Riders’ stories: David Will

Team silver medal winner at the Riesenbeck European Championships with the German Team, 34-year-old David Will confirmed his talent at the highest possible international level

Riding C Vier, German rider David Will won the 2021 edition of the Rolex Grand Prix Rome at the Piazza di Siena CSIO 5* to then, just 2 months later, win the team silver medal at the European Championship in Riesenbeck. He recently won the CSI4*-W World Cup Gran Prix in Abu Dhabi riding Babalou HD. Based in Dagobertshausen, near Frankfurt, he comes from a family of riders. He is a serious and determined rider and thanks to new owners, quality horses and magnificent facilities, the German rider is building an excellent career at the highest possible levels. 

Early life

When I was a child, my parents were both riding instructors; my mother more involved in dressage while my dad was more interested in jumping, so of course they were my first coaches and I learned a great deal from them. When I was 17 I left home and started to work as an apprentice as is the custom in Germany. When one chooses a job one then does a 3-year apprenticeship and I did my first two years with Uwe Schwanz. He is a dressage rider with stables close to Munich and is also very good at show jumping, although he does more dressage. But we thought that would be very good for me and teach me the basics for jumping even better. Especially in Germany, we very much believe in dressage work as the basics for jumping, so that was the plan. Following my work as an apprentice I actually worked for nine more years with Dietmar Gugler. He had been the coach for the Juniors and Young Riders in Germany for a very long time and was winning a lot of medals and is obviously a very good trainer. And he also always believed in combining the various methods a little, not only following the German style - maybe just up to a point. A few years ago the Germans were perhaps riding a little more heavily and were too focused on dressage and he always wanted to combine the systems a little, taking the best of each, including Germany of course. For example, good dressage work, but then also copying from other countries, such as France, Italy and the USA, with slightly lighter styles of riding. So, that was always his vision and actually I too believe in that.

Horses and daily life

I am in business together with Richard Vogel. We have three other riders working with us. Sophie Hinners, who was German Champion last year and also won her first Nations Cup, then we have another very good German promising rider called Mylen Kruse, and Vanessa Raubenheimer, also an up-and-coming young rider who focuses a little more on our younger horses. And so we are also very lucky. 

I am based in Dagobertshausen, a little north of Frankfurt. I’m training Nicola Pohl and the family has an unbelievably nice farm, a really top facility with fields, big stables each with its own paddock; there is a large grass arena, big sand arenas, a spa for the horses, an aqua-trainer, simply everything. We are in the countryside and can go out hacking and trot up hills and put the horses out to grass. So for the horses it’s perfect there and we are very lucky to have the Pohl family as very dear friends and also supporting us. I am training Nicola and we are very, very lucky to have them backing us and to have the use of a facility such as that one. Horses are happy in places like that and it is important for their minds, for the spirit. 

Work, talent and feeling 

I think I probably was not the most talented of riders. Riesenbeck was my first Championship as I had never ridden in a championship as a Junior or a Young Rider. I always received really good support and nice horses from my parents. When I was a small boy and jumping in 80 cm classes, I rode horses that competed in 1.40m classes with my father. So, I was always very lucky and always had excellent support and really good horses to ride, but I never made it onto any teams or anything. That was because I was never good enough. I did compete once as a Young Rider in the German Championships when I was 21. So, I don’t think I was very talented, but I always kept my head down and worked hard.

In my opinion talent comes with experience. I could say that the more experienced I became, the better I knew how to ride certain turns or learned that one doesn’t necessarily need to ride five strides over a given distance. So, I think it is all mainly about hard work. Ofcourse there is also an element of talent and a connection with horses and I was very lucky to come from a horsey family. I grew up with horses and was never in a position of deciding that I wanted to ride at the age of 15, for example,  and so I never had to learn how to have a connection with a horse.

It came naturally to me because I was with horses every day the whole of my life, so this connection is very, very important and I was lucky enough not to have to learn it. It was just always there.

David Will © laguso.com

My first European Championship 

A first Championship is like a reward for the daily work we do for days and months and years and so it also proves one is on the right path if one gets selected to represent one’s country at a Championship. That is one good feeling. Then the next good feeling is that we were in Germany. After the long period involving the pandemic there were spectators at last at these Championships. I think we had a great, great crowd there that cheered everyone on, not just the Germans. Something I like most about German crowds it that they appreciate good riding from everybody. They would even cheer on Steve Guerdat or somebody like him. I think there was a really great crowd in Riesenbeck. It was really fun to ride there and the weather was good and the whole facility was so good for the horses, they loved the arena and the warm-up was super. New stables, big ones with windows, everything has been thought through.

Advice for a young rider

What counts most of all for me is determination and hard work and especially not giving up, because it took a very long before I started to become successful. When I was 23 I won my first 1.40 and then I had the right horse and everything moved quickly, but before that there was a lot of convincing myself that I could do it. 

So my advice is stay on it and keep working hard and don’t second guess yourself. It is not always possible to constantly be positive, but if you have a down, pick yourself up and keep on going.

David and his horses

It’s about two words but they mean almost the same thing: It’s about friendship and horses are both friends and partners because they have always been around me my whole life and are at least as important as humans to me. So, for me the nice thing is that they are all like individuals you know, they all have their own temperament and no two horses are the same. Every horse you have must get to know you and become a friend and it is the same as with human beings, they all have their own personality and character. And that’s also why a very good horse doesn’t have to very good with every rider; it’s the same with humans, not every human has to be friends with everybody else. And, of course, some horses and humans are a bit easier and some have a little more of a special temperament, but recognizing that and finding a good way of dealing with it is a really great part of the sport.