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HORSE SCOUT REAL: IRELAND v BRITAIN by EOIN GALLAGHER

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HORSE SCOUT REAL: IRELAND v BRITAIN  by EOIN GALLAGHER

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Irish International Showjumper Eoin Gallagher has ridden at Grand Prix level and has been producing sports horses for 15 years. He runs a yard in the heart of Lincolnshire, which focuses on producing showjumpers and training riders. He won a training bursary with Stephen Hadley as a Junior and learnt his trade both on the Irish and the British showjumping circuit. Eoin has worked for other professionals as well as establishing his own equestrian business in both countries. Here he brings to light, the difference between the Equestrian world in the UK and Ireland.

“I came from a non horsey family in the North of Ireland but started riding at the local riding school and then the Pony Club. I first came to the UK as a junior rider but my first riding job over here was with Tim Brown. After working for Dermott Lennon back in Ireland and running my own equestrian business, I moved back to the UK to set up a yard.

In general, the equestrian world in Ireland is comprised of less professionals and it is made up more from private individuals who often have normal jobs but would produce a few horses on the side. Most of the Irish professional riders have moved abroad- to the UK, Europe or America.

What is great for a professional rider in the UK is the number of shows. You could go to a show six days a week if you wanted to. There is a greater variation of shows accommodating more levels and disciplines. In Ireland, there are not so many midweek shows, they tend to be on the weekend. This means that you go to shows every weekend where as in the UK, the midweek shows allow me to spend some time at home on weekends to train amateur riders. It is easier being closer to Central Europe too, where the CSI shows are better and there are more of them.

In the UK, the biggest thing is that there is more Equestrian population. So far more people doing it so that obviously presents more opportunities for selling horses and training riders. The weather is better too!

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The Equestrian population in the UK has it’s downsides though and could learn a few lessons from Ireland. Firstly, I think in Ireland it is a better system for producing young horses. There is a big emphasis on age classes and that is why we have so many getting to the World Young Horse Championships in Lanaken and being successful. There is a series for the young horses which runs through the spring and summer, it comprises eight two day shows for five, six and seven year olds. The five year olds don’t have to jump off and the double clears share 3150 euros. The six year old and seven year old classes do have jump offs and the total prize fund for each is 2700 euro at each show. This series is backed and promoted by Horse Sport Ireland and it has had a major impact on how the industry in Ireland has been structured over the past decade from the breeders all the way through production and finally sales. The extra prize money has meant that riders with good enough young horses have been able to produce them longer without having to sell at a younger age to earn a living. The horses then enter a different price bracket as seven year olds and inevitably returns a much higher price back to the owner and rider.

There is also a 1.50m Grand Prix series which runs for nine shows and has a prize fund of 10,000 Euro for each show. Many of these classes overlap with the Young Horse Series and the higher placed riders in the league are invited to jump the CSI***** at Dublin in August.

In the UK we have the Newcomers and Foxhunter system rather than defining a horse by it’s age, which means you have 10 year olds jumping Foxhunters alongside six years olds. It takes away from the desired progression of the Young Horse with many riders simply chasing the dream of jumping at HOYS which can sometimes come at a detrimental cost to a horse’s long term career.

In Ireland there may not be such a large Equestrian population but there is more of a “horse culture” in our heritage. You only have to look at the massive attendance to Dublin Horse Show, where many of the spectators don’t even own a horse but there is just a national interest in Equestrianism. Last year was my first time attending the British Nations Cup and I was shocked and disappointed at the lack of public attendance and support for such a prestigious class. I’ve grown up knowing that Friday at Dublin horse show was always a sell out for the Nations Cup.

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In the UK, it is different. You sometimes have new people coming in from outside the industry and they don’t always understand it in a practical sense. In some cases they are led more by litigation and blame culture and everything has to be insured. So for selling horses, it has become a really difficult market. Good horses are failing vetting’s because, vets are scared of being sued and private people are afraid to buy from what they term as “dealers”. For example, I don’t class myself as a “dealer” in the way it is construed. I produce horses professionally to sell which involves training and educating them. Often with these buyers, they are naturally suspicious and assume that because they are buying from a commercial yard, we must all be like dodgy used car salesmen. It is a difficult time for professionals like myself.

I like Irish bred horses and my current top horse Princess Leah, is Irish bred by Ard VDL Douglas. But my belief is that a good horse, is a good horse, however it is bred. I prefer a blood type horse so tend to pick modern continental bloodlines like KWPN, Belgium (BWP) and even French (SF). Heartbreaker and his sons have sired some prolific horses at top level as have Clinton, Cornet Obolensky and Kannan.”

HORSE SCOUT

“This has brought a new level of marketing and services to horse selling and promoting your Equestrian business. I like the way the website includes so much detail so you can upload lots of photos, videos and information.

It has a clean, fresh look whilst some of the others have barely changed their look over the years.

