This week's cover star Simon Reynolds might seem to hit the headlines after every major show, but what is life like behind the scenes for this showing supremo — and how did he get to where he is today?
1. Simon and his wife Natalie share their Lincolnshire home with their three-year-old son Luke
“Having kids soon teaches you what’s important in life,” says Simon.
2. Bigger isn’t always better
Simon and Natalie downsized from their previous yard in Leicestershire two years ago, settling into their purpose-built yard and house in Threekingham, Lincs, where there are 10 stables and 12 acres. “This was a purposeful move from a much bigger yard where we found having 20 horses cost us more than we earned,” says Simon.
3. Simon takes a hands-on approach to horses
Simon and Natalie are hands-on. With the help of apprenticeship scheme groom Jess King, the couple do everything from mucking out and riding to admin.
“Nat’s and my backgrounds are oceans apart,” explains Worksop-born Simon. “Nat was fortunate to have horses as a hobby, whereas it was a way of life for my family.”
4. Simon also admits to being a neat-freak…
All the facilities and on-site house are new, so they are virtually maintenance-free. “Now we can give a more individual approach to the horses; they are all different and need to be treated, fed and worked as such,” says Simon. “We are total neatness freaks and everything has to be just so. A smaller place allows us to have it that way.”
5. He’s a winning machine — and not just with Hallmark IX
Simon might be best known for his success with Hallmark IX (they claimed the Horse of the Year Show maxi championship four times and being crowned supreme ridden horse of the year in 2013), but since it was announced in April 2016 that Hallmark would be home-produced and partnered by his owner, Heather Clay, Simon hasn’t slowed down on the winning front.
At Royal Windsor earlier this month he topped the heavyweight cob line-up with Morrows Marksman and has some exciting prospects in the wings.
“We have high hopes for Heather Clay’s Goldsmark, a five-year-old full Irish draught lightweight novice cob; Victoria Buckland’s maxi Cobswallop; the Sankey family’s four-year-old maxi cob The Ringmaster and their coloured plaited hunter Wulfstan Fenman,” he says.
6. But it hasn’t always been plain sailing
“Life at home with my parents, David and Doris, and [siblings] Jason, David and Julie was hectic,” he says. “Dad was a professional jockey and then became a horse dealer. I started riding at an early age, although for a year I was only allowed to ride bareback after being diagnosed with Perthes disease [a rare childhood condition that affects the hip]. I had been in a wheelchair with both legs in full plaster, but the doctor said riding bareback would strengthen my legs.
“I still get ribbed today about having skinny chicken legs,” says Simon, who was soon a force to be reckoned with on the junior and senior showjumping circuits and on the hunting field.
7. Simon learnt from an early age about the need to make money from horses
“We all helped on the yard and while rosettes and trophies were nice, they didn’t pay the bills and everything was on the market. We did all the sales, and I soon learned the best way to learn from mistakes was in your pocket,” he says. “Dad always said, ‘Let your eyes be the judge and the money be the last thing you part with’.”
Don’t miss this week’s issue of Horse & Hound magazine to read our full, exclusive interview with Simon Reynolds