Grill The Equestrian – Michelle Kenny

It’s been quite some time since we Grilled an Equestrian. Keeping on track with our “Inspirational Women” theme we are so excited to have Michelle Kenny on board to take part.

She has been rolling off the tip of the tongue lately, being a rider many women of all ages look up to, we just couldn’t resist throwing some questions her way and she certainly did not disappoint with her answers!

Want to find out more about Michelle? Her team at Riverlodge? We even found out her riding pet hate! Keep scrolling to get your hands on all you need to know about the lady that is, Michelle Kenny.

How did it all begin? Tell us about Michelle Kenny

I started riding at the age of 6. My family haven’t got a background in horses I actually grew up in Wexford town so I started in Shelmalier Riding School. After a year or so I got my own pony which like many other non horsey families we bought the wrong pony and repeated this mistake many times over!! I progressed into the Wexford Pony Club and had many years of fun trying out every discipline possible. As I got older I began eventing, from there I had gotten the competition bug and progressed through the Junior, Young Rider (winning team bronze at the European Championships in Jardy 2013) and Senior ranks (Nations Cups in Boekelo & Houghton Hall).

In 2010 I started up RLE with my partner Rafael. Building a facility to produce horses to their highest potential was always our first priority and to do this we had to keep producing and selling. Along the way I have had some fantastic horses who have really shaped my career. I am proud of my results in eventing especially placing 5th in the German National Championships in Luhmuhlen along with top tens in Grand Prix’s up to 3* level in showjumping. 

Being a female in a male dominated sport, do you feel any increased pressure to perform when competing? 

There are great deal of barriers facing women in sport and business, you only have to google the numbers. I try to focus on what I can control like my attitude towards each day, I don’t linger on what other people think. Confidence starts within, let your thoughts linger on your past victories, not defeats, and focus on the milestones you’re set to achieve in the future. Mindset is everything in sport and business.

Tell us about your most memorable win & why. 

It has to be winning the CCIJ* at Tattersalls International Horse Trials in 2009 on Frank and Eithne O Gorman’s Golden Orphan. It was my first 3 day International, I ended up winning by a 21 point margin! It was my first major win and it gave me a belief in myself that I could do this. Coming from a non horsey family, it’s not easy to break into the sport but it is possible!!!  My parents were always incredibly supportive of me and as clueless as we all were, we made it happen! 

You have really shone and made a name for yourself over the past few years, becoming a great role model to women of all ages, do you ever feel pressure to be the best all the times, what keeps you motivated? 

It’s heartwarming to be seen as a role model to women. No I don’t quite feel a lot of pressure now I am happy in what I do, I have my own goals set and a system I really believe in. For sure there has been times I have felt a lot of pressure. In the past ten years since RLE began there has been many highs and also some seriously crashing lows. Probably only in the last year I have really understood what I really want in my life and what I want to achieve. I still have a burning ambition to reach the top of the sport and accept that hard work is needed, also to embrace the setbacks along the way. I am doing it for myself and no one else.

Something that is really important is that you must believe in yourself and always be the best version of yourself. This is what keeps me motivated. For example on Instagram etc I don’t feel the need to have a personal account and a business account I strongly believe in only posting what is real. It is important as a woman to do this and spread positivity. The sport is tough enough at the best of times, we get so caught up in its intensity we can forget to remember why we are doing the sport in the first place. 

Young horses, what are your go to rules when it comes to producing an all rounder? 

TIME, patience and variety of training! I really take my time producing the young horses during their 4 & 5 year old years.  I’m very lucky to have a great facility at RLE that gives me the variety of arenas, canter tracks & cross country schooling to produce them without putting them into the pressure of competition too early. If they are a potential show jumper or eventer, I bring them out first of all to jumping shows as I do feel they can learn an awful lot and still see enough to open their minds up.

For the young jumpers I tend to bring them abroad for a jumping tour in Portugal at the beginning and end of the year. Here they gain great experience in top arenas with sensible course building to help the horses grow in confidence. 

Your team at Riverlodge, Credit where credit is due! You certainly seem to be the yard everyone wants to be at, Tell us some more about your team & what they do?

It is extremely important for me to provide a fun and enjoyable workplace for my staff and also a daily system that runs smoothly. We have a weekly team BBQ/ Lunch to relax and have a little fun. Something that has been a game changer for us is Equity. An online stable management platform that allows me to plan and organise the daily training/competition/health schedules & invoicing. An organised yard is a happy yard!! RLE would not be what it is without my wonderful team to whom I’m so grateful to. So I’ll introduce you to them. 

Rafael Sanctury is my business partner, RLE has many branches from International competition/ Sourcing, producing and sales of young horses/ Client training & mentoring. We even recently began a small breeding program to add to the chaos!!! Rafael plays an important role keeping all theses areas running smoothly and is a huge support to my own career.

Aidan Tector is our yard manager and onsite coach. RLE would not be the same without him. He’s our backbone and always been there for us no matter what. He has a wealth of knowledge from producing horses and can be seen on the ground most days keeping an eye over the training of the horses.

Lucy Hyblova is my Head Girl. Lucy is a huge asset to my team. She has a wealth of experience grooming in many top yards in Europe. She is the queen of clean and organised and also super at keeping the yard running efficiently every day so everyone finishes on time and not working late.

