Surviving The AIRC Riding Festival with Dante

What an experience the festival was, I mean like WOW! A massive thank you to AIRC & Mullingar Equestrian for all the organising, with over 2,000 entries/competitors, I think they deserve some recognition on all the hard work they put in to organising such an amazing event, not to mention all the volunteers & stewards keeping the show on the road over the weekend!

Both myself & Orla are part of Abbeylands Riding Club, and I think I can speak for both of us when I say we are thrilled to be part of such a fantastic, fun & helpful club! With a jam packed weekend full of individual showjumping & team showjumping, keep scrolling to see how we took on such a big weekend….

Arriving at The Venue – Mullingar Equestrian

This was our first ever Riding club festival, and being overwhelmed was quite an understatement. I didn’t know what to expect, what to pack or where to even go at times. We were lucky to have a hard core Riding Club “festivaler” with us to guide us along the way over the weekend. I think personally until you find your stable, unload all your belongings, grab some fresh water & haylage for your horse it really doesn’t sink in that your physically staying put for the coming days to compete! 

The Stables

To be honest, they were perfect. We paid €65 for two nights stabling which included bedding. It was great value & the stables themselves where quite spacious. Poor Dante being so big he took a while to get in to the stable at first, he had to duck his head under the cover going in! Once in though he was happy. He is not the best horse in the stable – he is filthy but the shavings were very generous & we managed the weekend perfectly.

The Grounds

Walking around the venue to get our bearings was quite something, the facilities in Mullingar are phenomenal. An International sand & International grass arena, 2 additional sand 1 & 2 arenas & not to forget all the warm up arenas & grass arenas. The venue itself was certainly stunning & a great choice for the festival if I do say so myself. With everything within walking distance of each other you don’t have to venture to far around the grounds whether it be getting your horse, or a bite to eat! 

Warming Up at The Venue

Riding on the Friday evening when we arrived was a major bonus. We were allowed the use of any of the 3 warm up sand arena’s which really helped to settle the horses into their surroundings that bit better. I think it really helped to settle their heads, rather than looking out of their stables and hearing & seeing limited amounts.

Dante was quite calm & relaxed warming up on Friday.

Day 1 – Individual Showjumping

Individual jumping was up first for myself & Dante on the Saturday. We arrived most mornings at 8.30/9.00am at the venue to feed & to do our course walks prior to the event starting. Course walks are so important, counting your strides and planning out your approaches to & from fences is key in riding that perfect round. I was thrilled with the course that was set in place for Day 1, it was mostly off the left rein, our better rein so there where no excuses!

Nerves to be honest didn’t play a massive role for us over the weekend. I didn’t have great or any high expectations set out for us at all as I only really had a full week to prepare so I didn’t bother putting that pressure on myself to “perform”. Going & having fun with Dante was my aim for the weekend.

Walking down to the arena to warm up was quite intimidating, people watching you, you watching people. Trying to remember your course all whilst sitting on Dante, who for once had that spring in his step, I think for him when he gets plaited up he knows its show time so he turns on! 

With a good 30/40 minutes warm up under our belt, jumping a handful of cross poles, verticals & Oxers I was set to head in. This is where I normally start to think “fuck, why do I do this” but this time I had a lot more confidence not only in myself, but in Dante. I was ready to go, I was ready to tackle this course of fences. 

The bell rang & away we went, over fences 1-3 with unbelievable rhythm & control, Dante was switched on and he was listening to what I was asking him to do. On our approach to the combination I set him in to deep in order for him not to get close to the second jump & well I quite frankly put him in way to deep to say the least, he tried to lift up over but ended up knocking a pole. He continued on after that as cautious as I have ever seen him, the rhythm he had was what I had been looking for these past few weeks & with that I was ecstatic with his round! Not all clear rounds are perfect, and not all knocks are careless. Sometimes you get a lot more out of rounds you don’t jump clear in. So I was thrilled!! 

