Our Interview with Lilian Simons:
Bio on Lilly Simons
I rode for the first time when I was three years old and was a member of the Lakeville Pony Club by the time I was five. Throughout my years as a pony clubber, I attended various Dressage, Show Jumping and Eventing rallies; by the age of 12, I earned my C-2 on my first horse, Cody Oats, a half Connemara/Arabian pony.
I started as an eventer, but because my Dressage scores suffered at competitions, my parents thought it was best for me to take a year off from Eventing and train at a Dressage barn in order to improve my overall score at events. Well, a month into my training I was completely hooked. Six months later, I decided to stop pursuing a career in Eventing and instead chose to train full-time in Dressage.
In August of 2010 my family purchased Willoughby, a 10 year old KWPN gelding, from Simone Williams; during my first ride on Willy, I completely fell in love with him, I immediately knew he was the perfect horse for me. In 2011, I showed Willoughby, known as Willy or Wilbur in the barn, at First and Second Level.
We achieved successful scores in both divisions and qualified for the New England Dressage Association Regional Championships where we were Reserve Champion for the Jr/Yr First Level Division and placed fourth in the Jr/Yr Second Level Division. In 2012 Willy and I successfully showed at Third Level and were Jr/Yr Third Level Champion at the NEDA Fall Festival. That same year, Willy earned me my Bronze Medal.
In 2013 I debuted in the FEI Junior Division and was later invited to attend the U.S Dressage Festival of Champions. In addition, we were named Connecticut Dressage Association’s 2013 FEI Jr/Yr Champion.
Currently, I am training Fourth Level and plan to debut Willy in our first Prix St. George by the end of the season.
Willoughby has truly been an amazing partner. Each and every day he continues to teach me things that help shape me into a better rider. His work ethic combined with his sweet disposition is what makes him a once-in-a-lifetime horse. I love him with all my heart and owe all of my success and education to this wonderful horse.
I would like to thank my family and friends for helping me become the person and rider I am today, I truly wouldn’t be where I am without your endless love and support.
OUR INTERVIEW WITH LILLY:
1. When did you first start riding Dressage?
I began seriously studying Dressage when I was eleven after I decided not to pursue eventing.
2. What is your daily routine for riding, do you get up early to ride or do you ride after school?
Since I attend boarding school right now, I only ride on the weekends. During the summer, I ride seven six a week, which will be the same schedule in the fall since Willy is coming to college with me.
3. What training advice has been the most influential in your riding and why?
The best training advice I have been told is that everything will come in time and to always be patient.
4. Tell us how you warm-up your horse before you ride and your cool down after you ride?
Before I ride I begin by walking Willy on a loose rein for ten minutes followed by stretch work in the trot and canter. I do the same at the end of the ride.
5. Do you follow the Pyramid of Training scale in your daily riding? Definitely.
The Training Pyramid is one of the most important tools a rider can use to ensure that they have the foundation and skills to properly progress up the levels and train their horse.
6. How often do you include rest breaks in your training sessions?
Usually every 10-15 minutes. Although, when Willy does something exceptionally well, I will reward him with a break.
7. How often do you clean your tack and what is your favorite cleaner/conditioner you use?
I clean my tack after every ride, it’s so important to maintain your leather. My favorite product is the LeatherTherapy line, I’ve had great results with it; it keeps my leather soft and supple and protects it against sweat, water and mold damage.
8. How often do you show?
During the summer I show 2-3 times a month.
9. Do you braid your own horse’s mane? Yes.
10. Who grooms for you at your shows?
I don’t travel with a groom to shows because my mom does an amazing job! Both of us have really earned Willy’s trust, so I think it is better that when we travel my mom and I are the only ones who handle him.
11. Are your parents you’re “Grooms” at the shows for you?
Yes, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
12. Do you trail ride and how often?
I try and fit in a trail day every week, usually it’s after Willy’s day off. I think it’s so important that horses get time outside of the ring, it gives them an opportunity to clear their mind and enjoy time with their rider. Usually when I trail ride, I try and find hills so that I can fit in some conditioning as well.
13. What are your goals for you and your horse?
Right now I’ll be showing Fourth Level in the spring, with hopes of showing my first Prix St. George in July or August. After that, my goal is to compete in the Young Rider Division in 2015.
14. What is your favorite Dressage music freestyle performed?
When I was 13 I had a gray Connemara/Arab that I did a Peanut’s musical freestyle to, it was really cute and the music fit him so well!
15. Who is your favorite horse and rider?
My favorite European rider and horse combination is definitely Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro. As for an American combination, my favorite pair is Adrienne Lyle and Wizard; it’s so much fun watching them go in the ring, I’ve never seen a horse with so much power!
16. What can you tell other junior riders about reaching their goals in dressage?
I think the most important thing for junior riders to remember is that it is so important to be patient. Always know that your time will come, and just when you want to give up, that’s when you need to push the hardest. Another piece of advice I have is to always remember that you as the rider know your horse the best, so don’t let others dictate how far you go in this sport.
17. What is your horse’s personality like and what is the funniest thing he/she does?
Willy is definitely Mr. Personality. He can be a bit goofy at times, seeing that his favorite thing to do is knock things over, but he is also one of the sweetest and kindest horses I have worked with. He has a great work ethic and each day we enter the ring, he gives me a 110%. He’s very easy going, but I have found, that as we have been progressing up the levels, that he requires my aids to be very precise and correct, which is great because he’s shaping me into a better and more effective rider.
18. Please tell us who you would like to Thank for being your best supporters:
I would like to thank my grandparents for giving me the amazing opportunity to ride such an amazing horse, my parents for taking me to all the shows and for being by my side since I first started riding, and the trainers I have had the pleasure of working who have shaped me into the rider I am today. I am truly thankful for all the help and support I have received along the way.
19. What is your favorite quote that you love and want to share with others?
“Practice like you you’ve never won. Perform like you’ve never lost.”
Thank you Lilly!