Inside the Rolex Grand Slam: Meet the Next Gen with Lily Attwood

Lily Attwood. Photo by Ahmed Al Maawali

Edited Press Release

What are your plans, dreams and ambitions for 2022?

Recently, I have been climbing up in the rankings, but due to my injury I think I will drop back down. My main aims for 2022 are to compete in a few World Cups and step up to the 5* level. It has been difficult to move up to 5* level this year due to COVID-19 and all the other riders trying to compete at that level, as well. I am also aiming to build up my string of horses; I have a few young ones coming up who I think are very exciting for the future. I have three older horses, with whom I have had great success in the last few years, so I would love to move up to the next level with them. 

Tell us a little bit about your stable of horses…

I have had my two top horses for two and half years. I bought them straight after I had finished ponies, and they were supposed to only compete up to 1.35m level to give me some experience riding horses and also jump some bigger tracks. However, I have been really lucky, and they have both turned out to be really good. I have won up to 4* Grand Prix level on them; they have really helped me get my name out there and given me some amazing experience over the bigger tracks.

I have just got a new six-year-old, Lee May, who we bought from Richard Howley. I took her to Vilamoura and she jumped eight out of nine clear rounds so I was really pleased with her, especially as she is still very green. She learnt a lot at the show; she is very careful and has a great brain. I plan to take her slowly to let her progress, and hopefully have a successful seven-year-old year.

If there were three things you could win in your career what would they be?

Definitely, the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen, I think that is on every rider’s bucket list – just to ride there would be incredible. I love representing my country and riding on a team, so a senior European medal and an Olympic medal would be my other goals.

What is the proudest moment of your career so far?

I won a bronze team medal the Young Riders Europeans this year, which was incredible. But probably my proudest moment was when I first came off ponies, I went to Amsterdam for a young riders competition, where I had no intention of doing well. I had only had the horse for a month, and I won the Grand Prix. It was the start of my career, when I decided that winning the big classes in front of a crowd is what I want to do for the rest of my life,– it was amazing. Winning my first ranking class was also amazing. I won quite a lot when I first came off ponies; I definitely could not have done it without the help of my trainer, Guy Williams. Lastly, my final proudest moment is being selected for the senior Nations Cup team at 18 years-old.

How important is it having a mentor, like Guy Williams, in being able to progress your career?

I think that it is huge. As a young rider you don’t know it all, and you can’t do it on your own – you need a very good team around you. I have excelled more than I thought I would do by this age because of Guy. It is not just about being good on the horse, it is about being a great horseman on the ground. He has taught me how to manage my horses, from their feet to their feed, what I have learnt from him and his groom, Nat, has been invaluable. It is more than just riding; the horses have to be properly managed if you want to do well.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

You need to know that 99.9% of the time it is not the horse’s fault and you cannot get angry with them. You cannot get frustrated after a bad round, you have to just breathe and come out the ring, trot them off, then come back to see how you can improve. They are not machines and they can only do what you say. On ponies I was quite hot headed, and Guy has really taught me to calm down, and I have a lot. You can’t get angry with the horses after a bad round even if you are frustrated.

Who has inspired you the most throughout your career?

More recently I have got to know Michael and John [Whitaker] very well, they have definitely inspired me. They are true horsemen, and I always watch their rounds. I watched John at a show last week, and it was like watching poetry in motion; he makes it look so effortless – like he is doing nothing!

What keeps you motivated and hungry for success?

This year I got very close to getting into the 5* jumping at Royal Windsor Horse Show and the World Cup at the London International Horse Show. I was one off both of them, and that was very upsetting. But it makes me want to climb up the rankings and to do better next year. They are such great shows, and especially being in my home country, makes me motivated to be consistent and climb up the rankings so I can compete there next year.

How much of a boost does it give you having fans back at shows?

Having fans back definitely motivates me more in the ring. My first show back with a proper crowd was Valence, which was very special. I was recently at the Horse of the Year Show, which had such an amazing atmosphere, being an indoor show with full crowds. As riders, we love having the fans back, you get extra adrenaline and it really motivates you to perform well. It has been difficult without them.

Of course, some horses can be affected by the crowds. My top horse is very spooky and sharp, he is scared of everything, so much so that I cannot even jump him over a pole at home. At the Horse of the Year Show, he didn’t jump very well, as there have been no big indoor shows due to COVID-19, he wasn’t used to the lights and the crowds. I think there are horses that can benefit from the crowds, as they are used them. Also, some horses will rise to a big occasion with a large crowd. They are all very different.

How positive do you believe the Rolex Grand Slam has been for the sport of show

It is amazing. It is something that all riders dream of winning; I think that it has brought show jumping to the next level. I also think that the Rolex Grand Slam has made the sport more accessible to the general public and more globally friendly, as people want to watch top level sport that has high stakes. The Rolex Grand Slam has the best Grands Prix in the world, which really brings the sport to another level. I think that Daniel Deusser and Killer Queen VDM could be the next combination to win the Rolex Grand Slam – they have been on amazing form this year.