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Secret Weapons - William Matthew

September 09, 2021 8 min read

William Matthew

The story so far...

I’m from Perth, Western Australia and I started riding around the age of 5 when my Mum took me to the local riding school for a riding lesson. From then on I was always riding. My Mum is a rider too and my Dad always says she brainwashed me into loving horses. Mum would sit me in the middle of the arena in a push chair as a baby and ride around me.

I went through the Pony Club system in Western Australia and rode a bit of every discipline from show jumping to mounted games. We could never afford for me to have my own horse but my trainer Alisa Dodds gave me every opportunity she could. Alisa let me lease her riding school horses in exchange for helping in the stable. I credit Alisa for sparking my love of dressage. She worked with all the horses in such a system, it really instilled in me how disciplined you have to be to train horses.

Dressage always interested me the most, I became really obsessed with it, constantly watching YouTube videos of the top riders, trying to work out how they were making the horses move the way they did. In my final year of high school I went to a clinic run by an English lady named Kate Mabley who offered me a working student position at her stable in Cornwall, England after I finished high school. I finished school and went directly to the UK. My original plan was to do a gap year and come home, study and get a ‘normal’ job. After being 8 months in the UK I was sure I wanted a career with horses. Unfortunately I had completely run out of money so I moved back to Perth for 6 months and worked wherever I could. I cleaned boxes, laboured for an electrician, did a little bit of riding and then when I had enough money I searched for a working student position in Europe. Through word of mouth I had the opportunity to go to Germany and begin as a working student for Hayley Beresford.

At Hayley’s I learnt so much about riding and stable management but after 8 months I had run out of money once again. At this point I felt as though I had enough skills to apply for a paid role and took a job at a stable in Sussex, England. It wasn’t a perfect fit for me but after I had been in this role for about six months I received a call from Warwick Mclean. I had met Warwick during my first trip to England and had stayed with him and his wife Carolina. We had always kept in touch and he gave me a call after they moved to Germany and had need for a rider. I was then working for Warwick and Carolina for almost 5 years.

At Warwick and Carolinas’ I was given so many opportunities. They organised Dartagnan as a young rider horse for me from their friend Henri Ruoste. With help from Warwick and Carolina I took him through the international young rider circuit and then on to under 25 Grand Prix.

In 2015 I had a bad accident when a mare flipped over on me and I broke the back and front of my pelvis. I can remember waking up from the first operation and Carolina was there. The first thing I asked was when I could ride again. She told me they weren’t sure if I would be able to and this was incredibly hard to hear. After the second operation they were more positive and after four months with good doctors, physios, super friends, two big screws and a plate in my pelvis I was back on the horse.

In 2017 I left Warwick and Carolina from there I did a short stint for 8 months with Leida Collins-Strijk in Eindhoven, Holland. I was still living in Germany and in the end the driving was a bit too far and I wasn’t able to go with them for the Winter season to Wellington, so I had to leave. It was a really great opportunity to see the different styles of riding in Holland and I am still working with Leida as we still have one horse we own together.

From Leida’s I went to work for the Hödl family with Beatrice Buschwald and this was another incredible opportunity to learn. After 2 years there Beatrice decided to move to her husband Jens Hoffrogge to run their business together and again the driving was a little too far for me. At this point I had decided to go completely independent and try and start my own business. The Hödl family still wanted to work together and they asked me to take some of their horses to show to Isabell to see what she thought of them. After this meeting Isabell offered me a position to work for her half days so I could still do half days in my own business. So now since December 2019 I have been riding in the mornings for Isabell and in the afternoons I am self-employed.

Why did you choose the country where you are currently located? 

I didn’t really choose to live in Germany I have just gone where the job has taken me, Germany is for sure one of the best places to be, so I think it was where I was going to end up eventually.

What does a typical day in your life look like?

A typical day starts at 7am at Isabells’ Barn. I am there until around 1pm in this time I ride between 7 and 8 horses. Normally, I have 8 horses on my list at Isabells’, but I’m not working them all every day.

Then after Isabells’ I drive home, or I drive to the stable of the Hödl Family, I still ride the young horses for them 3 times a week. We also own some good young horses together to produce and sell. When I’m not going to Hödls I’m driving home to the apartment where I live with my girlfriend. It is located at a stable in Tönisvorst, Stall Marron, where we keep our own horses. At the moment I have two horses at home ,one horse I own and another which I own half with Leida Collins Strijk, my old boss. This horse will eventually be for selling. I also have one other horse that is with me in training from a client. On the days I’m not going to Hödls I come home and ride my two horses then normally give 1 or 2 lessons and help my girlfriend with her two horses.

Favourite horse you are currently riding?

To be honest I don’t really have a favourite, I have a lot of different super talented horses. Belantis is of course an amazing opportunity for me, I can learn so much from him and to be able to compete him is unbelievable, I’m very grateful to Isabell and Mrs Winter-Schultze for the opportunity.

A highlight from the time you have spent at this barn?

For sure being able to watch Isabell with the horses every day and to then have her support and help every day, that is a real privilege, it’s definitely an unbelievable learning experience. I also really like the team and it’s great to be able to also joke and have fun during the day, it shouldn’t be too serious all the time.

Something unexpected you love about where you are living?

My friends here, It was really hard to leave all of my family and friends in Australia, but now I have really good friends here, that are really like family to me, It really feels like home here now, I have my girlfriend Marissa, we have two dogs and a lot of good people around us.

Something you miss from home?                                          

Of course my family and friends, I miss them so much, especially with Corona I haven’t seen them all for almost 2 years now. I also really miss the West Australian beaches. I have to say I still haven’t found a European beach that that can top a beach back home.

Favourite barn hack or training tip?

I don’t know if it’s a training tip but I think the biggest thing I’ve realised recently is mindset, when you have the right mindset and mood the horses always go better. Of course you can’t always be in a good mood but I think you need to learn to recognise when you’re not and maybe that day you can give the horses a bit of an easier ride. There’s nothing worse than trying to really work on a problem with a horse when you are annoyed or angry about something else, I can almost guarantee you won’t solve anything.

Tips for anyone wanting to pursue a similar path? 

Before I left Australia one lady I was riding for told me, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing, grooming, cleaning boxes, be the best at it, clean the boxes the fastest and the best and you will get noticed. I think this really stuck with me you have to prove that you are worth the time someone would have to put into you to make you a good rider.

I think everyone has to make their own path, but I think you have to just go for it, you have to stay positive, and you have to keep moving forward, if you’re stuck in the same place for too long and don’t feel you're moving forward you have to change something, that doesn’t mean change stable or job, it might mean you have to work harder or put more effort into an aspect of the job, change the way you work. You don’t have to be selfish, but you do have to think of yourself, and realize if there is an opportunity in front of you. You have to work hard to put yourself in the best position possible to keep moving forward. The other really important thing to keep you moving forward is the people around you, you need to surround yourself with supportive people.

What goals are you working on? What’s the dream? 

I have many goals, right now the biggest is to keep improving as a rider, I think I’m in one of the best places to learn so I’m really taking in everything I can! I also really want to build my own business, I find the buying and selling market really interesting. Building up your own horses over a time and selling them, and also finding horses for clients, you meet many contacts and through word of mouth build your own reputation and I think this is really important.

The big dream has always been to ride for Australia at the big shows and maybe one day Olympics, and I think I have to just keep going like I am, I have half the day at Isabell’s to focus on learning and becoming a better rider and the other half of the day to become financially stable.

Next week Will rides his first International at CHIO Aachen with Belantis! We wish this incredibly hard working and deserving Australian rider the very best of luck!