Catching Up With: World No. 5 Will Coleman

Jan 25, 2023 - 2:59 PM

Will Coleman finished the year as the top U.S. rider on the FEI Eventing World Athlete Rankings, in fifth place. A member of the silver-medal winning team at the FEI World Eventing Championships in Pratoni del Vivaro, Italy, he also finished seventh individually with Off the Record. This week, he was awarded the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation’s Whitney Stone Cup in recognition of his consistent excellence in international competition and conduct and contributions that make him an exemplary ambassador for the sport.

Coleman, 39, of Charlottesville, Virginia, and Ocala, Florida, also touted top placings in 2022 at the Land Rover Kentucky CCI5* with Dondante (seventh) and Off The Record (12th), at CHIO Aachen (Germany) with Off The Record (sixth) and Chin Tonic HS (10th), plus victories at Stable View CCI3*-S (South Carolina) and Carolina International CCI4*-S (North Carolina).

We caught up with Coleman just after the new year.

Happy New Year! How did your family and/or the Will Coleman Equestrian team celebrate the holidays?

At home—we were here in Florida. A lot of our staff went home to see family, so we were here holding down the fort. After Christmas, [my wife] Katie and I flew to Canada with our kids to visit some of Katie’s family for a few days. It was great. We enjoyed some wintertime. I got to behave like a 10-year-old, sledding and throwing snowballs with our kids and all their cousins.

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Will and Katie, with daughter Charlotte and son West, enjoyed some winter fun while visiting Katie’s family in Canada over the holidays. Photos Courtesy Of Katie Coleman

Did you have a chance before the holidays to decompress after your 2022 competition season?

A little. I had some jumpers going at [World Equestrian Center-Ocala (Florida)] in November and December, and Katie was doing some pure dressage shows. So, it wasn’t a total letdown after [the Mars Maryland 5 Star], but it was nice to be home and not traveling anywhere. Katie and I went on a short trip with some friends for a few days in December, but other than that, we just enjoyed time at home, and I loved it.

When you look back on 2022, what are some personal highlights for you?

Really, I think I just enjoyed the whole year. It’s been a long time getting to this place. We have a few top-level horses that can be competitive at some of the world’s bigger four- and five-star events. I relish the challenge of putting myself up against the best in the sport, be that at Kentucky, or Luhmühlen (Germany), Aachen or the World Championships.

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Off The Record’s groom Hailey Burlock, left, joined Will and Katie in the celebration after the U.S. success in Pratoni del Vivaro, Italy.

There were many times this last year that I just found myself being so appreciative of all the support and work that has gone into getting to this point. I have a strong team behind me; my wife, my family, and the owners have really made it all possible for me. They’ve been patient, among other things. It’s pretty powerful when you feel your whole team rowing in one direction, and it made this whole year a pretty awesome experience. Of course, it culminated at Pratoni. I couldn’t have been more proud of being a part of the team for the U.S.

Alternatively, when you look back on 2022, are there things you have realized that you and your team need to change?

Yes. Despite our successes, I still think we still have a lot of work to do to keep up pace with the level of sport in Europe and the UK. Our program is in a good place, but we have to continue to build a string of horses that can be competitive at a championship level. It’s a good thing: The standard seems to be improving in our sport, so there’s really no area where I would say that we don’t need to improve.

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Head girl Erin Jarboe did double duty, grooming and babysitting, while Katie showed in some dressage classes at WEC Ocala in December.

Every year, I would say that I–we–find ways to be better. My guess is that anyone who’s trying to be amongst the world’s best at something would say the same thing. We’re not good enough yet, but I try to embrace that and enjoy the process. We’re always trying to learn how to be better horse people.

Can we expect any new team members at Will Coleman Equestrian for 2023–equine or human?

Not human! Katie and I are very lucky; we have two beautiful kids, but I think two will probably keep our hands full enough! Hopefully, we’ve got one or two horses coming around this year, but good horses are hard to find, so we’ll just have to see what unfolds there.

What goals have you set for yourself and your horses in 2023?

2023 will be busy. We’ve got so many amazing opportunities out there this year. The spring season is all about Kentucky. I’ll aim Off The Record, Dondante and Chin Tonic HS at the five-star there.

I’ve also got some really nice younger horses stepping up to three-star and four-star this year, like Cold Red Rum and Larcot Z. Those two could potentially be [Pan American Games] horses for me, so the plan is to produce them throughout the year with that in mind.

But you know, it’s obviously still very early in the year. I do have Burghley [CCI5* (England)] on the calendar potentially for Dondante, and I haven’t ruled out one more five-star for Tight Lines later this year. Aachen is always a goal if we are selected, and I hope to go back again if the opportunity is there.

Even just talking about all this stuff here is making me excited! And grateful that these are events I get to plan and prepare for. I feel very fortunate. I’m a lucky guy in so many ways.

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