My twenty year old self was a moron. So blinded by ambition and desperate for horses and success,I put blinkers on and set sail on the most preposterously stupid path imaginable. No surprise now in hindsight that I ended up in the bunker.
I was working for a Showjumper in Dublin when I was 24. I had Jj with me and things started out great. The yard,horses and show schedule continued to expand,the number of staff did not. 19 hour days,7 days a week.Myself riding and grooming,and one lovely polish man doing some of the mucking out and yard jobs. The national shows were good fun and we qualified three for Dublin that summer. Two in the international classes at Balmoral plus the RDS qualifiers lit the way for Dublin with three,Millstreet with nine and then an eight hour turnaround for the boat to France for a fortnight with three. National shows in between meant the pace was frenetic and by the time the RDS came round,I was really burning out. We watched the Olympic final from Athens in France,and by the time we got home Cian was under investigation for a positive test,having clinched the individual gold medal. We worked very closely with his yard so it was a tricky time. My rider was then called up for Nations Cup duties in Athens,and I was expected to go. I declined. I handed in my notice and left as soon as the truck was back from Greece. One final sour note was being made to totally unpack and clean out the truck that night by myself,leaving me hours late for my leaving party. I should have told the boss to fuck off. I wouldn’t think twice nowadays.
I arrived home and I had no idea what I was going to do now. We looked at putting in arenas but it wasn’t viable so for entirely nonsensical reasons I decided to set up by myself. I was-if I do say so myself-a super groom with high standards and ocd which continue to this day. I had a good knowledge of educating young horses and had much to offer but still,I was nothing and no one in the equestrian world. YET AND STILL I was sure that the phone would ring off the hook as soon as word got out that I was in business. Oh,the arrogance of youth.
The first go at this insane venture was in Kilkenny. A tiny arena,7 stables and a psychotic landlady. Couldn’t possibly fail….I had no jeep,no horse box,no fences and amazingly,NO SADDLE. We were full steam ahead to the idiot farm.Bit by bit,we added things to the project and eventually I was able to steer real horses over real fences with a real life saddle. I worked mornings for a racehorse trainer and my days consisted of mucking out about 20 stables,riding 14-16 horses and surviving on chips from the van on main street,Castlecomer. The only place still open at 11pm.
My next go at it-a few years on-was the hardest. I had learned much from my Kilkenny wonder year and I took up the rent of a super place in Kildare. 15 stables,beautiful arena,acres of hacking,turn out and a cross country course. It started out well. Existing clients came along too and a few more joined me. I was working hard and I was flat broke. I was also an hour from Niall,which was really hard. A local racing yard was using me as an overflow so I was pretty full up. One day,without warning,they turned up in the lorry and loaded up every single horse they had with me. I had done nothing wrong but their owners weren’t happy with horses all over the parish,and so our agreement ended. Now I was in the shit. For months,all I could afford to eat was Tesco value biscuits. I managed to get down to see Niall a few evenings a week and his mother used to feed me. I could do there and back on about €10 worth of diesel and most times I fell asleep on their sofa,wishing I never had to leave this safe place. In the end,I couldn’t afford to go on so a brief stint in a client’s own yard followed whilst we got set up at Niall’s home house. His parents took me in,sheds were modified for pony purposes and in time we built the sand arena. Myself and Niall got engaged. Solely and only because of that wonderful man and his generous and accommodating parents,I was out of the bunker at last. Life got differently hard but infinitely improved. My chances for competitive success had sailed away without me,but the good ship happylife was here Instead. Blessed.com.