Simone Pearce Back Into Top Sport With Renewed Drive After Disappointing Olympics

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Simone Pearce on Destano at the World Equestrian Festival CDIO5* in Aachen. © 2021 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Sept. 28, 2021

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

Simone Pearce will compete in more top events in Europe in a new direction for Australia’s top ranked rider following a disappointing Olympics.

The change of focus for the 30-year-old rider comes, she said, with the full backing of Gestüt Sprehe, the premium stud in Löningen, Germany where Simone is the main stable rider and she talked about after success this month on Destano at the World Equestrian Festival in Aachen, Germany, the most prestigious horse show.

She rode Destano, a 14-year-old Hanoverian stallion, on the Australian team at the Tokyo Games. The horse is owned by Sprehe and sired by Desperados that was competed by Kristina Bröring-Sprehe for team gold and individual bronze at the 2016 Olympics, team silver at the 2012 Games as well as a slew of world and European championship medals.

Simone had gone to Tokyo for her first Olympics with Australian-based Mary Hanna, a veteran of five previous Olympics, on Calanta and the U.S.-based Kelly Layne on Samhitas after 16 months partnering with Destano. In that time, they set Australian record scores at all three Grand Prix levels.

“In Tokyo I had not very much luck,” she said of her results that were the best for her team, “so it was a hard lesson. What could go wrong, did go wrong. Everything.”

A reaction by Destano to anti-tick medication caused a rash that prevented Simone from riding the horse for three days after arrival in Tokyo.

“Then we had a little bit of too many chefs stirring the pot, I think is the best way to say it,” she said. “There were just a lot of influences. Such as managing myself, trainer, owner expectations, of everybody.

“I am totally responsible for that. It was overwhelming to me.

“I’ve never done it on such a professional level before. I’ve been like a sales rider. I’m just a little girl from Australia. It’s been a long time to get here but when you get here you’re thrown in the deep end. And that’s how it feels.”

Throughout the conversation with dressage-news.com, Simone was upbeat, laughed at some of what she viewed as her shortcomings but voiced the positive determination for which she is known.

In more than a decade in Europe, Simone built a reputation for developing horses that by 2016 led to her first World Young Horse Championships then moving to Helgstrand Dressage where she enjoyed success at the championships for the next two years before going to Sprehe.

Her first competition after Tokyo was the World Young Horse Championships where she showed three horses for Sprehe.

Simone Pearce and Quando Unico at the World Young Horse Championships. © 2021 Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com

“To be honest,” she said, “after the Olympics I was motivated to get back up, but I was really down. The world championships were a good start for me. I can’t do this! OK, I can do this, and I got my power back!”

Simone said that when she came home from Tokyo the Sprehes sat down with her to decide “how do we move forward in the future.

“We’ve got a new plan for really setting one direction and making sure it’s a smooth path; also a mental coach,” she disclosed. “I’m feeling much better. Now I feel like myself again.

“It was a massive learning curve which I both regret and I’m glad of going forward. Some times you have got to know how not to do it.”

Because until you make those mistakes you don’t really know? she was asked

“Exactly. I would never have said the situation would have affected me as much as it did. But now I know. We need to have a plan, more than just riding.

“It’s nothing to do with riding, it’s about the planning. Sprehe has been fantastic. So I’m feeling really good about that.

“The people around me, like the owners of the horses, they’re stepping in, supporting me. It makes a big difference when the team is really unified.”

When a suggestion was made to compete at Aachen, she joked recalling her reaction, “No. I have a slight confidence issue… Let’s go to Aachen, yes. Perfectly good idea!”

“This level is just a different level to what you do anywhere else. And stepping into that you’ve got to learn. I’ve never done it so I’ve got to learn.

“At Aachen I wanted to ride an OK safe test but then it was, ‘OK I’m going to go for it.’ And I felt like myself again. I feel much more positive. Coming to this level for someone like myself I’m not used to this. I had to learn.”

Simone Pearce on Destano back in her element with the result at Aachen’s CDIO5* Grand Prix Special. © 2021 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

In the CDIO5* Nations Cup Grand Prix in which Simone rode as an individual, she appeared cautious and scored 70.391% for 20th place in the starting lineup of 33 rider and horse combinations. In the Grand Prix Special, she was back in form, placing second on 73.426% just 0.085% behind Olympic and European Championship gold medal rider Jessica von Bredow-Werndl on Ferdinand BB.

“It was great,” she said. “You’ve got to put yourself in the deep end and learn to swim

“I want to do more and more big shows that I get in the routine. Aachen was the first time, but now I feel like I have the flow of riding at the 5* level.”

Destano will have an easy time over the winter, and she may pursue the World Cup scheduled for Leipzig, Germany next April on Double Joy, the 14-year-old Hanoverian stallion she last competed in Hungary in June for two wins.