Pro’s & Con’s of Day 1

  • We finally found our rhythm
  • We need to shorten our reins

Day 2 – Team Show Jumping

On such a high from Day 1 of the festival I had the morning of Day 2 to relax and chill out (get over a slight hangover) before my team jumping started, our allocated slot was at 4pm. With Dante being stabled all day on the Sunday prior to my jumping, I hand fed him for the guts of an hour to let him stretch his legs before I brought him out that evening. 

I don’t know how or what happened, but dear lord Dante had quite an attitude about doing some hard work on the Sunday.

A massive thank you to all the ladies from Cheval Riding Club who helped with holding him & helped in trying to put the plaiting bands back in his mane he just wouldn’t stand still, all the help was appreciated!(Note to self hire assistants for next year!!)

I knew our Day 2 of jumping was not going to be like Day 1. When he gets in these attitudes, I have learned that I never win. No matter what I do! 

Things only got worse. I arrived into the warm up, with 30/40 minutes allocated to get his head back in the game only to be told 5 minutes in that I had to go in to jump, I was quite rushed & pushed in to jump to be honest & looking back on it I wish I stood my ground and told then I wasn’t ready. 

We were jumping in the team Showjumping, which consisted each of our 4 team members jumping fences 1-12 twice.Not one after another, you jumped your second round after everyone else on you team had jumped their first. 

Our second round was a lot smoother. Not better, but more controllable. I just get on with it & pick the good parts about thing such as how calm & collected he was walking in & out of the arena!

Pro’s & Con’s of Day 2

  • A warm up of at least 30 minutes is needed before jumping
  • Stand your ground, if you are not ready don’t allow yourself to be rushed
  • He relaxed for his second round which was always going to be a bonus!

Do’s & Don’t’s – The Hidden Gems

  • Forever Equestrian at Mullingar Equestrian Center – Holy Fork. I think I spent €60 in total & walked out with so many bargains! Including numnahs, fly veils & a new jacket for myself. Be sure to add this to your list of must do’s!! Guaranteed to walk out with beautiful additions to your horsey collections.
  • Whilst it was a national show, try not to forget your riding etiquette at times, such as warm up arena’s left hand to left hand, only walking your horse in designated zones, no hurling abuse at each other going into arena’s (guilty!) 
  • The Local Mullingar Taxi Men – Note to self don’t have any craic in the taxi, you will only end up with the taxi man hurling abuse at you from his car when being dropped back to the hotel. Turns out he really took offence to Orla being called a wild whore,  Poor guy must of been having a bad day.
  • I think this really saved our asses over the Friday & Saturday, but the venue doesn’t serve drink until 6pm! Unless you have your own with you, there is zero drinkage available. You can be treated to some fine cuisine from the food trucks & bars around the venue itself, the pizza van was a stern favourite.

To summarise, the AIRC Riding Club Festival was unbelievable. I highly recommend you join your local club for next year so you can be making that journey with your horse or pony. If you are planning on attending any other big shows over the summer, this one certainly sets you up nicely.

A massive thank you to all the stewards & helpers over the weekend, the event itself ran so smoothly & without a blimp! It’s incredable what you can do when you set your mind to it, & its even nicer to see the support from people you dont even know, to everyone we chatted to over the weekend thank you, you really made our festival weekend one to remember!

A massive thank you to our 4th team member Emma from Rathangan Riding Club for joining very last minute in our team showjumping on Sunday maybe next year we can get better team results!

For myself & Dante, who know whats next for us. Our training schedule is currently in place, Watch this space, but for now why not enjoy our video below of our time at the festival!

Until next time,


Grill the Equestrian – Gonzalo Busca Roca

Up next for our “Grill The Equestrian” Series is International Spanish Rider Gonzalo Busca Roca. We had the pleasure of meeting Gonzalo at Hickstead back in June. It is safe to say that we definitely made a lasting impression, especially considering this interview took place in the bar after a donkey derby!

Have a read below to find out a bit more about Gonzalo, and be sure to keep up with Gonzalo and  follow him over on his social media channels all links are below!

