In 1998, I started doing a bit of dressage. Well if I was going to become an eventing star,Id probably need to know how. I have no idea how it came to pass,but I ended up in the yard of one of Ireland’s most well known trainers. I was pretty terrified,but I worked hard and learned plenty. My trainer was a unique and extraordinary lady-pragmatic but kind,eccentric but generous-and she did far more than just teach me bumpy trot and funny canters. She gave me wonderful opportunity,letting me ride her very good dressage horse in the Silver Spurs championship and compete other horses at various shows for her. Being part of the yard forged lasting friendships,endless laughter and a feeling that I belonged somewhere.
I went on and did other t hings,and in time a job came available back with my trainer. I jumped at the chance,and I had two of the best years of my life there. It was the first time in my life that I had had real friends,and I made the most of it. We hacked for miles,we jumped insane things,we jousted with lungewhips and pulled bridles off eachother’s horses mid flight. The sun never stopped shining and life was just such fun. Once a week,my best friend would bring two cheap bottles of vino over. We would don our straw hats (our session uniform) and pour a glass or five.These nights led to some of the funniest times imaginable-camping out under the stars (damn straight we were festival fit),pink aftershock (a lot of it) ,putting the world to rights and on one memorable occasion-when VERY drunk indeed-trying to share a bicycle to get to the shop for cigarettes. This voyage also involved a river,a bridge and a golf course,hence why I never forgot it…..
I felt safe,secure and accepted. My trainer’s family treated me as one of them,and they were So incredibly good to me.I rode a lot of different horses,from dressage schoolmasters to dealing horses. I taught a bit,although I cringe thinking that I used to give the odd lesson to one of the now Irish olympic riders. How embarrassing….I just really,really lived. I have such special memories of this time. I learned a lot about a lot of things,not just horses. It was a utopian existence and one I will cherish forever. From here,I went to work for another very well known Showjumper in Kildare. He was a former Olympian,and he taught me a huge amount. I still evented a bit when I could scrape the funds together but ultimately I think my love of showjumping training was ignited there,and it grew until it took over.