SHE'S GOT MY BACK
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