**Some Graphic Questions at the end. LOL scroll to read! **

Who is Gonzalo Busca Roca? 

Rider and fireman, Gonzalo Busca Roca lives in the North of Spain close to the French border. A hard worker, 2018 has been a really good year. Some of the highlights were representing Spain in the Nations Cup in Lisbon, placing 4th in the CSIO Gijon 5* Speed Class, placing 5th in the Spanish Championship, winning the 3 GP in National 4*, and competing in the Hickstead Derby.

What’s your warm-up routine for a competition?

I like to take a bit of time to let them relax before a competition. I don’t like being late or under pressure, I like letting the horses relax and not spend too long in the stable. They live in the stable all day, I dont like this. I tend to hack them a good bit in the morning, let them stretch out. Before I go in the ring, I do a 40 minute warm up, sometimes the horses need to be lunged before hand it depends on their temperament.

How many horses are you competing at the moment & how many horses on average do you compete throughout the year? 

I am competing 3 Horses at Hickstead – 2 jumping international classes and a nice 7 year old in the national classes. Throughout the year I have 7/8 horses, a lot of young horses too. 

Whats been your favourite show of the year so far?

Hickstead without a doubt. They have strong courses, the jumps are heavy. It’s a show where you know you & your horses will be challenged.  

We have young horses, what would be your best advice for people producing young horses?

Normally the horses I have in big competition I have had since they were young. If they’re good, keep going. Go slow with them, give them time, get them experience in the ring. I dont like to go too fast with them. Go higher when they’re ready and confident. If they had 50 good experiences before a bad experience it doesn’t matter, just try again.

Do you teach any young riders at home in Spain?

Not at the moment, I used to. I got so busy with my own horses so I didn’t have time. I just help friends out when they ask me and give them my advice.

What advice would you have for Darielle being quite small in comparison to her horse to help hold him together, should she be using a stronger bit as some people have suggested?

You need to go to a gym, you need strong legs. Young horses if they have a good mouth to ride them properly, stick to working him in a snaffle. Sometimes stronger bits do more damage.  

What would you do with a horse who suddenly becomes spooky and starts refusing similar to Coco?

First thing, I would lunge her every time I ride her. The more fresh the horse is the more spooky they can be. The horse needs to be relaxed. When you get a mare you need to be calm. If she doesn’t like something, she needs to do it every day. 


“So enough of the shitty technical questions!! Lets get the goss!”

Who is your favourite female rider at the minute?

Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum- I think shes really talented and her horses work well for her.

Photo 08-10-2018, 10 56 09Which equestrian disciplines do you prefer the most? And which do  you hate the most? 

Showjumping, I think it would be fun to try eventing. Dressage for competition would be boring but you need dressage for showjumping to make sure the horse is up in your hands.

Who’s your biggest rival on the scene right now? 

Shane Breen is the man to beat at a show.

Out of all the shows you’ve gone to, who causes the most trouble? Men or Women?

I can’t say … women ……

Do your“man bits” hurt when you land after a jump? Do you wear a cup?

No, normally when I get on the horse I can’t feel anything. You just need to be careful. (a lot of laughter was had with this question, as we finished)

Well there you have it, the ins & outs on everything you need to know about Gonzalo & his man bits! Be sure to give him a follow over on his social media channels including his  Instagram & Facebook page!

Who will we have coming up next month? Be sure to keep an eye on our Instagram for some hints!

Keep those eyes peeled! And of course, if you want us to grill someone you think would be of interest, let us know in the comments below or drop us a quick email! 

Thanks for reading, 

Darielle & Orla

Grill the Equestrian – Eva O’Shaughnessy

Welcome to the first of our ‘Grill the Equestrian‘ Series where we’ll be asking equestrian riders and professionals all the questions on your mind!

To kick it off we decided to start with a local, up and coming Irish showjumper, Eva O’Shaughnessy, who just competed in her very first overseas international event. When you travel to an international show in another country and see someone waving the Irish Flag like a boss, how could we resist not asking a few questions? 

Who is Eva O’Shaughnessy? 

