Dublin is my Irish Bred mare, who is now 20 years old. She has always been a very opinionated mare and I found this out very early on in our partnership. Originally, I had planned to do eventing with her but she made it very clear that it was not her thing and nothing could persuade her otherwise. We tried a lot of different tactics, but even with some of the best riders and training she just said “no”.
I was not in a position where I could afford to buy another horse, so sticking with Dublin was really my only option at the time! With this in mind, I decided we could try some showjumping instead… she had always liked that bit. However…showjumping turned out to be another “no”.
Dublin’s jumping was amazing but she likes to stay in the one canter rhythm and so the more technical rounds & jump offs were not going to work for us.
It was because of this “one pace canter” habit that someone mentioned about how she might suit the working hunter ring. She was/is a jumping machine and it seemed that working hunter classes might combine her even pace and rhythm with jumping so we gave it a try.
Well.. it turns out she was born for it! She went on to have four years of working hunters, never placing below 3rd and not a single pole knocked, she was incredible!Never did she say “no” to any of the wacky fences you can sometimes face and the feeling she gave me with each round is frankly too hard to even describe, SHE LOVED IT!
Unfortunately in 2019 I made the decision to retire her from competitive jumping.
She was 19 years old and having previously done a lot of jumping and hunting, there were signs of arthritis in her hocks. She easily managed the competitions themselves but the strain of keeping her competitively fit at home was taking its toll. I was unable to train as I needed to so she kindly told me no more.
I was told many times that with injections, she would be fine to carry on competing but I had to look at the bigger picture. I know she is not the type of horse who will happily retire to pasture. She thrives on having a job and so my priority is to keep her in work as long as possible. For this to happen, I felt that we had to sacrifice the working hunter competitions to reduce the risk of injuries and strains.
Throughout our working hunter career, we had also been dabbling in Flat Showing classes. At the time, I used these classes more for training in order to improve our ridden element in the workers. I found it really beneficial to ride under different judges and hear what they liked and didn’t like. It was hard to pay for lessons as well as competing and so this training tactic ticked many boxes.
After we retired from the Working Hunter Classes, we were happy to then focus on the Flat Showing classes as they suited Dublin. She likes to know what she is doing and the repetition of a show class suited her. I know this is alarming to some because of the risk of anticipation, but this is what worked for us. When the gallop part was coming up she would shoot off like a coiled spring, wowing the judges! She also knew that she had to pull up by the corner and therefore, she nailed this move every time, always bumping us up the placings.
Also around this time, we ventured into the world of the Veteran Showing classes. I have to say it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. The people are wonderful and it’s so nice to see so many older horses still out enjoying themselves. It’s full of ex show jumpers, eventers and my personal favourite, is seeing all the Mums/Dads competing in the In-Hand Classes with their children’s older first ponies… These special ponies are certainly not forgotten about out in the field!
However, with Veteran Showing comes the ban of galloping. Of course, Dublin was expecting the gallop so I had to change my whole show routine. As you can imagine, she was not a happy bunny about this at all. She lived for that gallop and it was her party-piece!
So, I had to find a way for her to enjoy it again.
This is where Concours dElegance came into our lives.
The Veteran championships 2018 had a wonderful woman hiring out dresses. I’m a big girly girl at heart so the idea of cantering around on my horse of a lifetime wearing a big beautiful dress was just an opportunity not to be missed.
With no clue as to what I was doing, I trotted into the ring in a huge red dress beaming from ear to ear. The “go round” was incredible. All these beautiful dresses but even more beautiful, was the feeling I had from Dublin. She had that spark again. She was flying and was clearly loving it as much as me.
As a result, 2 years later (and £600 lighter), we now have our own ‘made to measure’ costume and a few amazing titles under our belt.
I had found a calling for her once again and the best bit??? … with those winning titles, comes the lap of honour gallop!
I’d like to think this career will take us to her retirement but if I know Dublin as well as I think I do, she could very well have different plans. I always laugh that she could also be a vaulting horse as she loves to be on the lunge line but for now I’m not going to tell her about it. 🤫.
As you can tell, my training history with Dublin is colorful and has changed a lot over the years. As we journeyed through our many disciplines, we were lucky to work with many great trainers who’s advice to this day has stuck with me.
However, the advice that I would give to anyone who may find themselves in a similar situation, is not to be afraid to explore different avenues with your horse. Listen to your horse. Capitalize on what they enjoy and find a path from there. You won’t regret it.
Katie & Dublin
(Click Here to follow Katie & Dublin as they continue on their journey).