I have never believed in ready made ponies or horses, I’m sure it is lovely to win, however for me being successful is not about being on the step, it’s about the journey; it’s all the little achievements along the way, and overcoming all the hurdles that stand in the way. My success can not be weighed or measured against yours, for we are not travelling on the same journey, although we may have the same end goal in sight. My shoes are different to yours, therefore my small goals should be mine alone and I deserve to be proud of and celebrate each one as I accomplish it, for in your eyes it may be insignificant; however on my journey it may be the biggest achievement of all.
I believe in second chances, in innocent until proven guilty. I try not to believe all that I read and all that is said to me, rather I stretch out a hand and offer that chance. I follow through with people, and also with horses.
Some of my current horses
I have 5 dressage horses from Germany currently, Let’s Go; who most of you know, Saale Hit; who is beginning a new journey with a young and talented rider of mine, Enya; a 10yr old Trakehner mare forgotten in a field until she was 8yr, Sverige; and incredibly talented mare whose had an incredible season in 2019 and Cashmere; and 8yr old who currently resides in Germany due to this global pandemic.
I currently have a number of horses and ponies in for resale, training and livery. These include a beautiful 14yr old PRE mare, Julia who sadly was traded off two years ago and was let out and forgotten about in between. Very nervous and with no condition she joined my team and is slowly starting to trust and thrive and I look forward to continuing my bond with this special mare. Also in currently is a very handsome Irish Bred coloured gelding, who has previously been very successful in the dressage ring, however sadly had fallen on rough times before I found him, also somewhat starved and in need of some tlc, he continues to thrive here and I’m very excited to see where his future will take him.
One very special lady, Marlton Scout
Currently on livery with me, a mare I bought unbroken as a 4yr old and was called ‘crazy’ by the now owner! Standing 153cm Scout is a very pretty cob, built with plenty of muscle and strength. Unfortunately when she arrived her confidence in people was non existent and she lacked any kind of trust in me. This was something that took a while to build, however she was always a very kind mare, under her thick skin and Irish female temper! As a baby I believe in broadening their horizons and competing with no expectations par that of good behaviour. However this wonderful little lady had more than just good behaviour on her mind, when she stormed to the perfect 4 from 4 at the Killossery Autumn Cob Showing League, gaining some really stunning comments from the judge and the requirement of her passport to prove that she really was only 4! Scout had a real gift for dressage, honestly work was something this mare thrived on. In 3 outings she had qualified for the Irish Winter Finals at Prelim, where she finished 7th in the Cat 3 section as a 5yr old. In the same year she travelled to the UK where she qualified for the Novice and Elementary Area Festivals in as little tests as was required, never failing to impress.
Later that year I handed the ride of her to my young student Molly, who partnered the mare to the perfect Spruce Lodge Classic result possible of 5 for 5, winning the Prelim Cat 1 Championship, the Novice Cat 1 Championship and the Freestyle Championship. (This was Molly’s first time competing in dressage on a horse, her previous ride in dressage was a less than impressed hunter who didn’t believe in white boards!)
The following Spring my mother Barbara’s horse was out with a minor injury as we were set to travel to the UK for some shows. I suggested she take the ride of Scout and bring her to compete. It was very clear before we got very far on our trip that the pair had fallen in love and I was not getting the ride back, nor was Molly anytime soon. This new found partnership proved incredibly triumphant with the pair securing qualification for the Novice Silver Music Championships with just 5 mega scores. A smashing pair, who naturally reside in the yard are fining tuning their half passes, excited to compete at medium once allowed out. The mare is also learning her changes, so it would appear that they might be doing Advanced Medium if this lockdown is in force for very much longer!
I don’t believe in rushing horses to success. I believe that we all grow and mature at different rates. I believe in the ‘long haul’. I look everyday for a willing partner, someone who wishes to fight with me for something that makes us both feel good and proud, to work in search of reward. I do set goals for myself and my horses. I believe in small and achievable goals, often to small to note. However it’s these little steps that help me ensure that as a partnership we are on the right path. I have some very highly strung and difficult horses, both now and in the past. That is a challenge I adore, the heartache, sweat, frustration and tears. I wouldn’t change it for the world, for every now and then when all goes according to plan the glimpses of promise and quality quite literally take my breath away. And it’s these moments, they are so special and I don’t mind that they don’t come often, for if they did they would not be so special and magical.
In saying that, when I school, train or break a horse that is not meant for myself alone, I train to create an easy ride, responsive yet understanding that makes it easy for any rider to enjoy the horse also. Too many times horses are over complicated and become ‘difficult’ and have ‘habits’ because of how they are trained by us the professionals. I train through positive reinforcement, I look for responsiveness, calmness and I never train with fear. All my own horses will follow me anywhere, they prick their ears when they hear my voice. And it’s not just because I give them the odd treat!
I know that the more simplistic the training is, the clearer the training becomes, the easier it is for the horse to understand. I have found that a horse who understands his job, is far more happy and content in his nature and becomes far more trusting in trying new things. Something to note about me; every time I put my foot in the stirrup, I always pat the horse and talk to it before I get on. The tone in my voice is what they hear, not the words! They are living, their own mind, far more powerful than I will ever be, so I look to their trust and their kindness, and I show them mine. Meaning every time I sit in the saddle the horse knows it’s me by my voice.
When working a horse, I always do something that is easier for them first, so they have an early reward and we have a positive note in which to build from. Horses are just like us, they make mistakes. I believe in forgiving them as I know that in doing this they forgive mine too. Naturally I will correct the mistakes, but with out punishment, as horses need repetitions to build and understanding. I also always find a positive note to end a session on, no matter whether it was something that I was trying to teach or something the horse already knew, their memory is short, what I like to leave them with is the remembrance that I was happy with them, they got patted and praised and then I got down. I like to work a horse typically for between 30-40 minutes, I believe that longer than that and they loose focus and interest and get tired. Naturally my more advanced horses warm up and cool down outside that time period.
However I’m very well known for having very short ride outs. My best trait yet was 15 minutes warm up, 8 minutes work and cool down. This was with my former international horse Blue, he dearly loved to preform and to please, after about 5 years of total heartache. He was a horse who cherished positive reinforcement, and the concept of doing everything well is enough, he wrote the book on! For sure we would do longer sessions and work through fine tuning, but he showed me that even top athletes, as he was, don’t like to be grilled and over trained. It took many years and certainly caused a stir with many a call up steward, most notably in Hickstead at the CDI, for Blue was a horse who needed a good morning ride out, and never more than 10 minutes warm up before his test. If we got our timing wrong, he would stand and sleep in the corner with my mum before going in. It never failed us, his results on this style included PSG Reserve National Champion, to Judy Reynolds!
My advice to you
Don’t be afraid to be different. Don’t worry if you what you find works for you, isn’t in the books, isn’t published or spoke about by your idols. Dare to be different, dare to be unique. But do it with your horse, do it for your horse, make sure it works for you as a combination. Take the risk, chance the gamble, life is short, so listen to your horse, ask your horse for help, your not in this alone. Stand proud beside your horse, neither one of you is better, for without you he/she can not compete and without them you can’t either, so believe in yourselves, don’t listen to negativity and reach for your stars. There will always be someone ready to bring you down, it’s your choice to listen or to rise up past them, do it for your partnership, reach up the stars and cherish all the steps you take along the way.