised as a woman in the equine industry – especially in horsemanship – speaks volumes about how far we have come,” she says. “The Hall of Fame just caps it all off.”
Her involvement with the iconic event goes back to the very beginning. It was 1998 and she and husband David were at EQUITANA in Kentucky. She happened to be standing beside a clutch of Australians talking about bringing EQUITANA Down Under. “I ended up in the conversation. I told them I felt it was a great idea and gave them my business card. Two weeks later I got a phone call.”
The rest is history. Over the decades she has been heavily involved in many aspects of EQUITANA. “They found I could bring the connection between the horse trainers, people and horses to them.” She took to presenting like a duck to water and since then has travelled the globe sharing her passion and knowledge, and more importantly empowering women to regain their confidence with horses and carry those lessons through to the rest of their lives.
The Way Of The Horse (TWOTH) is her baby and she continues to be in awe of all it brings to the wider equestrian community. As busy as this mum of five is, EQUITANA holds a very special place in her heart.
“It allows the evolution of the horse to be brought onto one stage,” she says. “EQUITANA houses that and creates a community. I am just so passionate about that.”
Taking TWOTH to EQUITANA Auckland last year has been a huge moment for Sandi. “I have never been prouder.”
With such a vast and varied career, it is no surprise Sandi has many highlights. “I just feel so very blessed…but one of the main things is to still be just as important to EQUITANA as the day I started. That longevity – I am very proud of that.”
With her every step of the way have been her horses Cassidy and Beau – who will both retire from their performance careers at EQUITANA this year as part of the 20th birthday celebrations.
Volunteer: Vale; Deb Kruz
Deb was a longstanding volunteer at EQUITANA Melbourne who lost her long and extended battle with breast cancer earlier this year. She was one of our most valued volunteers and we honour her memory for everything she has done for the EQUITANA volunteer program over the years.
Debbie first joined us back in 2010 and very quickly became an integral part of our EQUITANA family. She put her heart and soul into not only the event but also the friendships she easily and readily formed with both her fellow volunteers and staff.
Her desire to connect the ever growing community of the EQUITANA family in between events, drove her to be the creator and instigator of our extremely popular Volunteer Group page - a legacy that is being honoured by her existing team mates right now.
We were extremely fortunate that Deb’s health allowed her to join us in New Zealand for EQUITANA Auckland last year, so that a whole new group of people were able to work with her and know how pivotal and special a person she was. In her team leader role, she was integral in helping younger team members find their feet and grow their confidence over the course of the event.
It was an honour to work with her and know that Deb will always be in the hearts and minds of our EQUITANA team.
To Deb’s Husband, Rodney, we thank you for allowing us this opportunity to show just how amazing a human being Deb was. Her vivacious attitude and love of EQUITANA was infectious and that we will always remember with a smile.