Lillian Simons, a talented young dressage rider competing in the FEI Young Rider division, started riding at age 3. By age 5, she was enrolled in Pony Club, working her way up through the levels and fostering a dream of becoming a showjumper or an eventer.
There was just one problem. Lilly, while a talented rider, wasn’t very good at dressage, so her overall eventing scores suffered.
“I really didn’t like dressage at all when I was younger, but I wanted to improve so I moved to a dressage-focused barn for about a year,” she says. “It didn’t take long at all before I was totally drawn to it and wanted to switch from eventing to dressage,” Lilly says.
Wanting to encourage this newfound interest in dressage, Lilly’s grandparents bought Willoughby, a KWPN gelding, for her in 2010. Lilly started moving through First and Second Levels with Willoughby, then earned her bronze medal in 2012. In 2014, Lilly earned her silver medal and, after a winter spent working with trainer Laura Graves, achieved an impressive fifth place overall at the Young Rider Dressage National Championship in August 2015.
It was a good year for Willoughby and Lilly.
“Things really came together for us this past year,” she says. “Our partnership and bond is much stronger and our results are beginning to demonstrate our trust in one another. As you grow older, you really start to understand how much the relationship between horse and rider can affect results.”
Adding SUCCEED Digestive Conditioning Program to the Mix
In addition to a lot of hard work and dedication, Lilly also added SUCCEED to the mix. She won a case of SUCCEED at the USDF convention in Boston in December 2014 and started the gelding on it immediately. She quickly started noticing a big difference in Willoughby’s behavior and rideability.
“Willy was very green when I got him, and he had some slight behavioral problems,” she says. “He could get hard to contain, very opinionated and at times nervous. I noticed when we started on SUCCEED that his behavior and rideability improved tremendously. He was much calmer both in and out of the ring, and a much happier horse all around.”
And Willoughby, who Lilly describes as a horse who “wants to please, and becomes tense if he senses he isn’t,” also toned down his overall anxiety.
“The biggest thing I noticed is his behavior under saddle when he gets anxious,” she says. “He used to turn into this ultra-sensitive horse that would just totally overdo it, trying to respond to me. Now, when I go to make a correction or guide him into something new, he’s a lot more accepting and relaxed during training.”
A Happier Traveler on SUCCEED
Willoughby also traveled better — a major bonus, considering the miles he and Lilly were logging.
“I usually give him a tube before loading him into a trailer, and I notice that he eats a lot more hay and drinks a lot more water than he used to,” Lilly says. “And when we get to where we’re going, the overall look in his eye is a lot calmer and more relaxed-looking. If he seems like he needs a little extra, I might also give him a tube when we first arrive.”
Looking Forward to 2016
Lilly also started riding Wes Dunham’s mare Havanna this past summer. She will continue to compete the mare this year, with the goal of qualifying for the North American Young Rider Championships in Colorado, the Festival of Champions Young Rider National Championship in Illinois and Dressage at Devon at the end of the year.
“Havanna has been on SUCCEED about three months, and has all of a sudden come into her own,” Lilly says. “She’s more powerful than I’ve ever felt her in the past year; her weight is really good, and she put on a lot of muscle.”
She says she’s also noticed Willoughby building muscle faster and keeping weight on more consistently — something she’ll need to rely on as she looks forward to competing this winter in hopes of qualifying for the 2016 Young Rider European Tour.
“I’m just really happy with SUCCEED,” she says. “”I am so grateful for the help and support I have received from John Hall, Larry Charles and everyone at SUCCEED. I feel as though SUCCEED is giving Havanna and Willoughby the support they need, and they’re progressing remarkably fast in their training. It’s been amazing to watch the before and after unfold.”