If ever there was a gorgeous love story to follow, it’s that of John Thompson and Holly Leach. They have straddled the Tasman with their work, competition and lives, but have recently re-settled in Australia again.
The two come from very different backgrounds – John from a world of horses who had a pony before he could walk and Holly the typical non-horsey family. “I was the kid who would annoy any human being who owned or leased a horse until my own parents finally caved in a bought me one when I was 12,” says Holly. “We come from two such different lives but are now on a single path together.”
These two are each other’s biggest supporters, most honest critics and absolutely the best of mates. It’s a true love story.
John gave up his life in Australia a few years back to move back to New Zealand to be with Holly. They set up a very successful operation in the Waikato with both of them competing and teaching around the country. Now, they’ve packed up again and head to Aussie with a long term view to the World Equestrian Games and Olympic Games.
“It’s all about balance for us,” says Holly. “We both live a hectic demanding schedule and both wish to continue trying to achieve the best we can with our sights on WEG and Olympic Games,” says Holly. “We want to achieve this without comprising our health, relationship or quality of life, so hopefully in moving to Australia we can make this happen. There are more CDIs to gain qualifications for major championships with less travel and the opportunity to work alongside Mulawa and their team of horses was just too good not to take up.”
Mulawa Peformance Horses are based near Sydney, in New South Wales and owned by the Farrell family, who are celebrated for their breeding, particularly of Arabs but more recently their warmbloods too.
We asked John and Holly to describe the other. “Well,” says Holly, “he’s funny, caring and sensitive with a bucket-load of empathy. He’s got passion to burn with the occasional stubborn wall that is not much fun to run into but I can’t tell you how generous and supporting this man is.”
John holds nothing back. “Holly is the woman every man dreams of,” he says. “I love having her in my corner. She is loyal, devoted and loving with a work ethic that makes the Energizer bunny look fat and lazy. I often joke that she has balls of steel and is probably more suited to being an F1 driver than a dressage rider.”
Holly credits her mum for much of that determination and drive. “We all have those painful events in life that in reflection create some of your strongest attributes,” she says. “My father left our family quite early on in life. My mum stepped up and became a strong independent, resourceful role model who shaped who I have become in life. I draw inspiration from anyone who has made success out of their sport, work or family,” she says.
Holly thinks she hit the jackpot in dating her coach – it’s a sure way to progress your career she says. “Even though we both had different journeys to get us to a similar point in our careers, the one common thread is the understanding that there is no magic bag of fairy dust that creates success,” says Holly.
John boils it down to a handful of key points. “It’s all about hard work, dedication, self-reflection and the motivation to be better than yesterday,” he says.
Holly is most certainly John’s greatest motivator. “Every day she pushes me to be better.” He’s also been massively shaped by his “horse crazy” mother who continues to share his passion for the sport.
“My brother Charles was a professional ballet dancer and his focus and dedication has inspired me since we were kids,” says John. And he draws plenty from the horses they work with every day. “They never stop surprising me how generous they are.”
John and Holly’s top tips . . .
- Wearing white undies on a rainy day is good advice.
- Never take emotion into the arena.
- Don’t get sucked into running someone else down. We all have insecurities but remember everyone is doing the best they can we the resources they have.
- Always treat your horse – your rock star partner in crime – with the love, care and respect they deserve.
// EQUITANA Auckland 21-24 November 2019