Kate Samuels interviews
superhottie U.S. Olympic event rider Will Coleman in his underpants about his post-Olympic plans.
Top photo: Will and Zipp winning the Intermediate at Southern Pines this year
Will Coleman – the man, the myth, the legend. Now an official US Olympian but just as humble and friendly as ever, Will lives just down the road from me in the beautiful rolling foothills of Virginia. I took advantage of his proximal location recently, and drove down to admire his operation at Tivoli Farm, and chat with him about his post-Olympic plans and how the experience this summer has changed his game plan for the better.
Despite the fact that I showed up at 6pm on the eve before Will was leaving for Richland, everything in the barn at Tivoli was pristine and organized. The horses were quietly munching on some hay in their cool, clean stalls, and Will was conducting business in his small office surrounded by pictures of successful Coleman horses. I met each and every horse, and was impressed with their turnout. Even at home, each horse’s coat was gleaming, their tails free of tangles, and their neat leg wraps freshly laundered. The aisle had tidy rows of “Will Coleman Equestrian” tack trucks (which were also sparkling and free of dust) in signature forest green. His grooms like to say that he is “so OCD about cleanliness and organization he can barely get anything done in a timely manner”, but it sure looks wonderful. Trust me when I say, I stalked his barn like crazy with my camera, and we have an EN Barnstorming Tour on the way.
Will was gracious enough to spend time with me speaking about his exciting group of young horses, and their plans for the future. He has a collection of horses right now that are just entering their international careers and can easily compare with the best. He’s got horses like Zipp, an 8 year old ISH gelding who was recently 3rd at the Bromont CCI** and will be contesting the Fair Hill CCI** this fall with hopes of improving that result. Down the aisle are two up and coming Advanced horses, Vancouver and OBOS O’Reilly who are both aimed at a fall three star. Will hopes to take Vancouver to Galway for his first West Coast Eventing experience (for which he is very excited) and plans to enter Oboe in the three star at Fair Hill. Both Oboe and Vancouver are also offered in a package syndicate deal, which could be a really exciting investment in young horses that are already proven to the upper levels, but have a huge future ahead of them.
The other horse that I really wanted to talk to Will about was Cool Connection, who made his comeback just this past weekend at Richland HT after a grisly accident at Jersey Fresh this spring. “Noodle” was in the process of jumping a chevron skinny and drifted right to end up jumping the flag. In the process of landing, he caught the flag in between his hind legs, it snapped off and impaled him right in the groin. Upon this fact, Noodle then bucked so hard that he effectively rotated himself and Will, and proceeded to pick himself up and gallop around the cross country course for a good fifteen minutes. When they finally caught him, he had a stake of wood from the flag exiting his body right next to his tail. Noodle was immediately rushed to New Jersey Equine Associates, where he was cared for with the greatest diligence by Dr. Scott Palmer, and enjoyed the benefits of a hyperbaric chamber. Miraculously, Noodle managed to miss any important organs or arteries and just sustained muscle damage. As you can see below, in comparison to owner Jim Wildasin’s foot, the stakes of wood were huge! Will says the horse feels just as good as he did before entering Jersey, and cannot believe the fantastic recovery, for which he completely credits Dr. Palmer and his crew.
Despite having what is obviously a great situation, Will was eager to talk about his plans for the future and his “big game plan” for the next World Equestrian Games, Olympics and beyond. The Olympic experience may not have ended precisely the way that Will would have desired, but the result was inspiration, exposure to greatness from other countries, and a re-energized approach to success in the long run. The idea is simple, and inspired by gentlemen such as William Fox Pitt and Andrew Nicholson, who just always seem to have a wide selection of appropriate mounts to choose from when the Olympics roll into town. It’s not happenstance; it’s a methodical and practical approach to success that doesn’t always involve competing 75 horses each weekend.
Here’s the plan: Will wants to source three to five really promising 3-4 year olds from either North America, Ireland, Germany, England, or anywhere each year! Ownership opportunities at this level are exciting and also much more economical. The horses will progress through their careers with Will, and as it goes in the Eventing world, some are made for the sport, and some are not, but the cream will rise to the top. “The young horse method is really the direction I want to go,” says Will, “I think it’s the only way to build something sustainable that can produce multiple top horses competing simultaneously, and do it in perpetuity. You always need more horses, so let’s come up with a way to spend less money up front, but spend it more often. Hopefully, thoughtful horse selection will yield waves of useful horses for championship level competition, or really excellent sale horses to be turned over for re-investment.” Some young horses can be sold for profit, some can be channeled into other more suitable careers, but in the long term Will hopes this plan sets him up for a situation in which he can have several mounts of suitable age and talent level ready for every time the US Team calls him up.
“I am blessed with a small, but incredible group of owners at the moment, and because of this, I sometimes get the feeling a lot of people assume that I’m kind of “set.” I just cannot tell you how much I’d like to disprove this misconception,and I want to open the door to anyone who buys into our vision going forward. I work as hard as anyone in this business, and want nothing more than success for my owners and supporters, but I do feel there’s a smarter way than simply spending excessive amounts of money on one or two horses. Let’s spend money slower, wiser. Let’s be more patient. Let’s get to a place where we have multiple horses and multiple owners involved in four-star competitions, where we are managing and steering a team of horses towards major championships. I hope going the young horse route will not only allow me to build the depth comparable to our European competitors, but also open the door to a broad spectrum of people who want to own an event horse, either privately or as shareholders in a syndicate. I think the point is having not just a horse for people to buy into, but a whole program geared towards consistently producing horses for the championships we all dream about. I want to get like-minded people involved and build it from the ground up. I’m excited about the challenge, and wholeheartedly believe it can work.”