Maestro - Matthew Lawrence

By: Horse Deals

Maestro - Matthew Lawrence
Matthew Lawrence has ridden the Olympia champion on three occasions

Margaret Shaw finds out some of the secrets of producer Matthew Lawrence’s success

As this issue of Horse Deals went to press, Matthew Lawrence was preparing for Olympia. Although this show is a great end-of-season party, it was business first for Matthew as he aimed the Connemara John’s Cuckoo and Highland Dunedin Marksman at the NPS/Baileys Horse Feeds M&M championship.

Matthew already holds what is believed to be a record after taking the Olympia title for a third time with Melanie Stanford’s Highland stallion Torrin of Croila in 2008.

"As long as both ponies looked good and performed well, I’ll be happy," he says.
From a modest start, Matthew is now one of Britain’s leading show riders, producers and judges.
"I was the first member of my family with any desire to ride," remembers Matthew, who was only 10 when he used to work all day at the local riding school in Hertfordshire in exchange for a free ride.

His first big break came when his father mentioned his son’s interest in horses to pony breeder Ren Rennocks and Matthew found himself helping out whenever he could.

"At that time, all Ren had was a field and four boxes," recalls Matthew.

When he left school at 16, Matthew dearly wanted a job with Ren and wife Ro and the National Pony Society became the answer to their prayers.
"I needed paid employment and Ro and Ren needed a groom but couldn’t afford one, so the NPS youth training scheme came to our rescue," explains Matthew, who became interested in breeding and showing in-hand while with the Rennocks.

His many successes included the Lloyds Bank supreme in-hand at HOYS with the riding pony broodmare Rosevean Honeysuckle.

"I was the one skiing behind her foal," he jokes.
After five years, Matthew moved to his present base when offered a job by Mark Northam. Nineteen years on, he’s still at Avon Farm, near Bristol.
"I’ve added to my knowledge base to include producing native ponies, breaking and schooling," he says.

Avon Farm has 30 stables, with half usually full and just six to eight of these show animals. With around 200 acres, a long drive and a village setting in quiet lanes, it’s the perfect setting for breaking and producing.

"The last thing we want is for ponies to be drilled day in, day out. Long-reining them along the lanes keeps them relaxed and focuses their minds on going forward and enjoying the experience. And touch wood, they all seem to like being ridden," explains Matthew, who has dressage lessons with Ferdi Eilberg and Tessa Thorne.
"Dressage teaches you to get the best out of whatever you’re riding and I’d encourage anyone to have lessons. The key to success is to listen to horses."

Listen is certainly what Matthew has done over the years. Champions he’s been associated with include the M&Ms Bunowen Castle Ri and Waitwith Connie, the coloured Maytime Challenge and Nibley Bertie Bassett and Cuddy winners Broadgrove Chatterbox and Merriment Pussycat. He has also produced dressage horses and Burghley young eventers.

While Matthew is best known for M&M ponies, his rivals had a surprise last season when he burst onto the hack and Arab scene with Sandhills Scallywag.

Lady Guise’s small hack won at the Royal International and went on to take the supreme title at the Cherif championships.

"That was one of my greatest achievements," says Matthew, who juggles judging and competing.

"Being on the British Show Horse Association panel gives me another skill and I really enjoy being the ride judge," says Matthew, who has strong thoughts on producing rising stars.

"Everything now, particularly in M&M classes, is rush, rush, rush. It takes years to produce a show jumper, eventer or dressage horse but in showing, people want to take short cuts. I don’t consider it a good thing to have ponies competing at HOYS and Olympia as four-year-olds."

Matthew also dislikes harsh bits: "If inexperienced riders see producers using strong bits, they’re going to copy them."

While Matthew freely admits he eats, sleeps and breathes horses, he enjoys socialising and hosting dinner parties.

"Yes, I can cook," jokes Mathew, who lives with his partner Matthew Barker.

While Matthew, who has sponsorship from Brinicombe Products, Arena Products and Showing Gems, admits he doesn’t bounce as well since hitting 40, he has plenty to look forward to next season. He has two offspring of Bunowen Castle Ri and a son of Torrin of Croilla to bring out and also has high hopes for a young Irish Draught in novice cob classes. It’s odds on that you’ll be reading about his winning exploits in our showing pages this year.