Jess Harper is the latest addition to my team. She is my Show groom. Again coming with a wealth of experience both in eventing and showjumping. Jess has fitted into RLE like she’s always been apart of the team. She has great people skills confident in her job and also enjoys Crossfit like myself!! 

Anja Moret is an exciting talent in RLE she will produce and compete the horses alongside me. Something I feel strong about is having another rider at RLE. To be able to bounce ideas off each other to be able to watch the horses myself from the ground really is a vital part in producing my horses to be the best they can be.

I am blessed to call these guys my team and enjoy every day we work together. I value their opinions and feel the each bring something extra to #teamRLE

Eventing has been a huge part of your past and most recently you have had amazing success showjumping if you had to choose one, which one would you choose & why?

I absolutely love the accuracy and elegance of showjumping. Hands down its my favourite sport. There is no better feeling than riding into the ring for a Grand Prix Class. Eventing is a sport I will always hold closely to my heart. I’ve had some amazing days from winning an FEI bronze medal to my Senior Nations Cups appearances. I have unfinished business in eventing so I’m not finished yet!!! 

If you could trade shoes with anyone in the industry who would you choose & why? 

Darragh Kenny. Darragh combines the desire to keep at the top of the sport and yet maintain an uncompromised business plan, unlike a lot of riders. He combines competing in the sport, training clients, producing and selling top international horses. He also has an ability to bounce back from setbacks and come back even stronger.

In your opinion, what is the most beneficial exercise people should be doing with their horses & why? 

Counter canter is one of my favourite exercises to do. This really works the horses through the back and it’s great to get a hot horse to accept your leg and work into the contact. Serpentines are another great exercise to keep the horse supple and accept your leg. You can do so much on a simple serpentine like transitions, leg yielding & counter canter. Keeping the horse supple is key.

If you weren’t in the equestrian industry, what do you think you would be doing? 

I have an interest in Marketing and Public Relations, I enjoy the promotion side of my own brand and RLE, I manage all of our social media channels as well as helping my dad with his company promotions. 

With the world in chaos due to the Covid19 Pandemic, the majority of horse shows have been cancelled up until July, where does this leave you & how has this effected your 2020 plans? 

First of all I’m very lucky that Covid hasn’t effected my family because right now that is the priority for everyone. Professionally speaking it has actually given me the time to produce some of my newest additions to my team. Having sold my up and coming star Ard Emmerdale and older star Juicy in February, we have had to reinvest in young stock once again. I also have two very exciting young event horses in the production line who I really think have team potential.

I have used this time wisely to brush the dust of my dressage saddle and prepare these two to hit the ground running once we can compete. For sure its been frustrating not being able to get the older Grand Prix horses out like Barcelona and Indoctaire. They will now aim for Vilamoura Champions Tour in October all going to plan. I feel really lucky to of been able to compete in Vilamoura at the beginning of the year before everything stopped. 

What is your biggest riding pet hate?

Riders not educating their horses correctly and fast tracking them for their own benefit.

You do a lot at Riverlodge, from offering free jumping rounds to people with 4yr olds, (I am not sure if this is correct info!) to last year putting on quite the spectacle with your first big show, do you have plans to do more? 

I feel as a rider its important to give back to your sport when you can. Over the years I have developed a wonderful facility at RLE so to be able to make use of the beautiful grass arena was a no brainer.

I have competed at wonderful shows in Europe so myself and Rafael wanted to bring a little bit of that to the Irish shows. Winning “myshowadvisor” Show of the Year was a really great reward. Unfortunately our plans to run the ‘Avonmore Summer Classic’ has been cancelled this year due to the restrictions not being lifted in time to enjoy the show to its full capacity.

But we do have something up our sleeve which will be revealed in the coming weeks!!! Keep an eye out on both Riverlodge & My social media channel for the release.

Who is your current trainer, tell us a bit about your competition training routines. 

Rafael plays a huge part in overseeing the majority of my training. He is on the ground watching the horses progress daily which really helps fine tune the smallest of details. I have been training with Grant Wilson for many years now. I really enjoy his training system. Grant is always available for advice and really helpful with sending me exercises in between training. On the build up to international shows Grant plays a big part in helping me prepare. I am also very lucky to train with Harry Marshall. He’s an incredible horse man and he’s really opened my eyes up and given me a whole new skillset in producing young horses and also being that bit more competitive in the ring. I’m grateful for the opportunity he has given me to compete some of his older horses also. 

Do you have any tips for women handling big horses, I sometimes get told I have too much horse for such being such a small woman. Have you ever experienced these stereotypes? 

I am only 5ft 2 myself and ride a variety of horses. Sometimes the smallest of horses can be the strongest. No mater the size make or shape of the horse using the simple training scale will help improve the horses rideabilty. Keeping training simple and repetitive will always help improve a horse. And again Im a big believer in patience allow the horse to adapt to your training.

What advice would you give to young women looking to break into the international circuit, what support structures should they be looking at? 

To take every opportunity no matter how big or small it is and embrace your setbacks.  Keep focused on what you want to do and don’t be afraid to knock on doors for opportunity. Be confident and comfortable with your own strengths and use them to your advantage.

