18, June, 2019

If you’ve got even a remote interest in eventing or equestrian sport in New Zealand, you will be aware that Tim Price is currently world number 1 and last weekend won the Luhmühlen 5*, backing up from a win at Tattersalls 4* just a couple of weeks before. He is quite literally on top of the world and it absolutely, truly couldn’t happen to a nicer bloke. I’m not going to pretend for a minute that we are best friends, we live just 20 miles from Tim & Jonelle and we’d be lucky to catch up once a year socially. I’m also half a generation older than them! Yet they’ve always been incredibly kind to me and we’ve certainly shared some fantastic times as well as some of the lows that this sport can generate.

I watched them make the decision to relocate to the U.K. after Jonelle almost made the Olympic team for Athens (she was non-travelling reserve). I watched them come over here and absolutely, truly struggle. I heard them talk of going to events and needed to place to spend the prize money on diesel to get the lorry home again. I saw Jonelle make the call to take a season off the horses and set up a catering business just to make ends meet. I saw them take over a rundown and disused farm and through sheer hard work and good old kiwi style ‘working-bees’ transform it over the years into a world class training facility. I saw them sell some fantastic horses, horses that could have taken them to the top, just because they had to. Finally, I saw their tenacity, talent, drive and attitude be rewarded as they attracted the right owners and the ability to retain the right horses.

I’ve also seen them change. Tim has always been the consummate horseman. He’s got a natural feel that I honestly believe some people are born with. He grew up on his parents small stud farm – they bred lovely all round types from predominately thoroughbred blood crossed with the Irish stallions they imported. Tim’s dad has been in the horsefeed industry forever, his older brother is a farrier and his younger brother owns Keyflow feeds here in the U.K. But in his early days, Tim was so laid back he was almost horizontal. While his horses appreciated his calm demeanour, missed flags and start times were not unheard of and a lot of his success came by accident rather than design. Getting together with Jonelle was a start – she is nothing if not efficient, but even so he kept his easy going attitude for many years. Tim is also generous to a fault and loves to socialise. If someone needed help, he’d happily shorten his own preparation and he’s ridden a good few showjumping rounds nursing a world class hangover.

It was just a couple of years ago that they both sat down a decided to make a plan. Instead of spreading themselves thin riding anything that would pay the bills, they made a concerted effort to cut numbers and focus on the horses that had true ability. They began personal fitness regimes and knuckled down to serious training on and off the horse. They decided to aim for consistency instead of flash in the pan wins. They have systematically created a team with depth and of strength to not just get to the top, but to stay there. It was interesting to read that Tim was absent from the gatherings over the course of Luhmühlen, waiting to celebrate until the trophy was back on the mantlepiece where it belongs.

Throughout all of this, they have stayed grounded and honest and humble. They are always available to their friends and family is absolutely the most important thing in their lives. While they are intensely focussed on the horses when it is called for, they also like to play and schedule blocks of time to go skiing, hang out on the beach and visit exotic locations.

I guess the lesson I take away is that real success requires sacrifice, hard work, planning and an absolute focus. But it doesn’t have to be at the detriment of being a bloody awesome bloke, husband, father and friend, or at the expense of a life worth living. Work hard, play hard.

A brown horse clearing a jump during a riding competition

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