Published By Eventing Connect 

Someone recently sent me a picture on Facebook. I don’t know if it was meant to inspire me,amuse me or make me cry in despair but anyway. It said the following-‘Great horses are often not easy horses. They have big egos and idiosyncrasies and quirks and foibles…….’ If this is indeed the case,then I must have had some of the best horses through my hands that the world has ever seen…..
I don’t know how they find me. I’m fly paper for equine freaks. All I want is a quiet life. I don’t want to be fished out of trees (that actually happened) or stared at in horror as whichever stupid fucker I’m trying to tame currently leaps and snorts and plunges all over the show ground for absolutely NO REASON at all. I mean,you never see Team Fredericks clinging on to their neckstraps whilst Dobbin refuses to turn left or stuck to the back wall of Dobbin’s stable afraid to move because the stupid horse is having apoplexy over a new and differently coloured water bucket. I have never seen anyone else lose an event when miles in the lead because there was a cow in a field next to the course,and therefore it was necessary to whirl and nap and freak out and refuse to pass said cow,accumulate a zillion time faults and do the walk of shame back to the trailer. Whilst everyone laughed. Because you live on a farm.FULL OF COWS. I have never seen anyone else riding a lovely dressage test and being interrupted by a dog that looks like it might potentially be a polar bear strolling into your dressage arena and woofing at your horse,causing said horse to go batshit and flee the scene. I have never seen anyone else quietly showjumping,only for the horse to randomly decided to keep going straight and jump the rope out of the arena WITH NO WARNING whilst you haul and tug on the steering wheel and have to do the walk of shame-again-back to the trailer. (Apart from that one girl at the London Olympics,but she was a pentathlete and everyone knows that’s not a real sport) Sometimes people ask me what type of horse makes the ideal event horse,and I think ‘not a single one I have ridden anyway….’ 

         The best type of horse for me is one that tries. The horse that tries will surpass the fancy flashy talented horse that doesn’t need to try,every day of the week. The horse that tries may not be easy to train,but he is easy to love and respect and he is easy to build a partnership with. The big moving,snorting psychotic things that are all eyeballs and flicky toes are very pretty to look at and indeed I am drawn to them like bees to honey,but they are trouble. They are hard to train,hard to keep sound and they are often GIGANTIC PAINS IN THE ARSE. Educating these types can be akin to negotiating with terrorists and they often have an opinion on every-fucking-thing. A fine example of this is Armada,ridden by Oliver Townend. Armada is undoubtedly one of the greatest cross country horses in the world, but he does whatever the hell he feels like whenever he feels like doing it. When asked about the horse,Oli said that he thought very highly of him but that the manual was in Taiwanese…….

   It’s hard to know exactly what type of horse makes the best event horse. The sport is so all-encapsulating that almost every horse eventing will excel at some part of it. Every horse in the sport will have strengths and weaknesses that the sport will embrace and expose. Horses big and small,batshit insane and steady as a rock can all find their niche eventing. That’s the beauty of the sport!  


The beginning of the end,a slap on the wrist and WHY is it ALWAYS raining?

Published by Eventing Connect 

I grew up horse mad. Diseased with the poxy things. All I could think of was eventing-I remember (vaguely) watching the greats of yesteryear tackling Badminton,and building my own Badminton in granny’s back yard with her clothes props and flower pots. It was many years before I got a chance to partake in a real event with an actual horse,but when my time came I was fairly determined to make it count. Unfortunately,my determination far surpassed any actual ability and this combined with a succession of useless/deranged/vastly-unsuitable-for-humans-to-interact-with types of horses meant that it was a pointless endeavour from the off. But I was determined. So. 

It was the 21st May in 2011 and I was heading to Wexford eventing with two homebred horses. One was Nothing Concluded, running in the prenovice. The other was Nothing Better B and he was in the intro. It was raining on the long drive down,but not normal rain. In Ireland we have all sorts of types of rain. We have soft rain,heavy rain,sideways rain,round corners rain and a misting rain. Misting rain is the very worst. It is all encompassing and comes from all directions simultaneously. Everything you are and own will be saturated at once and take months to dry. And that was the sort of rain I was driving in. I travelled on hopeful of some weather respite-by myself with two horses and a jeep and horsebox would mean doing everything outside. Surely the rain couldn’t keep up all day? Yeah….. I did both dressage tests which were ok. The intro horse was massive and a bit of a pig so he went accordingly,but the prenovice horse was quite restrained by his usual standards. He show jumped clear as usual and the intro horse had 4f. There were about 35 horses between my two rides and as I squelched my way to the start box on my prenovice horse,I had to ask someone to tighten my girth. The straps were so sodden and my gloves so wet that I couldn’t get a grip on them at all. The horse had a class round xc until the second last fence,which was a turn back to a roll top on a mound. As he turned-and despite massive pencil studs-he totally lost his back end and almost fell. He popped the last fence but as I walked home,I knew that he was going to be in bother tomorrow. He finished 4th,but I was so upset for him that it was zero consolation. I just about managed to wash him off,do his legs and put him away before having to go on the intro horse. I was soaking wet,frozen,still unable to pull my sodding girth and had zero enthusiasm for this ride. The horse was weird about ditches and I was about two feet and five stone too small for him as it was,so I was dreading the impending ditch on the course.i needn’t have worried,because the stupid bugger never made it that far. He galloped up a hill,jumped two fences in the woods and one on the way out. He felt fine. He had big studs in and I was going carefully. I had a good stride into the fence. It remains a great mystery to me then,why he landed after he fence and fell straight down as if he had been shot. I don’t quite know what possessed me,but I got back on and carried on. In the dim recesses of my brain,I knew it wasn’t allowed but I had had ENOUGH of today and he was going to at least school his way home. Yeah. No. He scraped his way to the ditch,spat it out completely and I had to walk home anyway. I managed to get finished up and I drove home,utterly despondent and questioning why I was even bothering. It’s so hard by yourself-always by yourself-my horses live in cow pens and my arena floods regularly. I can’t do roadwork unless I travel and I don’t live near any decent events. Up until now,these things were challenges. Now they were reasons to quit.