If someone in the industry has helped you, be sure to also give back. There is some highly respected strong business women in our industry in Ireland like Carol Gee (Fernhill Sport Horses) & Marion Hughes (HHS) for example. Both women have had great competitive careers and both run highly successful business’.  I always try to think outside the box of an equestrian business. I have participated in Ireland’s Young Entrepreneur, this really opened my eyes and pushed me out of my comfort zone, having to pitch my business to a panel of successful business people was terrifying at the age of 18.

Another piece of advice that I learned later on was to read as much as you can. Reading teaches you something new while it also opens up different ways of thinking of old ideas. 

Wow! What more can we say, she is some woman and I think anyone who trains or works with her should count themselves lucky.

A massive thank you to Michelle for taking the time out of her busy schedule to answer our questions, you are surely an inspiration and someone we both highly look up to.

Be sure to keep a close eye on the Riverlodge socials over the next few weeks, we cant wait to see what they have planned!

A massive thank you to everyone for reading and if you want to follow Michelle and her horses be sure to follow her social media pages!

Darielle & Orla

Grill the Equestrian – Mark Kane, Equine Dentist

We’re back with another edition of our Grill the Equestrian series. Earlier this month we booked our trusty equine dentist Mark Kane to come out and give the troublesome twosome their 6 month check-up. We’ve both used a few dentists in the time that we’ve had Coco and Dante and we can honestly say that Mark has been the best by far, so we figured it was about time we gave him a grilling! From wolf teeth to difficult horses, we’ve got the dish on what it’s really like spending your days with your arms half way down a horse’s throat!

What made you decide to become an equine dentist?

I wouldn’t say I was sure I wanted to be an Equine Dentist straight away but what I was 100 percent sure of was that I wanted to work with horses. Unfortunately I wasn’t book smart enough for veterinary and my older brother Patrick was already a farrier ( a job I was way too tall for anyway ) so the rest kind of figured itself out

What kind of training is involved to get qualified? What’s the process?

There’s all sorts of different schools/courses with different training methods all over the world I flew to America and studied in the American School of Equine Dentistry, we travelled from farm to farm and ranch to ranch and it was a wonderful hands on experience. Dr. Raymond Hyde and Jim Koostra are both fantastic dentists and teachers.

What is your favourite part of the job?
Castle Lux Clover, competing at this year’s RDS Dublin Horse Show!

This is a toughie!! I love watching horses who I’ve worked on be successful in their respective fields. I’ve watched horses win championship races at Cheltenham and horses win classes at the RDS, but I think what I love most is treating a horse who isn’t in good shape dental wise, knowing that immediately after I close their mouth and walk away, they’re feeling 100 percent happier.

What is the hardest part of your job?

It used to be getting paid but after a few years of business I’ve smartened up to that! It can be hard juggling clientele sometimes, some people need you in a hurry for one reason or other, and even though you want to keep everyone happy, at the end of the day you’re running a business and it doesn’t pay to drive to Cavan on a Monday to treat one horse when you’re due there on Friday anyway, but I must say, all my clients now are very understanding like that.

What’s the worst thing that has happened to you when dealing with a difficult horse?

I’ve had plenty of bangs, kicks and bites, comes with the territory. One day I was working on a big 4yo sports horse in Kildare, he was nervous but we were getting along fine. Someone dropped a wheelbarrow outside the stable next to him and it made a loud bang, the horse spooked and caught me in the head with a front foot, thankfully he had no shoes on but I was pretty sore and dazed and that was the end of my work day.

What is one of the most interesting things you’ve learned?

I’ve learned that you can’t MAKE a horse do anything, they are half tonne animals and they’re an awful lot stronger than I am. Sure you can be assertive and show the horse you won’t be pushed around but fighting with a horse, there is only going to be one winner. I find talking nicely and whistling at them helps keep them calm! Works on my other half at home too 😀 😀

What is one of the most common issues you see in the horses you treat? 
Sharp points!!

Plain old sharp points!! Due to the fact horses teeth grow at a consistent and constant level and the upper arcades of teeth overhang the lower, this leads to the upper rows growing sharp points on the buccal (outside ) side of the teeth and the lower rows getting sharp on the lingual (inside) side of the teeth. The first thing most dental techs will do to balance a mouth will be to remove these points.

What would be your top tip for horse owners?

My top tip for horse owners is routine. Every horse needs to be treated a MINIMUM of once a year, if your dental tech recommends every 6 months then it’s essential to follow their instruction. If a horse is having proper dental treatment regularly there should never be an issue 

What kind of behaviours should owners look out for that indicate a visit from the dentist may be required? Are there any behaviours that wouldn’t necessarily indicate a tooth issue?

Head tossing, refusing to accept bit, dropping feed, pulling, there is any amount of signs, but again like above, if everything is treated in routine there should never be a real issue. Sadly sometimes by the time a tough bugger of a horse shows you something is wrong, something could be VERY very wrong. Biting! I have had calls to look at horses teeth because they keep biting their owners but I think that’s a very different issue 😀

Wolf Teeth! What is the story with them and what should owners look out for?

