A love of horses runs in Sally Simmonds’ blood. Hailing from Bourke in western New South Wales, her parents Peter and Tracey Simmonds were both champions of the Australian rodeo scene in their respective sports of bronc riding and barrel racing, yet as Sally explains, rodeo was not a path that her parents wished for their children to follow. Once synonymous with success on the rodeo circuit, the Simmonds family name is now also leaving its mark on both national and international showjumping circles thanks to the success both Sally and her older brother Clay have enjoyed in the ring over the past five years.
“Our parents really didn’t want us to rodeo because there’s a lot of travelling involved. However, Clay did ride steers, and we did a bit of barrel racing and a lot of sporting, things like that. I also did a lot of hacking and showed Stock Horses, and that was all so much fun. It really taught us to ride, and our parents are great horse people who taught us good basic skills. Then we sort of got pushed into showjumping,” Sally explains.
“I had my first lesson with Gavin Chester, I would have been seven or eight – tiny! Mum took me to that first Gavin Chester clinic, then the week after we went to Coonabarabran Show and I fell off! Mum was very wild with me because I had just had a lesson with Gavin Chester and yet I couldn’t even hang on to my horse!” Sally laughs. “I’ve been trying not to fall off since, but there’s been a few busters!”
NO LOOKING BACK
The occasional buster aside, it’s fair to say that Sally, now 19, hasn’t looked back since turning her focus to showjumping. By the age of 15 she was winning Junior Championship titles and in 2019 she was almost unbeatable in every Junior class she contested, winning the Junior Title at the Australian Championships with Oaks Chifley and finishing second with Chio MS. In addition to multiple Junior Championship victories, Sally was also making her presence felt in Senior, Young Rider, and Young Horse Classes, regularly notching up wins and placings despite being a 17-year-old mounted predominantly on horses she had produced herself.
The year 2020 was set to be an exciting one, with international showjumping opportunities on the cards. True to plan, Sally headed to New Zealand in January as a member of the Australian Young Rider team, competing on borrowed horses in the Trans-Tasman Challenge. Not long after, Sally followed in her brother Clay’s footsteps, heading to Europe with plans to compete on the global stage.
“I think I was there for eight days!” Sally laughs, as she looks back at how the Covid-19 pandemic thwarted her plans and cut short her adventure. Always upbeat, Sally reflects on how all was not lost; back at home in Bourke with international plans on hold, she continued to develop her promising team of jumpers, competing when restrictions allowed. A plan developed to travel to Europe in 2021 instead.
“I was actually going to fly Chio MS over there at the start of this year and travel to competitions in Spain and whatnot,” Sally explains. “But that all got cancelled, which is a relief looking back, because then the equine herpesvirus (EHV-1) broke out in Europe and that wouldn’t have been much fun!”