Published by Eventing Connect 

Most of us started out on our horsey journey as fresh faced,clueless pony mad kids. We couldn’t get enough of anything horse related,from mucking out a zillion stables in return for a heaven sent lesson on the worst yak in the riding school,to saving our copies of Pony Magazine and putting the centre spread poster of Mary King (On a horse,obviously-not in strange latex clad pose,although you do what you have to to pay for horses…..) up on your bedroom wall. You adore cleaning tack and reading your pony club manual. You have NO IDEA what you are letting yourself in for. You are CLUELESS. STUPID,even. If I could give my pony mad self one piece of advice,it would be ‘turn on your heel and run like a mother fucker. Do not look back. You’ll thank me later’. But of course,there was no quantum delivery of sensible advice,and now look. Too late.  

Once you have committed yourself to a life with horses,you can expect to be flat broke,hungry (lack of food variety,not excess of ambition variety) and a bit Labrador-esque in your desperation to learn. Oh you’ll learn alright. No other animal will break your heart faster,let you down more often or cause you financial ruin so fast. Assuming you survive the initial hardship of exposure to the horse industry (seriously,you are actually blind and not with ambition either) you might decide it’s time to go it alone. DO NOT go it alone. You think you know what you are doing. You don’t. It’s so much easier when the bills are someone else’s problem. Anyway,off you go like a deer into the proverbial headlights of life. And it might just work out for you. You might get lucky and catch a break. You might. Now the real fun begins. 
Trying to attract owners,horses and sponsors is a bleak time in any young rider’s life. If you survive this bit-the wilderness years,if you like-then you will be on the way to making a go of it. You will become familiar with your top horse being made of glass and insanity,of the vets using phrases like ‘I have never seen anything like this before’ (seriously,if I had a euro for every time I’d heard that…) of having to ride some truly hideous specimens and of slowly realising that this life is INSANE. You will repeatedly ask your horses questions like ‘what the fuck are you even doing?’ And ‘is there an actual need?’ .You might find yourself forging ahead and making a huge success from your hard work and dedication. I salute you. You are the minority,but you deserve that success. You might-like me-find that your route to the top was never going to happen,and so settle for using your vast experience to produce the young horses that make the dream possible for the good riders. Or you might quit horses completely. I think about this almost daily,but I can’t do it. It’s mostly because I have no idea how to do anything else. I have a vast array of other interests but no time to pursue the required education to forge a career elsewhere. It’s partly because recently I stumbled upon the most sensational horse I have ever seen,a horse that no one else wanted but who is slowly igniting the dying embers of my passion for the horsey life. And it’s because I love them. The greatest thrill in the world for me is feeling my young horses work it out and try to do what you need. I think that’s the hook-no other mammal in the world is as keen to please you-for no reason whatsoever. There’s nothing in it for the horse.
So to those of you starting out-good luck. Take it from this old timer (at the grand age of 34), you’ll need it. And money. Millions of money. Get an education first,horses are always here but education is not. Don’t be afraid to quit. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Be kind to yourself. Semper Fi.



Published by Eventing Connect 

‘You want me to what?’ I looked at the scrawny bay with wild eyes and I listened as his new owner explained that they wanted me to train their horse.Train it? It looked like it had only seen its first human half an hour ago. The owner had seen the horse jump the top of the wings at a sale-apparently with a human on board-and had bought the horse. For me. To train. Maybe even event. Lucky,lucky me…… ‘Rocky’ had arrived. 
I tacked up the feral thing whilst the owner looked on proudly. I pulled the girth,Rocky exploded. I fetched a lunge line. Luckily,at the time I was a work rider for a nearby trainer so I was quite used to horses of a psychotic nature. After a lengthy lunge,I could no longer avoid it. I had to board the beast. I somehow managed to scramble on and stay on for quite a while,but with little in the way of brakes and steering my luck ran out and he put me into orbit. I learned pretty quickly that if Rocky set about depositing you,you were coming off and that was it. I persevered,and one day I had the genius idea of tying up his reins and letting him loose for a run around before I got on. It mostly worked quite well until the day before his first event. Rocky had bottomless stamina and could gallop for six weeks without breaking a sweat.He was also wild enough and talented enough to jump anything at all. On this particular day,I let Rocky loose for his usual jog about. Forty minutes later,he was still going-lobbing along very easily and economically,but really not stopping. I tried and tried to catch him,with absolutely no success. Eventually he turned his head and fixed me with a glare,before sauntering down to the arena gate-which was about five and a half feet high-and sailing out over it. What the fuck?? Was this horse made by SkyNet???

Eventually-and thankfully narrowly avoiding the need for a tranquilliser dart gun-I managed to catch him. I thought perhaps he would at least be quiet the next day at his first event. Yeah. NO. I got on to go down to dressage. I made it approximately five feet forwards with the horse,before travelling a good fifteen feet upwards without the horse. I could still see the saddle and in a feat befitting of any astronaut,I managed to land back in it. Rocky then flipped out completely,walloped me in the face with his poll,exploded again and I was toast. Marvellous. Of course then the bastard found himself loose on the Galway Serengeti and proceeded to cruise the lorry park and dressage arenas,with a couple of Top Gun fly-bys of the showjumping arenas for good measure. I didn’t even bother trying to catch it. The previous day’s stupidity suggested that there was no point. At that moment,I didn’t care if I never saw the fucker again. Sadly,someone did catch it and I had to get back on. I eventually made it to the dressage arena,decorated with blood and grass stains. Rocky did a ridiculous test using approximately ten metres of the arena which he only just stayed in. No one died,and some days that’s the best you can hope for. We went showjumping for one down but he was sort of alright. I got down to the start of the cross country in a pretty pissed off frame of mind. 3,2,1 GO! GOOD LUCK! Thanks,I’ll need it….. Rocky hung like a gate and did his best to nap over the first few. I was sore,fed up of this unruly prick and I wanted to go home. Suddenly I had had enough. Now horse,you are GOING TO DO IT. In a ride that AP McCoy would have been proud of,I picked the horse up by the scruff of the neck and gave it one of the best rides I have ever given any horse. There was no intro level in those days,so he was starting off at prenovice-but this was a particularly beefy track with corners,arrowheads,a big bullfinch and other similar terrors. He flew. I knew straight away that this bastard of a horse was a different class altogether if we could only get him broken and riding. He finished 7th that day despite his atrocious dressage. Most horses didn’t make it home clear,but he did. 

The next two years were muddled. His owners promised me the ride on the horse but they sent him hunting in the worst of Irish country before giving him to an Irish international rider in the UK. That was their choice of course,but I didn’t ride for them for too much longer. I felt pretty cheated,having worked so hard on a horse no one else would ride.Rocky went to Blair for the 1* where he was eliminated when his rider fell off in the showjumping. He came home briefly before being sold to a leading event horse producer. He went to Portugal and he cruised up to 2* easily. He contested two young rider European championships for Italy and he is now eventing successfully with a young rider in the UK. He is incredible.

It is so important with horses to be open minded. Not all of us want to struggle with wild mustangs but sometimes,bits of coal really do polish into diamonds. If you think the horse is worth it,persevere a while. And for the love of God,take out personal insurance……