Wolf teeth operate very similarly to wisdom teeth in humans. They are useless and can cause bitting problems, they would have been used for fighting in the past but have become obsolete. Some wolf teeth cause no problems but most owners choose to have them removed as a matter of precaution, other times horses will react violently to a bit when wolf teeth are present. Interestingly I have seen an increase in “blind” wolf teeth (teeth that are present but have failed to grow through the gum), these can be extremely painful and I can only put the rise of these cases down to evolution.

What are the consequences of a bad dentist job? Can this cause other physical problems with your horse?

A bad dentist job can have all sorts of consequences, sometimes enough work isn’t done and issues like sharp points, waves, hooks , ridges, are just ignored which puts pressure on a horses TMJ joint. Other times far too much is done, over rounding of the horses chewing surface (called doming) making it difficult for them to break down their food or in extreme cases even killing the tooth.

Would you have any recommendations for helping owners figure out what size/kind of bit they should use with their horse?

I always advise to start off with a plain snaffle, simpler the better, and work your way up as you need to. Its easy to notice a bit too large as it’ll be sliding everywhere in their mouth, but too small a bit will pinch their cheeks causing painful lesions so watch out for those.

Do you think you’d be cut out to do dentistry in humans or do you prefer working with patients who can’t speak back?

100 percent not 😀 if a horse kicks or bites me I can curse at them in retaliation, that wouldn’t go down well in a human dentists office 😀

Lastly, and it may be a stupid question, but should we as horse owners be brushing our horse’s teeth? 

No that’s not necessary, just make sure your dental tech brushes them for you at least once a year 😀

And there you have the ins and outs of being an equine dentist. We’ll be honest, it’s not a job we’d fancy doing ourselves so we’re grateful to have Mark on-hand to make sure Coco and Dante are kept happy.

If you’re in the market for a new dentist, check out Mark’s facebook page: Mark Kane Equine Dentist. He’s based in Co. Meath but travels all around Ireland and also makes trips to the UK so be sure to get in touch.

Hope you all found this as interesting as we did!

Until next time,

Orla & Darielle

Grill the Equestrian – Judy Reynolds, International Dressage Rider

Next up in our ‘Grill the Equestrian’ series is a woman who needs no introduction. As Ireland’s most successful dressage rider and holder of the Irish international records for Grand Prix, Grand Prix Special and the Freestyle to music, Judy Reynolds has brought Ireland to the world stage of international dressage. With our ‘Girl Power’ buzz still going strong, we couldn’t resist getting in touch to ask Judy a few questions about herself and her phenomenal success. Of course we had to grab some quick tips and fun facts while we were at it too 😉

About Judy Reynolds

What does an average day look like for you?

Photo Credit: Katharina Lachs

We start at 7am, once the horses have been hayed and watered (hard feed is fed @ 6am) we start getting them out on the walker for 30 mins or the first pairs into the field already. I like the horses to have moved a bit before I ride them if possible. I will start to get my first horse ready for riding and Patrick continues with getting the horses all out along with the other daily stable chores. I will ride 6-8 horses a day and most days have some lessons after I finish riding, either at the yard or I travel regularly to give clinics. I also travel to Ireland almost every month for 2 days teaching at a time. The yard is finished up between 6 and 7 pm, but I will often still be teaching after this. 

Would/Have you ever ventured into the world of showjumping?  

When I was younger I did lots of working hunter ponies so I jumped quite a bit though never really show jumped. I still jump my dressage horses to give them some variety although any jumping rider would laugh at what I call ‘jumping’! The horses have fun though and that’s what’s important. 

How do you maintain your fitness? Do you spend much time in the gym or is it purely horse riding that keeps you in shape? 

It is not correct but at the moment it’s just riding that keeps me going, I keep planning on joining a gym but regular fitness gyms don’t inspire me so I’m holding out for inspiration! I ran the Dublin marathon in 2005 (I think) and really enjoyed the running, although I am not a natural runner. I was meant to run it with my sister Isobel but an injury prevented her from joining me, after this i was all ran out for a long time. 

If you could swap with any equestrian for the day who would it be with & why? 

I would love to swap with Isabell Werth so I could learn what makes her so darn good! She is amazingly talented at training all different types of horses to Grand Prix. 

Photo Credit: Katharina Lachs

What is the best advice you’ve every received?

Anybody who told me I couldn’t do something, I am stubborn and will work very hard to prove them wrong! 

You’re originally from Kildare, do you think living in this horse-mad county influenced you in your choice to pursue a career in the equestrian industry?

Yes I’m sure it did. We grew up on a farm, having ponies at home and I rode every day after school whatever the weather. We did everything with the ponies from hunting to working hunter to showing to pony club camp so I got a great all round education. Although it wasn’t really planned it was a very natural evolution that I ended up making horses my career. 

The Success Story

You have achieved so much in your career, first Irish woman to reach the final of an Olympic Games (2016), first Irish rider to qualify for a World Cup Final (2017), first Irish rider to reach the freestyle to music final at WEG (2018). What is your ultimate career goal?

Photo Credit: Katharina Lachs

I really want to get to another Olympics and I would like to repeat/improve on some of these successes with future horses. Although I’ve ridden 4 different horses to championship level, I’m only known so far for my partnership with jp, I would like to be known as a rider with multiple successful horses. 

