“I was always around horses as a kid,” says William Matthew. “Dad always says Mum brainwashed me into loving horses, as she used to sit me in the middle of the arena in a pushchair as a baby while she rode around me!” Will started riding at five when his mother took him and one of his sisters to the local riding school. “From then on, I was always riding,” Will declares.
“In Australia I rode a bit of every discipline; I went through the Pony Club system in Western Australia, so I did everything from flat work to show jumping to mounted games. I never had my own horse, we could never afford it, but my trainer Alisa Dodds gave me every opportunity she could with leasing her riding school horses in exchange for helping in the stable. I think Alisa was the one that really helped create my love for dressage, she worked with all the horses in such a system, and it really instilled in me how disciplined you have to be to train horses.”
Will finished school, and at the age of 17 he wasn’t sure what career he wanted to pursue; an electrical apprenticeship was on the cards, however, first he thought he’d enjoy an equestrian gap year overseas. “I was at a clinic in Perth with a lady called Kate Mably. She had a business importing Lusitanos from Portugal into the UK, and after a few lessons with her she invited me to come over as a working student when I finished school, so that’s what I did. For me [moving overseas] was great, it was an adventure!” says Will, adding that he never planned to stay as long as did.
Moving overseas at such a young age might seem daunting to some, however, having family in the UK meant Will didn’t feel so far away from home. “I spent eight months in the UK with Kate until I ran out of the money I had saved beforehand,” he laughs. It was time to move back to Australia to refill the coffers, and for six months he took jobs wherever he could, from cleaning boxes to riding and even labouring on construction sites. “I really knew then I wanted to be in Europe to learn from the best, but first I needed to organise everything at home and get some money together.”
With money saved, Will reached out to former fellow Perth resident Hayley Beresford, who had been in Europe since 2005 when she was initially offered a job to work for Isabell Werth. “Before I knew it I was back in Europe, in Germany as a working student. Hayley’s yard was my first real taste of a professional competition stable; we worked hard but I learnt so much, both with the riding and the management of the horses.”
WARWICK McLEAN CALLS
After eight months William again ran out of money, but he felt he had learnt enough to gain a paid position in a European stable. “I had an offer in the UK again at a stable near Surrey. I got to ride a lot there, so I could practise everything I had learnt with Hayley, but after around six months I realised it wasn’t the place for me and I began to look for something else where I could keep learning. Literally the week I started looking, I got a call from Warwick McLean. I had stayed a few weeks with him the first time I was in the UK, as he was based there at the time; my trainer from Perth, Alisa Dodds, had recommended I try to spend some time with him.”