my great friend Nothing Concluded battling the rain.

Nothing Better B in the intro,looking like the Birdman of Alcatraz.
 As predicted,the super prenovice horse gave himself a good twist and wrench and he didn’t reappear until much later that season. The intro horse…..well now. I took him xc schooling and he said no. At everything. I sort of got him going and managed to come 5th at his next event,but soon after it became clear that I’d never ride him. I gave him to a friend of mine who is a rugby player as well as a show jumper,and he got on just fine with the horse after an initial discussion about the terms and conditions. The horse actually sold very well to America and you could have knocked me down with a feather when the bastard went advanced. That’s horses I guess,not every horse is made for you nor you for him. A final sting in the tail from that awful day was receiving a €50 fine  for remounting without seeing the doctor. My husband was furious with me…..

I was starting to fall out of love with the sport I loved so dear as a rider and I started to enjoy showjumping more. Eventing is still my first love to watch and learn from,to respect and admire. I think the future of the sport is quite uncertain and it’s hard to see where it can go from here,but let’s hope for many good days of safe sport ahead.


Breaking,not getting broken and brakes… 

Published by Eventing Connect 

When it comes to producing and riding young horses,the word ‘breaking’  can have many connotations. The wrong methods,the wrong subject (equine or human) or the wrong environment can lead to things getting very broken indeed. I personally hate being the first man on board any young horse. Soiled pant city. What I hate even more than being the first man on board,is being the second man on board. That’s when you might find yourself truly lost in the wilderness,and exactly this resulted in me getting my face magimixed by a 4 yr old. I wasn’t always this ugly…..

I have my own way of doing things and a lot of my methodology has been born out of necessity. I work by myself and actually,I’m happier this way. The first and most important thing for me is to start with the raw product. As in,scarcely seen a white man raw,but with a small amount of quiet handling. The next most important thing is teeth-for me,there’s no earthly point trying to mouth and educate a horse if he still has wolf teeth or needs dental attention. They can’t possibly be expected to learn and respond favourably if they are uncomfortable. I don’t like spending weeks and weeks introducing things and dragging out each step as I find that keeping the horse’s mind engaged can be a big help in preventing him from forming other,more fun ideas for himself. Equally,I don’t progress unless I’m certain that the horse fully understands what is being asked of him. In recent years I have taken a real interest in proper natural horsemanship,and combining this with some of the traditional breaking methods works really well for me. My main aim is to try and put the horse in a position where the response he offers me to any question is exactly what I was looking for to begin with. Their confidence explodes,they start to enjoy their work and you form a great rapport very quickly-vital when you throw a leg across them for the first time. 

The voice is an oft forgotten aid,and it is never more vital than when breaking a horse. Use it always-when you get on board,you can apply aids along with words he understands from his education on the ground (walk,woah etc) so he can quickly learn and work it out.Try to remember that if Dobbin is heading purposefully for the rhododendrons during the backing stage and you give him the standard aids for ‘stop’,he might have no real clue what you’re on about. If you apply the aids for stop with a loud clear ‘WOAH’,well now he has a chance. Praise him often, for every tiny thing he tries to do well. Horses are totally unique in that they are born with an innate desire to please. No other mammal has this. If you can preserve it,the horse will always try for you and you will make something very special out of your relationship with him. In finding the right way for you and your horse,the breaking process can be a safe and enjoyable experience for both-no broken bones required.

This is a 4 yr old I am just starting again.

Here’s a 4 yr old I have just broken . She has been away to jump three times and is now having a holiday.



 It is my firm belief that incorrect handling in the formative years can ruin everything forever-the horse doesn’t necessarily have to have been abused,but if he experiences repeated inexplicable situations where his every attempt is punished or ignored he will pretty quickly start doing the bare minimum and stop trying so hard. And thus the end product is lost,before it has even begun.