How did it feel when you reached the final in the 2016 Rio Olympics? 

That was a dream come true, to be an Olympic finalist, no one can ever take at away from you. It was an unspoken goal of mine in the run up to the Olympics to make the final, we knew it would be possible but not easy. The elation when we realised that I was into the final is like nothing I’ve felt before, it was also a sense of relief as I was carrying some emotional baggage with me in terms of not feeling really worthy of my place among the best dressage riders. Since then we have gone from strength to strength in part from having this belief that we now ‘belong’.

Most recently you competed in the FEI Dressage World Cup in Gothenburg. You were sitting at the top of the leaderboard for quite a while. How do you handle the waiting game after you’ve finished a test?

After I’ve ridden we often get some food as I won’t have eaten much the few hours before riding. I will watch the scores come in or watch the tests on tv/phone/monitors. I don’t often watch a lot of tests in real life, I’m too antsy to sit still for that! 

Judy’s Tips

When training for dressage, what are the key things for any rider to remember? 

It all based on transitions so they are the most important thing. To give the horse time to understand a concept and then reward them as soon as they offer signs of understanding something new, even if it’s not perfect yet. For me the basics are extremely important, I will spend a lot of time making sure I can ride REAL straight lines, corners, circles, transitions as and how I want them before starting to train ‘movements’. If you train tricks before you have the basics that is all they will be, tricks. 

What are your tips for a horse who struggles to accept the contact? 

Photo Credit: Katharina Lachs

Make sure your horse is truly working from behind. Horses can be forward going but not really pushing themselves forward with the hind legs but rather pulling themselves forwards with their front legs. The horse must be truly in front of the leg, only then can they search for a contact. If I have a new horse in for training who really doesn’t have a concept of contact then I will lunge them using a chambon as I find this helps at the beginning to get them searching forward and down and from there I can work on the contact while riding. 

What is one training exercise you swear by?

Transitions! If in doubt, ride transitions. And leg yielding, this can help any number of issues and you can get quite inventive in how you use it. 

What advice would you give to young aspiring dressage riders?

Get the best training possible and if you are serious about a career in dressage try to spend time in Europe. When I moved to germany at first I thought I was a good rider, went to my first show and promptly came last! Turned out I hadn’t even scratched the surface in terms of what I had to learn. I also believe that competing against those who are better than you is the best way to improve. 

Things We Didn’t Know

Who do you see as your biggest competition?

The Germans! 

How do you go about picking music & creating a routine for freestyle? If I had it my way I would be in there dancing to backstreet boys I want it that way! 

If you want to you can do that! You really are free to use what you want, though saying that it is worth bearing in mind who will be judging you and they don’t necessarily have the same musical tastes as you. First off we make the floor plan, this can take some time, working out how best to show off your horse’s strengths, putting the movements together so they flow and make sense to the judges. You almost want them to have a feeling that they know where you are going before you do it. Personally I like a symmetrical floor plan. Then you have to make sure it’s within the required time allowed, nothing worse than coming up with a great routine to find it is 20 seconds too long! Once we have that done, we film the floor plan and send it to the freestyle composer. Ralf Roder has composed my last 2 freestyles, he’s really easy to work with.  I give him an idea of what I want and then we spend time sending ideas back and forth until we are happy with the direction it is going and Ralf then puts a version together. My previous freestyle was 80’s divas, I wanted it to be music that I enjoyed listening to but also the judges could relate to, my rule was that if my dad hadn’t heard of it, it wasn’t going in! My current freestyle is based on lord of the dance by Michael Flatley, Patrick and my dad had been trying to convince me for years to use Irish music, finally I gave in and the response to the music has been amazing, people love it! 

Vancouver K – tell us about his personality? Has he any quirky traits or bad habits?  

Photo Credit: Katharina Lachs

Jp is a very special horse, I think if we would let him he’d be on the sofa with us watching tv at home. He has a huge personality and relates a lot of his character thorough his facial expressions. He has multiple bad habits, he knows he’s the most important horse in the yard! After riding, I take off jp’s bridle and he has a scratch, while he’s doing this I hang up his bridle and get him a treat. If I’m not quick enough he will literally follow me into the tack room for his treat (Patrick calls this free range dressage). If you are hand grazing him and he doesn’t think he has been out for long enough, if you try to direct him back towards the stable he will just park himself and refuse to move. He is very stubborn! If you want to wash him after work, he must first be allowed to drink from the hose, if you don’t he will make sure you get wet! 

Have you got any lucky charms that you bring with you when you are competing?

Photo Credit: Katharina Lachs

We have a whole support crew of teddies! One very special one in particular, known a little P, is a cuddly horse teddy that comes complete with hand made white bandages, fly veil embroidered with ‘jp’, and a numnah that has the olympic rings embroidered on to it along with the names of our friends who made it for us before going to Rio. He also has a necklace with all the lucky charms we were given before Rio. Little P has been to every show since and regularly gets covered in mash and various things as jp likes to share! 

Anyone else seriously considering getting a horse teddy of their own? No..just us? Alrighty then..

We’d like to say a massive thank you to Judy for answering our questions for us. We actually learned so much, we’re kind of raging we didn’t ask more! If you’d like to keep up to date with Judy & JP, make sure to follow their Instagram accounts (yes JP has his very own account!) @judyreynoldsirl and @jpvancouverk.