I’m 35, I have a full time job and the horses are my every other breathing hour. I have 4, a pony for my niece and nephew (to ensure at least one member of my family is into horses :)), my 17 year old mare Rogue(Haven Supreme) who taught me everything I know and who I competed to 1.10, her yearling by Ringfort Cruise – Ruby (Supreme Endevour) and my mare that I currently compete on; Crvaghs Diamant Taille


When did you first start riding? 

I was 10 and my aunt surprised me with a lesson in Greenhills equestrian for my Birthday, I didn’t get my own horse until I was 18 

Tell us about Crvaghs Diamant Taille 

Diamond (stable name) is a 12 year old 15.3 ISH mare by a son of Flagmount King out of a little TB mare. I have known her since she was 2, I broke her and then bought her from the owner when she was 6. She’s always been a challenging, hot, quirky, sensitive, little horse, she hates men, strangers and anyone who doesn’t ask nicely and she likes to express her upset by dancing on 2 legs.  We’ve been through the wars together but its all worked out and she’s my horse of a lifetime

Tell us about your coach 

My coach is basically superwoman. She is based in JAG equestrian in Winterdown Stud in Naas Co Kildare. Over the years I’ve tried many different top jumpers and stuck with IMG_0287none until I met Julieann. I’m about 5 years with her now and she’s brought me from an average 1m rider(on another horse) to a (I’ve been recently told) “make it look very easy” confident 1.20 rider on my current horse. Julianne teaches each rider to their and their horses true ability. She’s never negative always constructive and sets down goals and plans. She tells you the truth but is always kind about it. We trained like crazy, I usually do lessons once a fortnight or weekly when the bank account allows but we went to 2 a week in the weeks before Hickstead.

What type of exercises do you do at home to train your horse for big events? 

My mare is hot so we do a lot of flat and hacking for fitness, we jump once a week and then do pole work another day. I have no go to exercise as I like to mix it up, horses along with riders get bored so its important to switch it up all the time. We school over courses at least once a week and work on the most important parts of flatwork, rhythm and straightness the rest of the time. These things are key over everything else

The Road to Hickstead

How did you prepare at home for such a big event like Hickstead?

A lot of hard work. I work full time so riding and competing every evening after work and weekends. Dedication and consistency is key in this sport you need to be at it all the time exposing yourself to big shows, training hard; flat work, pole work, or jumping you have to be dedicated you cant do it part time if you want to be successful.


How did Diamond handle the journey? 

She was great, it was about 14 hours on the truck. She has a history of being an odd/bad traveller but the transport company looked after her really well and she arrived pretty much the way I’d sent her

Was there anything you were most worried about?

The travelling for her consumed my mind until I saw her in her stable in Hickstead. Once she was there my aim was to just enjoy myself. I stuck to the heights I was most comfortable jumping

Did you meet many other international riders at Hickstead? Who were you most awestruck by (if any)?

 I didn’t really get to meet anyone we were so busy with our own horses. I know Paddy O’D so bumped into him a few times passing to and from the ring. We all have our heroes, I do too, but I’m in awe of all riders, for any of us to get up on horses and do what we do at any level is a huge accomplishment from the smallest jumps to the biggest. 

How does the rest of the year look for you and Diamond?

 Busy 🙂 we had the national amateur champs in Wexford equestrian a few weeks agoIMG_0291and from now to Oct/Nov is back to back with the goal being to qualify for the Cavan International Show. 

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

God Knows 🙂 still riding horses, hopefully still loving it and still driven to be the best I can be. Id like to breed a bit more and start producing those horses but we will just have to wait and see.

We hope you enjoyed learning all about Eva and Diamond. If you’d like to keep up with them on their equestrian journey, be sure to follow her on Instagram @eveoshock or over on JAG Equestrian’s Facebook page where there are regular updates on Team JAG’s riders. 

Keep your eyes peeled for our next installment, do you have anyone you would like to hear from? Let us know in the comments below! 

Thanks for reading,

Darielle & Orla