“[Australian showjumper] Scott Keach had a party at his place in 2016 on Australia Day and that’s where I met [New Zealand showjumper] Sharn Wordley,” explains Lauren. It was meant to be. “When Sharn and I got together, it was a natural progression to move into the jumper world so we could do it together.”
Having said that, this progression wasn’t immediate. When she purchased six-year-old Zangersheide gelding Verdini d’Houtveld Z (Verdi TN x Caretino 2) in 2017, the plan was originally to take him eventing. “I bought Dini in Belgium from Steve Tinti. He was competing in showjumping as a six-year-old. I was looking for a nice young horse to produce as a three-day eventer. We all thought that was going be his job and he loved it. After close to a year of eventing, he was jumping too well and so we switched him back to the jumper ring!”
The pair went from strength to strength; similarly, Lauren and Sharn’s relationship also grew: “We are engaged, but sadly with Covid it has made getting married a little tricky, so we are planning to get married next year. We also have a gorgeous little girl who is almost a year old.”
While Lauren was pregnant, Sharn briefly took over the ride of Dini and debuted him successfully at FEI level early in 2021; the pair were subsequently selected to represent New Zealand at the Tokyo Olympics. Unfortunately, luck wasn’t on their side. “Dini had a swollen leg on the day he was supposed to leave, and because it was swollen we couldn’t scan it,” explains Lauren. “It was a very tough decision, but obviously his welfare is paramount so we all made the call to err on the side of caution. Thankfully he was fine.”
It was always the plan for Lauren to retake the reins of her beloved Dini, with the pair reuniting at the end of 2021. They are now hitting their stride, and their success in the Nations Cup class was far from an anomaly; they’ve enjoyed very consistent results at both PBIEC and also at the World Equestrian Center (WEC) in Ocala, Florida; both events run multi-week festivals over the first few months of the year that see elite riders converge from around the globe. “Dini has had some good results in FEI and national Grand Prix classes at WEC,” says Lauren, who was also named Leading Lady Rider at PBIEC back in January during the first week of the venue’s famous Winter Equestrian Festival.
Lauren and Sharn are based full-time in Ocala and both operate their equestrian businesses from their farm there. “I have a huge amount of respect for Sharn as a person and as a trainer. I love working with him and I feel very fortunate to do so. I think we make a good team,” says Lauren, explaining that she and her fiancé not only share a business premises – he is also her coach.
When asked about future goals, Lauren is hopeful that Verdini d’Houtveld Z may just get a second shot at the Olympics – with her in the saddle. “My ultimate goal is to hopefully be in contention for the 2024 Olympics. I’m trying to get the experience over the next two years to make that a possibility.” EQ
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