Lastly, a big thank you to Katharina Lachs for providing us some pictures. Make sure to follow her on Instagram, her pictures are stunning, @katharina_lachs_fotografie.

As always, thanks for reading,

Orla & Darielle

Grill The Equestrian – Holly Lenahan

It has been a while, but we are back with another Equestrian to Grill! This time we were delighted to welcome Holly Lenahan who some may call the Irish Queen of Equestrian Social Media.

We gave poor Holly some tough questions which we think has made for one of our most interesting Grill’s yet. With the emphasis mostly on the woman herself we give you the inside scoop, from training exercises, to what it’s really like being an equestrian influencer.

We certainly didn’t go easy on her…

The World of Social Media Fame

How do you manage your time so well? Between your studies, your horse, your personal life and your blog, how do you have time for it all? 

I’d love to say it’s because I have such excellent time management skills, but realistically, the only reason I’m able to keep it all going is because my parents are so supportive. Without my dad helping by feeding and looking after them while I’m at college, there would be no way I could keep on top of it. I’m also so lucky to be able to keep our horses where we live so we don’t have to pay for livery and as they live out on grass all year round, that also cuts out a lot of costs.

How do you maintain your online presence? Do you just go with the flow or do you plan and keep to a schedule?

There’s definitely no schedule to it! I used to try and upload a video on a set day every week but I soon gave up and upload when I have enough time to film a good quality video. That has been difficult with college and studying, but I do try and pre-record videos if I know I’ll be very busy for a few weeks. Posting to Instagram and YouTube is also very dependent on who I can rope into videoing for me. Sometimes I wish I had a clone who loved taking photos and videos as much as I do and would film me every day! But that’s not the most realistic dream…

How do you find keeping consistent and relevant content coming on your channels? 

I sometimes find it very hard to know what videos people actually want to see, especially as it changes all the time. At one point, my show vlogs were my most watched videos, whereas now people are more interested in cleaning and grooming videos. And I’m sure it’ll change again. I try to just film videos that I myself would like to watch and that’s worked well enough for me so far.

Do you receive much negativity online? When you do, how do you deal with it? 

Yes I definitely get my fair share of negative comments. I mostly ignore them or block them because deep down I know all they want is a reaction from me. But that can be very hard sometimes as the comments can be quite vicious and personal and it’s difficult not to defend myself. I think deleting comments is the best way to deal with them, but I’m always worried that people might think that I’m trying to hide something or that deleting them is a sign of guilt.. But hopefully people understand it’s not very nice to see these kinds of comments.

Do you often get recognised at events you attend? 

I’m starting to get recognised more often now at shows and even in non-horsey places which is such a surreal experience. Sometimes people message me later that day saying they saw me but were too nervous to say hi, but I always say they should’ve come over! I’m just as socially awkward as anyone else so there will be no judgement from me! It also makes me realise that there are actual real people behind the accounts that comment on my videos and like my pictures, which just makes it even more crazy to me.

Would you change anything about your social media success? 

Honestly not really. I’ve met so many lovely people and made lifelong friends from my social media and I’m also quite proud of the fact that I’ve never been involved in any online drama or fights. Being on social media has definitely been a positive experience for me and I think part of that is because I really started getting into it when I was a good bit older than a lot of people who start now.

If you could tell your followers one thing, what would it be? 

If you have a goal, you should do everything in your power to achieve it, but if it doesn’t come to fruition, then reflect on what you learned and focus on your next goal. Reaching your goal isn’t the most important thing, the journey is where you learn the most.

Holly’s Life & Horses

As a vet student, do you ever find yourself being way too cautious when any issues come up with your horses? 

It’s definitely a case of the more I learn, the more worried I get about the horses. Suddenly a lame horse could mean a million terrible things instead of the simple stone bruise it is. But I think it’s also a good thing to be more educated as prevention is better than cure and I am able to spot issues quicker.

Do you have any plans to compete in Cross Country or Eventing, or is showjumping your main priority? 

Showjumping will always be my main priority. Although I have done a bit of cross country and even a one day event years ago, our horses are mainly show jumpers so that’s what I’ll be sticking with.

What is one of your favourite training exercises? 

It may sound basic, but this exercise single handedly gave me an eye for a stride. Basically you set up two poles, a set amount of strides apart e.g. 5 strides. And you canter down it in 5, then 6, then 4, then 7 if you’re feeling really brave. The most important thing is to treat the poles as actual jumps and ask yourself, if that was a jump, would I have knocked it? It teaches you to get a good rhythm, meet your poles accurately and ride straight. It also teaches the horses to extend and collect and become more responsive. So many benefits and all you need is two poles!

Who in the industry do you look up to? 

Edwina Tops-Alexander is my absolute idol. She’s such a competitive and sympathetic rider and also Australian like myself which is always a bonus. And not to mention she had a child at the end of 2017 and was back at the top of the sport very soon afterwards, what a woman!

If you could train with any equestrian in the world for a day, who would it be? 

Edwina or Marcus Ehning. Marcus is an unbelievable rider. The connection he has with his horses allows him to appear motionless on their back. It’s always a pleasure to watch him compete.

