Four-time Olympian Cindy Neale-Ishoy of Hannon, ON was inducted into the Hamilton Sports Hall of Fame on Oct. 17, 2017 in Hamilton, ON.
“A lot of good athletes come from Hamilton, so it was a pretty big honour.” said Cindy, who has resided in the Hamilton area for the past 30 years.
The celebrated dressage career for which Cindy was recognized is a product of her laser-like focus and work ethic. She began representing Canada on the international stage at the remarkable age of 19 at the 1971 Pan American Games in Cali, COL. Instead of being content with a fourth-place individual finish and a gold medal in the team event, Cindy used her first major win as a motivator to drive herself to even greater heights.
“It was an honour, and it was exciting, and it was motivational,” said Cindy of her participation in the Pan Am Games. “That was probably my first big, big push to try to be better. And then I went to Europe very shortly after that and trained.”
Next, it was on to the 1972 Olympics in Munich, GER, where Cindy didn’t think twice about the fact that, at 20 years old, she was the youngest equestrian competitor on the field. Once again, she concentrated on her training and used the experience to push herself even further.
“Watching the other countries competing made me realize how much better and more focused I had to get, and how much harder I had to train,” said Cindy. “So it was not only an amazing accomplishment, but it was an amazing opportunity for me to go forward and learn from there.”
Cindy went on to make three more Olympic appearances: in 1988 in Seoul, at which the Canadian Dressage Team won bronze and Cindy placed fourth individually; in Barcelona in 1992; and finally in Athens in 2004. She racked up many more titles along the way, including second at the 1988 World Cup in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, NED and two first-place finishes at the 1993 Dressage at Devon in Devon, PA.
Looking back on her career, Cindy feels an immense sense of gratitude: gratitude to her coaches, Siegfried Peilicke and Willy Schultheis; to the Burns family, who financed both her horses and her training in Europe; and, most of all, gratitude to her horses, who each taught her a different lesson about horsemanship.
First there was Martyr, a difficult horse who showed Cindy that she was not the boss, but that they were a team and she needed to be humble in the saddle. Then came Equus, whose inconsistencies in the ring taught Cindy how to handle both winning and losing. Dynasty was next, and the duo quickly ascended to stardom. But, in 1989, Dynasty unexpectedly died from colic at the peak of his career, leaving Cindy to learn how to move on from heartbreak. Cindy’s next horse was an emotional purchase: Dakar was a product of Darling, who also sired Dynasty. Dakar failed to live up to Dynasty’s looming legacy in the public eye, despite being an honest and hard-working partner. Finally, Proton taught Cindy how to handle a horse with plenty of talent, but who perhaps lacked work ethic. For Cindy, her entire dressage career boils down to love for these horses.
“I’ve always been very close to all my horses,” said Cindy. “I like grooming them, I like hand walking them, and I like taking care of them. They taught me about the relationship between horses and people and how to get the best performances by being connected to them.”
Today, Cindy lives and works just outside the Hamilton city limits in Hannon, ON. A recent injury has temporarily shifted all of Cindy’s attention to coaching. While she finds working with students very rewarding, she is looking forward to getting back in the saddle soon. Cindy has two young horses, including a nine-year-old German Sport Horse gelding Sakima (Stallone Quainton x Landrebell), who is currently ridden by her daughter, Kahla.
Equestrian Canada congratulates Cindy on her induction to the Hamilton Sports Hall of Fame, and on the spectacular, three-decade-long high performance career that earned her inclusion.