INTERVIEW David and Louise Simpson on Collaborative Working and Training For Success
Rider Interview by Abigail Dickinson
This month we were thrilled to interview David and Louise Simpson, quizzing them all about their training and success. Revealing very different training approaches, David and Louise discuss how their riding styles benefit horse’s training, as well as their own performance in the arena. The duo also gave us an insight into training and competing together as husband and wife, as well as a young family to consider!
Why were you both drawn to show jumping and at what moment did you decide that riding was the career path for you?
David: My parents show jumped at an amateur level, but I wasn’t that big into it, I actually loved hunting more than anything. I was out in the field one day with dealer Peter Smith, who approached my parents saying he needed someone to ride his 12.2 ponies for him. He lived about an hour away from us so every holiday I would head to his yard to stay with him and ride every day. I was with Peter until I was out of ponies, I rode horses at home for a bit but quickly realised I didn’t want to be in Ireland. I actually had a place at veterinary school when I decided to defer for a year and go to America, but before I got there I got chatted to Shane Breen and diverted to Sussex instead! I was only meant to be at Shane’s for a year – but stayed for seven!
Louise: My mum, auntie & grandad were big into show jumping, so you could say it’s in my blood! My first pony, Charlie Brown, really sealed the deal for me though, I rode him at HOYS when I was 6, and came 2nd in 128 championships, and it went from there!
You have both worked through Pony and Junior squads. How did this prepare you for competing at a 5* international level?
David: Honestly when I look back, I’m not sure it did really prepare me. I guess it gives you first-hand experience of the mentality needed to ride on teams, but I was lucky enough to ride without feeling the pressure. I just rode ponies, and it was a case of just trying to do as good as possible, no major stress! Lou will probably say different – she was a winner from a young age so probably felt the pressure far more than I did! We both rode ponies, juniors & Young Riders, but were very different ends of the spectrum, Louise took a lot more seriously.
Louise: [laughing] That’s probably why I won more!
At the beginning of your career, you were both mentored by top names in show jumping. What was the number one lesson you learnt from your mentors to develop into the athletes you are today?
David: Shane taught me that hard work and discipline is key; you have to get stuck in and make the most of every opportunity. It’s down to you to get the best out of your horse.
Louise: I learnt that to be successful you have to really plan and organise, set goals for yourself and achieve them.
As professional athletes in the same discipline, you are regularly competing against each other, however as husband and wife. Does this work to your advantage?
David: We both know each other’s horses better than a lot of people would normally know their ‘opponents’. We’re able to give each other more insight if we’re in the same class for sure. If one of us if first to go in a course, we’re able to give better to directed advise to the other knowing their horse so well. There is no horse on the yard that we haven’t both ridden.
It helps on a personal side too, we both understand the lifestyle and that you have to be on the road, have to be pushing hard all the time, it would be very hard to be married to one of us!
You not only compete in the same discipline but run a yard together, training and sourcing horses for yourselves and clients. How has collaborative working benefitted your work?
Louise: We rely on each other’s judgement a lot. I’m forever the pessimist and David is forever the optimist, so we balance each other out. He pushes me forward and I steady him up. When it comes to producing horses, it definitely helps to have each other on side, being very different riders, we can often bring something to a horse’s training that the other can’t.
Do you both have different approaches to training and competition?
David: Yes! I‘m a lot more structured in my training and do more on the flat. I like a plan and to tick all the boxes.
Louise is way more relaxed. She just plays around with her horses and gets to know them in a more casual way – but it seems to work! She’s always liked to win and it seems to come very naturally to her, you could say I’m more driven but Lou is more talented!
Louise: Now that we have three boys, I don’t like to be away from home as much as I used to be so my competition schedule will generally be a lot smaller than David’s. I try and compete more in the UK where possible.
You’ve got some great horses under your wing! Who should we be keeping our eyes on over the next year?
David: Definitely Carleyle for me, our 10-year-old stallion, he’s got so much talent and is only just getting started, he’s definitely going places.
Louise: Starouge for me, I’m hoping to step him up to 4* Grand Prix next year feel really excited about him.
Finally, what’s next for your careers in show jumping?
David: We always want to get more Grand Prix wins under our belt. To break into the top 100 in the world jump a in Championships is the next step.
Louise: To continue with the amazing string of horses we have at the moment and get them all out to jump as much as possible, last year was a strange year for everyone, so it will be making the most of being out and looking to add more wins to the tally!