Taking the Reins – Show Jumper Lauren Balcomb

Sharn Wordley, Lauren Balcomb and their daughter Poppy

OHP’s great friend and client, Australian Show Jumper Lauren Balcomb on balancing life as an entrepreneur, a mother and an Olympic hopeful.


AUSTRALIAN SHOW JUMPER Lauren Balcomb is finding the balance between high performance horse showing and parenting two young children along with her partner, Sharn Wordley, who show jumps for New Zealand. The equestrian power couple is based full-time in Ocala, where they run a training and competition barn and dabble in real estate investment.

Lauren has ambitious competitive goals: her sights are set on representing Australia at the Olympic Games. She and her equine star Verdini d’Houtveld posted some very impressive results at international level in 2022, and in 2023 they won the FEI Grand Prix at the World Equestrian Center in June. Her ultimate goal for ‘Dini’ is the Paris Olympics in 2024.


The Sydney-born 33-year-old grew up with a horsey obsession and started lessons at age five, Pony Club at seven, and by age 12 she had started eventing. Following school in 2008, she traveled to the US to train with Phillip Dutton and Boyd Martin, and after returning to Australia to pursue a career with horses she had early success with the horse Kootoomootoo, garnering many wins, including a stellar year in 2008 where they won the CCIJ1* at Melbourne (Werribee), the CCI2* at Sydney and the CCI2* at Adelaide (current CCI2J-L/CCI3-L).

In 2015 Lauren moved to the US to pursue her interest in eventing further, originally following her friend and fellow Aussie Boyd Martin to his family’s farm, Windurra, in Pennsylvania.

Lauren Balcomb and Verdini d’Houtveld competing for Australia in the 2022 Nations Cup at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida.
Lauren Balcomb and Verdini d’Houtveld competing for Australia in the 2022 Nations Cup at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida.

“I’ve known Boyd since I was 12,” she said. “My best 3-day horse Boyd actually bred, and he took me through wining the Jr/YR of the year, I won a lot of events with him in Australia. Sadly he was injured and ended his career earlier than we’d hoped, so I didn’t really have the horse power I would have liked. I was supposed to move over to the US in 2009 but had a bad fall off a young horse, which kind of pushed everything back. I also had a few horses injured, and didn’t really have the ideal team to bring over, but my mum has bred a lot of horses, so I ended up coming over with four homebreds and another event horse.”

She said that her introduction to life in America was a little challenging. “I didn’t know anyone, I had never driven on the other side of the road, and it was miserably cold!”

Though things settled down and she ultimately enjoyed her time at Windurra, things would take a fortuitous turn. Australian Scott Keach came to Windurra to teach a clinic, and Lauren mentioned that she’d like to visit Ocala and do some show jump training with him.

“That was October, 2015 and in January, 2016 I met Sharn at an Australia Day party and we hit it off and have been together ever since,” she said. He is also her coach and business partner, a relationship that she said works well.

“Sharn and I are super lucky, I respect Sharn so much as a trainer, a rider, a person, and I think that goes a long way,” she said. “Obviously there are always challenges switching between the trainer/partner/student roles but I know there’s nobody better to help me and I feel really fortunate. I think we make a good team in all aspects.”


Growing up on the water in Australia, Lauren loved surfing and swimming — hobbies that she doesn’t find time for now. But time at the gym provides an athletic outlet, and she said that she enjoys pouring her energy into design work for farms and houses. She personally is investing in a new development, recently purchasing bare land and planning to build a community of small horse farms.

“I enjoy being a part of the design process,” she said. “We’ve done a few ourselves, with our property here in Kentucky and now here in Ocala.”

The couple decided to sell their farm in Kentucky at the end of 2020 and base their business and their lives full-time in Ocala. “There were a lot of reasons for the move: we bought here when we heard the WEC was being built, and Sharn always loved it here, even when he spent winters in Wellington,” she said. “People were making offers on our farm in Kentucky before it was listed, and I was pregnant, obviously having one base is easier. We travel so much in the summers, it gave us more flexibility, and the ability to invest in more land here. I love Ocala, it’s a great place to live, to raise kids, and for the horses it’s unbelievable.”

Their involvement in different aspects of equestrian life keeps the couple invigorated. “It’s a passion and a hobby that we’re lucky to also get to do as work,” she said. “I feel like we work a lot, but we love our work. We also love traveling and experience new places. It’s a long flight home to Australia and New Zealand, so if you go you really want to spend a month there; we’re going at Christmas, and now the kids are at an age that we can go more often. We’re also lucky our parents come over at least two or three times a year. Unfortunately we don’t get to see our brothers and sisters and friends as often as we like, but I was also lucky to have a few friends visit this year.”

"[Moving to Ocala full time] gave us more flexibility, and the ability to invest in more land here. I love Ocala, it’s a great place to live, to raise kids,
and for the horses it’s unbelievable.”
“[Moving to Ocala full time] gave us more flexibility, and the ability to invest in more land here. I love Ocala, it’s a great place to live, to raise kids, and for the horses it’s unbelievable.”


With Sharn as her life and business partner, Lauren became more involved in the show jumping world. As luck would have it, her event prospect, the Zangersheide gelding Verdini d’Houtveld Z (Verdi TN x Caretino 2, whom she purchased as a six-year-old from Steve Tinti in Belgium in 2017, had a natural talent for jumping.

While Lauren was pregnant, Sharn briefly took over the ride of Dini and debuted him successfully at FEI level early in 2021; the pair was subsequently selected to represent New Zealand at the Tokyo Olympics. Unfortunately the horse had a minor injury on the day he was supposed to ship out and they had to withdraw.