Where do you see yourself 2 years from now? 

Oh no, I’ve been having a bit of a crisis lately about what I’m going to do when I graduate next year and then you come at me with this question! I can honestly say I don’t even know what country I’ll be in 2 years from now, let alone know what I’ll be doing. You’ll have to get back to me with that question!

What is your favourite thing about bringing on a young horse?

Young horses are my absolute favourite to work with. There’s no feeling more satisfying than when you’re trying to communicate something to a young horse and they have this eureka moment where it just clicks. They also make a lot of progress really fast so it’s such a rewarding experience.

Ok to wrap us up, here’s a hard one – if you had to sell all your horses except one..who would you choose to keep? 

That is an awful question! Fiona is the first horse that comes to mind because I don’t think she’d do very well in a lot of yards and I wouldn’t like to see her get passed around, but in this hypothetical situation, I’ll sell her to my dad to ride (Is that cheating? I don’t care). And I would keep Dali as the rest of the horses would easily sell to good homes and he is probably the horse with the most unknown potential at the moment so I’m really excited to get working with him.

We have to admit, we really did enjoy coming up with these questions. A massive thank you to Holly for taking part & we would like to wish you all the success in your studies over the summer.

Be sure to head over to Holly’s Instagram @hollylenahan & check out her Youtube account while you’re at it, She’s guaranteed to inspire you with her fantastic content, not to mention the videos of her Dad, if you havn’t seen them they are a must!!

Keep your eyes peeled for our next grilling coming up very very soon. We’re staying on the girl-power track with a very well known Irish record maker! Can you guess who’s up next?

Until Next time,

Darielle & Orla

Grill The Equestrian – Sarah Ennis, International Irish Eventer

We are delighted to welcome back our “Grill The Equestrian Series” for 2019! What better way to open the series other than with the lady of the moment Sarah Ennis. Her name is popping up everywhere & we could not resist getting our hands on her for a good Grilling!!

She is really setting the stakes high for woman in Eventing, putting woman in the spotlight, finally! Keep scrolling to find the inside scoop on Sarah, an inside to her buckets of horse knowledge.

About Sarah Ennis

Sarah Ennis

Member of many Irish international teams, Sarah is Ireland’s top event rider with a HSBC World Ranking of 18th, bringing over 20 years of experience with horses to her job as a competitor, trainer, coach and an established CIC*** event rider. She is married to Niki Potterton and has an 8 year old son called James. With all of her success she also runs a competition livery yard outside Dunboyne Co. Meath that specialises in buying and selling horses.

Congratulations on the amazing year you have had, We can only imagine how good it felt to see all your hard work get you a Team Silver medal at WEG, how does one prepare for such an event, tell us about your training routine?

Preparation for WEG was the exact same as for a CCI3*. We incorporated a a little extra fitness work as we knew the last 2 minutes was up a very steep hill. My week consisted of trying to fit in a lot of galloping work every 4 days, alternating between the beach and hill gallops. The weekly routine consisted of, 2-3 days flat work and 2 day of jumping or pole work. 

The Irish Team consisted of 3 men, Cathal Daniels, Sam Watson, Padraig McCarthy and yourself, give us the inside scoop who was the team messer!

They were all good fun to be fair, we certainly had a great time & made great memories together!

Irish Eventing Team, Cathal Daniels, Sam Watson, Padraig McCarthy & Sarah Ennis

Sally Corscadden, what a trainer! Can you tell us a top training tip you have learned that you live by?

Sally is just amazing! We are very lucky to have her with all of her experience & knowledge, she gives us 200% all the time.

What are the main things you look for when doing your cross country walk?

To know all your routes inside out. Take time to walk out your long routes as well as your short routes, you never know what line you will need to switch up to make up time or to hold back.

How does it feel realising you are one of the most sought after Irish Eventers? Has your success sank in?

It is still quite hard to believe I have a medal! But it feels really good, all the hard work payed off, and the response from everyone has been extremely positive!

World Equestrian Games, Tryon

Have you any unusual or superstitious rituals you do before an event?

I Don’t allow myself to do superstitions or have lucky items, a lot of people have a lucky whip or set of gloves. I go out, ride and hope all my hard work training pays off!

Which do you prefer in a horse – scope or bravery – As an eventer which should you be looking for?

I would probably say bravery, but realistically you really need both!!

What’s been your worst injury so far, how did your confidence cope getting back in the saddle?

Breaking my coccyx! This took a few weeks to heal before I could even sit in the saddle again. Eventers wear all the safety equipment, air-jackets, helmets but you can never but fully protected!

What advice would you give to anyone beginning to school a green horse in cross country? A lot of people suggest hunting a young horse to get them brave, would you agree?

I would suggest to start by walking and trotting them into the fences. Try have an experienced horse to give you a lead also. Alternatively if you know someone good at lunging this works well too. I would only hunt them if it were over hedge country, ditches in Ireland are way too big!

Who do you look upto in the equestrian world, who is your idol & what horse would you love to take a spin on!

Chris Bartle is an amazing rider to watch. He is the highest placed British Dressage rider in the Olympic Games to date. “La Biosthetique Sam” would be the horse I would love a spin on, his competition record alone is unbelievable.

