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Written by Arabella Clegg
1. How has the 2017 competition year been for you?
Well, after a lot of thought I decided at the beginning of 2017 to make the major change of going from having a successful career in Eventing to becoming a relatively unknown show jumper. I sold all my event horses and purchased a new string of show jumping horses. This was something I had wanted to do for some time and the time seemed right for me to make this move successfully.
2. How did you start the show jumping journey?
I travelled to Southern Spain in February as I felt this would give me and my new mounts time to get to know each other and also ring experience for the horses and for myself.
My time in Spain was very valuable as I was competing everyday with my young horses and also with my more experienced horses. After Spain I was lucky enough to sell my top young horse to a buyer from England. As I progress through my career within the equestrian industry I have come to realise that selling top quality horses will be a big part of my job so this was a very positive step at an early part of the year for me. Once I returned home our next show was the CSI 2*, Balmoral where all my horses competed successfully, but once again I was to sell another horse, this time it was my more experienced ten year old. The up side to the two sales meant that I had the exciting prospect of finding new young stock, so of course that involved some travelling to Europe. We returned home with some very exciting young horses and a more experienced show jumper. I competed locally in Ireland throughout the summer – gaining experience with my young horses. In September we were busy preparing for another trip to Europe – this time we were travelling to Oliva Nova in Spain. We spent 6 weeks there with all the horses going well, in particular my amazing five year old horse won the 5 year old final class. This was a super achievement for him.
3. What is your favourite venue/competition of the calendar year?
For this year I particularly enjoyed The Sunshine Tour near Vejer De La Frontera. The show offers everything to the horses and riders – great facilities, amazing arenas and opportunities to gain experience for the young horses as well as bigger classes for the more experienced horses. Not to mention the amazing weather!
4. What has been the main challenge this current year and what are your plans for the winter?
The main challenge is keeping the horses fit, healthy and happy. Thankfully, due to a lot of hard work from all the team my horses have remained sound. This is due to good feeding and great management. I couldn’t do without my haygain steamer as it reduces dust and allergies in the hay. “You are what you eat” really does ring true in our yard and we are very careful to ensure all the horses benefit from top quality feeding. Keeping the horses fit and healthy was a huge priority in Spain and as the hay tended to be dry and dusty, my haygain steamers were invaluable as I was able to feed my horses top quality forage.
As for the Winter, we are planning a trip to Florida, this time without the horses to find out what happens there as we hope to make that a trip for the future with the idea of selling our top quality horses to the U.S.A. At the beginning of February we will be returning to Spain for the 2018 Sunshine Tour. We'll take five horses there and plan to return in mid-March.
5. How do you keep your horses fit and healthy to compete at this level?
Obviously for a competitor it is vital that my horses are fit and healthy to compete regularly at a high level. If they do not feel in tip top form they will not compete to the best of their ability. Also vet bills can be a huge drain on our resources so they are to be avoided as much as possible. Therefore, the horses’ well-being is paramount. They need to be fed the best quality hay and feed. We make our own haylage and we are very particular as to how it is made. However, no matter how careful we are there is always an element of dust particles, mould, bacteria, fungal spores and mite faeces. So to eliminate all of this we use the haygain steamers. The steamer improves the palatability of the forage, which means any fussy eaters will consume more when we have steamed the haylage. The other benefit to the haygain steamer is it increases the shelf-life of our haylage which is a great advantage to us.
6. Explain a typical day on your yard and your facilities
I am currently based at Waterside in Ashbourne. My day starts at 7.30am with feeding and a general check of all the horses. Riding begins at around 8.30am – with flat work, gymnastic work and pole work. Lunch is at around 1pm, and after that the older, more experienced horses are ridden for a second time for a more intensive training session. We then feed at around 4.30pm. Aside from that routine, each day is different as we can have clients coming to see horses, vet visits and farriers often coming to the yard. We try as much as possible to get the horses out for some down time if the weather and ground permits. We are lucky to have superb facilities here at Waterside where the horses are very lucky to have big roomy stables. We also have beautiful arenas including a lovely indoor with a viewing gallery.
7. How as a rider do you keep yourself fit?
Show jumping is a very competitive sport so as a rider I have to keep myself and my horses in tip top condition.
I eat a very healthy diet, avoiding junk food, preferring to eat good sources of protein and loads of fresh fruit and vegetables.
I have always enjoyed a wide range of sports, playing hockey and rugby competitively at school. As well as competing in sports, I go to the gym regularly, which includes running and cycling. I participate in a variety of other sports when I get the chance, I particularly love swimming.
8. What got you into Eventing/show jumping?
My interest in horses began as early as I can remember. My family were all involved in horses. My Grandfather was the Master of the Killultagh Hunt and my Dad is joint Master of the County Down Staghounds and he still events. My Mum was a member of the North Derry Pony Club, so you could say it is “in the blood’! My first pony was a feisty little grey mare called Sugar. She was amazing and we had the best time going to pony club, hunting and taking part in a lot of jumping competitions. I made lifelong friends along the way. When I was 15 years old, I was lent a lovely chestnut mare called Duneight Again and I was chosen as a non-riding reserve for the Irish Junior Eventing team. That experience itself made me want to compete at a high level so my family were very, very lucky to be able to purchase the amazing Chuckelberry, who was previously with Joseph Murphy.
Chuckelberry took me onto the Junior Eventing Squad and the Young Rider Squad. Here we picked up gold, silver and bronze medals along the way.
I was extremely lucky to have training from the best trainers in Ireland, Terry Boon, Ian Fearon and Joseph Murphy. I also spent some time at Piggy French’s yard, that was an amazing experience.
9. What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
If you knew my mum you would know that I’ve been given a lot of advice over the years from her! One of her favourite things to do is to send us “words of wisdom” frequently on our family What’s App group. I’d say one of the best pieces of advice would be, ‘The harder you work the luckier you'll become’. Also I really like the saying, ‘Surround yourself with good people’.
10. Do you or your grooms have any other use for the Haygain products?
Absolutely! According to one of the female freelance grooms when we were in Spain, the steamer is a great way to unclog your skin. It’s also a great way to decongest your chest if you have a chesty cough. I have also caught my brother using it to warm his feet once on a bitterly cold day last winter!
11. If you hadn’t gone in to Eventing/Show jumping what do you think you would have done instead?
Well, I love most sports and did consider doing a ski season. I did in-fact go to University to study Communication, Advertising and Marketing so I probably would have gone in to some type of business. Although, my dream has always been to compete competitively at a high level in Show Jumping or Eventing.
12. If you could ride any horse who would it be and why?
There are so many amazing horses out there and in the past – I have to say Chuckelberry was my dream horse and I always say if only I could find him as a 4 year old, now that would be amazing. Obviously Big Star has to be a contender as he kept coming back to the top. Hopefully I have my dream horse in my yard, that’s what is truly exciting about this sport. Here’s hoping, I have the next top show jumper standing at Waterside.
13. What would you do if you got a few days off?
Spend it with family and friends. This is such a demanding sport that time is precious and it’s lovely to get to spend some time at home with my very supportive family. We all share that love of horses so there’s always a lot to talk about and we have the most fun together.