NZ Horse & Pony - - Special Feature -

Mov­ing across the ditch for love has worked out per­fectly for John omp­son, who hooked up with fel­low dres­sage rider Holly Leach about a year ago. Grand Prix rider John had an es­tab­lished busi­ness in Aus­tralia, but didn’t think twice about mov­ing back home to New Zealand to be with Holly. “ at’s when you know it’s right,” he says.

John, who has just won Dres­sage Horse of the Year with JHT An­tonello and is chas­ing se­lec­tion for Rio, was born in Hamil­ton but spent 10 years in Kerik­eri be­fore mov­ing to Aus­tralia. He’d ac­tu­ally known Holly for years through rid­ing, but the friends be­came closer when Holly bought her young stal­lion HP Fresco through John a cou­ple of years ago.

“I’d bro­ken him in so she wanted to see how I rode him, and then I started do­ing clin­ics here more reg­u­larly,” says John.

“ at was my tac­ti­cal plan,” laughs Holly. “Buy the horse and start a di­a­logue!”

John (26) and Holly (35) are based in Gor­don­ton, north of Hamil­ton, and run an eques­trian busi­ness JHT Equine, o er­ing sales, train­ing, break­ing-in and coach­ing. So they’re not just liv­ing to­gether and shar­ing the same dreams, but work­ing to­gether daily as well. “I couldn’t do a quar­ter of what I do with­out Holly. It’s a very spe­cial thing – I come home to ights booked, lessons or­gan­ised, grooms sorted and horses worked,” says John. And Holly also en­joys the close­ness. “When John goes away to teach for a day or two, I can’t wait for him to come home. I en­joy his com­pany so much that we work ne, eight hours a day, seven days a week to­gether.”

Be­sides An­tonello, John has the Level 5 horse Kal­imna Hot­shot, while Holly has two young­sters: her four-year-old stal­lion Fresco and a three-year-old mare, also im­ported from Aus­tralia. Holly pre­vi­ously pro­duced the mare Devils Choco­late to Ad­vanced, but sold her to young rider Lu­carne Dol­ley.

“I can re­ally feel for Holly, as she’s gone back to the ba­bies and I’ve done that time and time again,” says John. “It’s nice to be able to sup­port her when she’s go­ing through that. And it’s the same with me – when I have a bad com­pe­ti­tion, she knows ex­actly what it’s like to be in those shoes. I think it’s the best thing about hav­ing some­one who rides with you, the em­pa­thy that comes with it.

“It’s funny, when you start do­ing bet­ter and bet­ter, from the out­side per­spec­tive you would think that every­one’s on your team, but it’s ac­tu­ally the op­po­site – the bet­ter you do, the less peo­ple say, well done. Holly is pretty much my only sup­port in that moment. Even if you’ve got peo­ple around who are happy be­cause you’ve won the Na­tion­als or a CDI, as soon as you come third or fourth in the next class, they all run o to some­body else. It’s

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