In 2015, Lauren Balcomb was ready for a change. The 25-year-old eventer had been a successful young rider in her native Australia, but decided she was ready to cross the globe to make a name for herself as a professional in the United States.
Balcomb had grown up down the road from Boyd Martin and spent a few months training with him in 2008 after he’d moved to the U.S. She also had purchased a couple of homebreds from Martin, so it was a natural fit to call him when she wanted to move.
Balcomb brought over four horses she and her mother, Julie Balcomb, had bred at their Lamondale Farm as well as an advanced horse named Guido Hatzis in March 2015. She set up shop at Martin’s Windurra USA in Cochranville, Pennsylvania, facing the snowy end of a Pennsylvania winter as her greeting to the U.S.
She trained with Martin and Phillip Dutton, then spent a winter with Australian show jumper Scott Keach, which got her interested in the sport.
After meeting Australian show jumper Sharn Wordley at an Australia Day party hosted by Keach, the couple began to date in 2016 and Lauren began to take show jumping more seriously.
On June 25, Lauren earned her first international grand prix win aboard her own and Wordley’s Verdini d’Houtveld Z, an 11-year-old Zangersheide gelding (Verdi TN—Laska III, Caretino 2) in the $140,000 Lugano Diamonds FEI CSI3* Grand Prix at the World Equestrian Center—Ocala’s Ocala Summer Series Week III in Ocala, Florida.
“It was my first FEI show jumping win, so that was really exciting,” she said. “We’d kind of been knocking on the door the last few shows, so it was pretty awesome.”
“Dini” started his career as an eventer, competing in a handful of beginner novice and novice events before Lauren and Wordley saw he had a talent for show jumping.
“I bought him in Belgium as a 6-year-old, and he’d been jumping,” she said. “Sharn’s business partner Steve Tinti had him and thought he’d make a good eventer. He had lots of blood and was a beautiful mover and a nice jumper. I evented him, and then he just started jumping better and better, and we thought show jumping was the better route for him to go down.
“He’s got the most amazing work ethic,” she continued. “He loves his job. He’s got a lot of blood and is very, very careful. It’s taken time to produce him the right way. For a very long time he would jump everything too high. I did it slowly and went up the levels and back down and back up just to keep him really confident.”
Lauren, 32, started transitioning to show jumping full time around 2018 and started competing in FEI-level classes in 2019 aboard former mount Vitel Sourdin. She and Dini competed in their first CSI in 2021 and have since competed to CSI4* level.
“It was a transition. I loved my time eventing, but I’m loving doing the show jumping now as well,” she said.
“She’s always been mega competitive and just a natural talent,” Martin said of his former student. “When she left me and moved on to train with Sharn, the improvements were exponential. I think Sharn’s taken the raw talent and hyper-competitiveness of Lauren and also finessed it and polished it with wonderful training. Now when I watch Lauren ride it’s not just natural skill, it’s correctness and the fundamentals are perfect. We’re all very proud of Lauren. For me personally, I’m just speechless and very privileged to have a small part of her career in the early days.”
Lauren, who’s based in Citra, Florida, with Wordley, is now mother to a 15-month-old daughter, Poppy. She didn’t ride during her pregnancy, but now that she’s back to riding she feels she’s found a good balance of motherhood and competitive goals.
Dini had a light few months during Lauren’s pregnancy, then Wordley competed him in some FEI classes to keep him going.
“Having kids changes your life for the better,” she said. “[Poppy is] so much fun, and I want to spend so much time with her and be very present. But I try to find a balance with all of it. I still teach a lot, and I ride less than I did before, obviously, but I think I’ve got a good balance of mum and a rider.”