What advice would you give to riders just starting their eventing careers?

I would advise on going out & getting as much advise you can. Put some time onto investing in lessons from an eventer, someone who has been there done that, the experience speaks volumes. Us eventers love to help!!

There you have it, the inside scoop on Sarah and our first Grill the Equestrian contender of 2019!

She will be in Killossery this weekend doing a seminar, if you haven’t already grab your tickets while you can & get a glimpse of the lady herself!

We have an exciting contender for our next “Grill the Equestrian” series, keep your eyes peeled, an inside look at a completely different riding discipline!

Until Next Time,


Grill the Equestrian – Ruth Boland, Veterinary Physiotherapist

We are onto the third installment of our “Grill The Equestrian” Series. We are delighted to introduce Ruth Boland, Veterinary Physiotherapist for this months grilling! We both have the pleasure of calling Ruth our go-to physio for our horses. She is a lady in high demand which speaks volumes to her talent. She has helped us immensely with keeping both Coco and Dante in tip top shape, so we just couldn’t resist grilling her for more information on the work she does.

How did you decide you wanted to get into Physiotherapy & what is your favourite thing about your job?

I think behind every equine physio is a very tricky horse! That feeling that a horse is struggling physically or experiencing pain but being unable to pin point it is what led me down this path. My favourite aspect of the job is that every single day is different and I am constantly being challenged!

Is there a part of your job that you don’t enjoy?Image may contain: 1 person

There are a few days a year that the weather is so bad that it would make an office job look appealing but thankfully they are very few and far between!

What are the most common injuries you have to treat?

Generalised back pain. Physically horses are just not built to carry us and carry out the types of work that we ask of them. Very often this results in a build-up of muscle tension or pain through the spine.

Do Physio’s have different qualifications and if so what ones should you be looking out for when looking for a physio?

Yes, there are several different routes to qualification. We are currently working towards regulation within the industry. Until then it is important that owners are mindful to choose therapists who are fully qualified and insured.

Photo 13-12-2017, 13 43 40_preview

Is it important to work together as a team with your dentist and farrier? For example, does the horses jaw & teeth have an effect on the rest of the body?

It is absolutely crucial to adopt a holistic approach where your physio works in conjunction with your dentist, farrier, saddle fitter and trainer (if appropriate). This team should be led by your vet and your therapist may need to refer your horse back to your vet for further investigation.

Yes, there are anatomical links between the jaw, shoulder and even the hind end. It is a fascinating bio-mechanical link which means that your horse cannot push effectively from behind if movement is restricted through the jaw!

What’s the one exercise you recommend every rider does with their horse?

There is no particular exercise that should be recommended for every horse but I always encourage riders to think about cross-training their horses. Where appropriate we want to include as much variety as possible in a horse’s regime. This will result in healthier muscles, joints and tendons which will be less prone to injury. Try not to school on a surface every day. Think about whether you could school on grass or go for a hack? Maybe you could lunge your horse once a week or go for a canter up a hill? Have you done any pole work lately or ground work? Variety is key! Your physio can help you come up with an exercise programme for your horse.

What signs should you been looking out for to suggest that your horse is in need of a Photo 03-10-2018, 14 21 23physio, how often should your horse see a physio?

You should be looking for subtle changes in behaviour and movement. Has your horse started to buck? Have they become cross when you approach with the saddle or tighten the girth or have your canter transitions become sticky on a particular rein? How often they are treated depends on how much work the horse is doing, its stage of development and its medical history. I have well developed riding club horses that I treat annually and 1.50m jumpers that I see weekly. Your horse should be assessed by a qualified individual and they will suggest appropriate treatment intervals for your horse.

If you could tell riders the one thing not to do with their horse, what would it be?

I am not a fan of “gadgets” such as draw reins, bungees etc. Although they may have a place in very experienced hands for certain horses they are all too often used to cover up a bigger problem. The main thing for owners to understand is that muscle does not become strong overnight. If your horse will not work in an outline, then it has not built the correct muscles to support this way of going. A gadget will force them into this outline and unless used with great skill and sympathy you run the risk of fatiguing the muscles you are hoping to build, making them sore and therefore less likely to be used correctly during the subsequent training sessions.

What is the most interesting thing you learned from your time as an equine physiotherapist?

I am always amazed by just how tolerant horses are. As prey animals horses have a genetically programmed instinct to cover up signs of pain. The most important thing that I have learnt is that we really need to pay attention to the small changes in behaviour and movement as horses will endure a surprising amount of discomfort before resorting to “naughty” behaviour.

What exercises should you be doing with your horse on a weekly basis for stretching out their muscles properly?

10604691_789732707746042_1967904979144743255_oCarrot stretches are useful for stretching muscles through the neck and back but also for building core strength. As the extent of the stretch is controlled by the horse they are a safe way of building flexibility and strength. This booklet produced by Gillian Higgins is a great resource for owners:

Well there you have it, Ruth has basically given us a mini bible on equine physio, with some great points to really make you think & be aware of your horse’s needs.

Head on over to Ruth’s facebook page to keep up to date with her and be sure to check out her website for treatment plans & pricing.

Until Next time,

Darielle & Orla