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February 20, 2009

Free Rein With: Will Simpson

In his first Olympic Games last summer in Hong Kong, show jumper Will Simpson clinched the gold medal for the U.S. team with a clear round in the jump-off. And although he did manage to get hopelessly lost while out for a quick run in Hong Kong one day, he eventually found his way home to Southern California, where he’s now gearing up for his fifth Rolex FEI World Cup Final.
   
If Simpson qualifies, he won’t have far to travel, as the Final will be held just down the road in Las Vegas, Nev. That close proximity to home will be a bonus for his two young children, Sophie and Ty, who have traveled the world with Simpson and their mother, fellow international show jumper Nicole Shahinian Simpson. Sophie, 11, is already competing on ponies and will make her debut in the children’s jumpers soon, while 6-year-old Ty is just learning to ride—on a unicycle.
   
“I just feel like I’m the luckiest guy in the world to have lived my life with horses and with family at horse shows,” Simpson said. “I just think it’s the greatest thing in the world, and I really feel fortunate that I’ve been able to have that luxury in my life.”


Name:
Will Simpson
Home Base: Thousand Oaks, Calif.
Age: 49

If you hadn’t become a horseman, where would you be right now?
I’d be a guitar player—kind of both folk singer and rock star.

Given the chance, what horse other than any of your own would you like to take a turn on?
[Albert Zoer’s] Oki Doki.

What word or phrase do you overuse?
“What?”

What is the best feeling in the world?
Clearing the last jump.

What is your biggest self-indulgence?
I’ve had a pedicure, and that will never happen again. I guess my biggest self-indulgence is probably too much barbecue. I’m a really good cook—I don’t know if you knew that. We cook barbecue almost once a week.

Describe yourself in three words.

A laid-back cowboy.

What is your most marked characteristic?
I’m either on time, or I’m early.

What is your drink of choice?
Coffee.

When was the last time you mucked a stall?
This morning.

Who or what is the greatest love of your life?
My wife and two kids.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the world today?
Greed.

What was the last book you read?
A Champion’s Mind: Lessons From A Life In Tennis, by Pete Sampras.

What do you find to be the most ridiculous part of the horse world?
The judged lath [tape] at the water jump. [Simpson and Carlsson vom Dach incurred faults for landing on the tape in two different rounds at the Olympic Games]. It’s archaic! Every other sport grows, but we’re still in the Dark Ages with that stupid thing. The horses don’t know they’re making a fault, the fans don’t know it, no one knows it. It needs to be changed in our sport.

What is your favorite competition venue?
The Sha Tin Racetrack in Hong Kong, are you kidding me?

What one item from your wardrobe best personifies you?
Tie-dye. Maybe a tie-dyed dress shirt. We used to get polo shirts with tie-dye all over them.

What three things are most likely to be found in your refrigerator at all times?
Milk, eggs and beer.

What is your greatest regret?
My regret is that I didn’t learn to start young horses earlier.

In retrospect, what has been the best decision you’ve made in life?
Sophie and Ty.
 
What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Sitting on the back porch watching the kids play in the yard.

Where will you be in 10 years?
Well, in seven years I’ll be in the Olympics in Chicago, my hometown. In 10 years I’ll be sitting in a golf cart watching Sophie do all the work at a horse show.

 
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