“[Moving to Ocala full time] gave us more flexibility, and the ability to invest in more land here. I love Ocala, it’s a great place to live, to raise kids, and for the horses it’s unbelievable.”


Sharn said, “Lauren has good, natural horsemanship; she’s very competitive when it comes to winning, and she’s a student of the sport. She’s good at taking bits of information from other riders – she’ll take the things she likes from watching riders like Aaron Vale, McClain Ward, and Tracy Finney and apply that to herself. She’s also a good student; she’s gone from jumping 1.15m to Grand Prix in 12 months, it was really a meteoric upward trajectory in her career.”

Sharn conceded that it took some work to establish the distinction between life partner and coach. “It was hard at the beginning to coach her,” he said. “It’s always hard, right? She’s the mother of my children, but I made it clear from the start that she can train with whoever she wants, there are tons of good riders around, but if she chooses me, she chooses me for what I have to say. That’s the attitude we have, and it took a while to figure it out, but we’ve done well.”

At the end of 2021 Lauren reclaimed the ride on Dini and the pair was double clear in both rounds at the Nations Cup in Wellington, and 2022 they jumping clear in the first round of the Nations Cup in Wellington. That year Lauren was named Leading Lady Rider at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington in January during the first week of the Winter Equestrian Festival. They had multiple Grand Prix wins in 2022 and this past summer won the $150,000 CaptiveOne Advisors CSI3* at the World Equestrian Center.

With an outstanding performance in the Netherlands over the summer, they also helped Australia earn a team spot for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“I’ve been really lucky, I’ve had an amazing last couple of years with Dini,” she said. “He’s placed or won a lot of good Grand Prix’s over the past couple years. I was selected to go to Valkenswaard this year to try to secure Australia a position in the Olympics; Australia won and Dini was the best-placed horse of the show. It was very, very exciting! The goal is to set myself up to hopefully be selected to compete on the [Olympic] team.”

Sharn commented that he appreciates Lauren’s success, but doesn’t enjoy competing against her. “She’s my best friend, so for her to be as successful as she is, I’m thrilled for her. But it’s not fun showing against Lauren Balcomb! To be honest, it’s not a fair and race, her and Dini could beat just about anybody in a jump-off. If everything works out in her favor, it’s really one of the fastest horses in the country. So you know, if you get beat by them, you can’t feel too bad about it because know you’ve been beat by a good one.”

While he’s a superstar in the ring, Lauren said that Dini is a sweet and quirky little horse at home.

“Dini is pretty much a real life Breyer pony,” she said. “He’s a tiny little thing with the biggest eyes; he’s the sweetest animal you’ll come across. He’s brave and very cocky and knows how good he is, that’s for sure, but he’s also quick and sensitive. He’s quite claustrophobic, even though he’s small, and he’s very sensitive: he has to have his mane and forelock braided every day, because if the wind blows and tickles him he can’t stand it. But he’s brave, and in the ring he’d jump through fire. He also loves the kids; the more affection and attention he can get, the happier he is.”

Lauren Balcomb and ‘Dini’ competing at the World Equestrian Center in Ocala, Florida.
Lauren Balcomb and ‘Dini’ competing at the World Equestrian Center in Ocala, Florida.

Lauren said that she enjoys producing good quality young horses, and has a few in Europe with a business partner in Belgium. She also has a client’s horse that she’s competing and rides one of Sharn’s horses at home. “Having three to ride is kind of a nice number for me to be riding and competing at the moment,” she said. “I’m always looking for nice horses; unfortunately it’s always hard to find one that compares to Dini!”


In order to find balance between the intense training and competition schedule necessary to follow her dream, she has scaled back on riding and teaching so that she can also focus fully on her children, Poppy, age 2 ½ and Arlo, 14 months.

“When I became a mum I made the decision that I want to be very present in their lives day to day,” she said. “I’m lucky I’ve got a lot of help as well. I’ve taken a big step back from the day to day running of the barn; I’ll ride three horses and spend as much time as I can with the kids. I’ve got a couple of clients that I train, but again I took a step back, so it’s just two or three that I’ll train at any one time.”

To maintain the peak fitness required of a potential Olympic athlete, and give her kids a chance to socialize, in the afternoons she heads to the local Golds Gym so that she can work out and the kids can play with their friends in the Kids’ Club.

“I’m really lucky, our secretary Lee Ann, who’s worked for Sharn for 14 years, has a degree in childcare and she’s like our right-hand woman!” said Lauren. “We also have a lovely couple who manage our farm, and the wife, Adella, will help out with the kids while I’m riding in the morning. I’m also lucky that a couple of girls who work for us are good with kids. In the horse world everyone’s always willing to lend a hand.”

She noted that Ocala is the ideal place to raise a family. “WEC is always putting on things for families, and having a facility like Gold’s Gym is good as well because you can stay fit and healthy and the kids have friends at the kids’ club.”

Sharn said, “Both kids love the horses; Poppy does the leadline and thinks it’s great, and Arlo’s only a year and a half old, but he loves to be around them. It would certainly make life easier for both of us if the kids are into horses too!”

With a bit of humor and a lot of drive, Lauren is finding her way in sport and parenthood. “It’s challenging that when you have kids, they come first, so finding the balance with my goals to be at the top of the sport. Just balancing things where I feel like I’m achieving those goals and being a really present parent, I think I’ve got a good balance at the moment.”