It is also managed by people who are equestrian professionals themselves and actively involved in the industry. So they understand at board level, what the demands really are”.

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Written by Ellie Kelly

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Tina Cook

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Tina Cook

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Tina Cook is one of Britain’s most successful event riders and has been a mainstay on Team GB since the early 1990’s. She is a three-time Olympic medallist, winning individual and team bronze in 2008 and team silver in London 2012 as well as winning a further 11 medals at World and European Championships. She was part of the gold medal winning team at last year’s European Championships with Billy the Red.

Surprisingly, Tina reveals that some of her best horses have seemed “fairly average” as young horses. The good news is for us budding event riders is that Tina believes that you do not need to start with a massive budget to find a suitable event horse, even if have big ambitions. “In my experience it’s all about having a horse with a good brain” she says. “Then by creating a trusting partnership and having good management as I have done with all my top horses, look at where it can get you.”

When I look back on my top horses they have not necessarily been the most outstanding young horses, but what they have all had in common is that they have had a trainable, competitive brain and an attitude to want to please me.”

Buying British and buying blood.

Tina has never felt the need to look abroad and has bought the majority of her horses in the UK. Many have come from bloodstock sales or via her brother, the well -known racehorse trainer Nick Gifford.  “I rarely go out and look to buy horses, they tend to find me, but when I do, I have always leaned towards Thoroughbreds. As I am looking for championship and potential four star horses, the more thoroughbred blood the better, and certainly nothing less than 60% blood. It is also the brain I am used to working with so it suits me best.

The blood horses may be more average in their movement but they tend to stay sounder due to their movement being more economical and effortless. I look for an easy action when they are cantering and they must be able to travel between fences. When a horse finds galloping and stamina easy, it’s not only one less thing you have to teach them and work on, but they are the ones that find the extra gear to get themselves out of trouble, even when they are tired. It is when horses are tired that injuries happen.”

Less is more

“We are lucky in eventing because in many cases, it’s Mr Average who can make it to the top, in a way that probably isn’t possible in dressage or show-jumping where scope and movement is vital.

There have been many times in my 30 year career, when I have had flashy moving horses with huge scope and I’ve thought it was my next Olympic horse but then they have never stayed sound or proved too be difficult to produce for eventing.

I see this a lot with Junior riders. They have a taste of championship level and with some money behind them, they think they need something that looks flashy and throws a big jump. But these horses are more difficult to ride because they are bigger and rangier and use more effort.

Through my career, I haven’t had big money to spend and it’s been a case of making the best of what I’ve got. Smithstown Lad was a 16 hand hunter hireling from Ireland. Together we were on the Junior and Young Rider teams, he took me to my first Badminton and finished 4th at Burghley.

Even Miners Frolic as a young horse had a very “Thoroughbred” technique over a fence and he was naturally the bravest, but he had a lovely attitude. So we had to work on trust and technique. Then Star Witness was a racing reject and I never thought he would make a four-star horse. But he has always tried his heart out. He has now done four, four-stars with a top ten placing in every one.”

I have produced almost all of mine from scratch. Until I got to my 40s and some owners wanted to buy something to go to the Olympics so we found Billy the Red through an agent. This was the first time I have ever done this and was the first I have ridden with eventing form, as he had done a few Intermediates.

“It is definitely important and I am a big believer in “no foot, no horse”. I have had horses with bad feet and they can stay sound if managed very carefully. When buying, I wouldn’t necessarily dismiss poor conformation or weakness if I liked everything else. A lot of my horses have had issues and I have found a way to keep them on track through the levels. It’s partly because I have not had lots to spend but also because I am stubborn. If a horse has some talent and a good attitude and I see them improving, that really excites me and I want to keep going, even if they do face physical challenges.”

Producing the Prize

Tina notes that however talented a horse, there is no substitution for good horsemanship. “Yes, everybody has upped their game, but I believe success comes more from the right training and good management more than relying on exceptionally talented horses. Look at Michael Jung. He turned both Sam and Fischer Rocana from glorified Young Rider horses into four-star winners.

I am very strict with making sure they are really established at one level before I move up to the next, even if that means spending more than a season before you step up. They don’t always have to be jumping big fences and going flat out to get the time in every event. Very few horses can cope with that both mentally and physically on every occasion. So I save that for when it really matters.

The most important thing is that horses enjoy it. It never works to bully a horse into doing something, they will eventually become unstuck because they won’t trust their rider. They have to want to please me rather than be frightened.”

 

Kit that powers Tina’s success

We always want to know what the latest “tack trends” plus the brands favoured by professionals. So here are Tina’s top choices:

“All my horses have been fed on Red Mills feed for years now and my brother Nick has all his racehorses on it too.

I ride in Voltaire saddles and virtually live in my Ariat boots and Gatehouse hat. For the horses I use Prolite boots for every day and competition, and as my horses spend a lot of time in the field we have plenty of rugs from Jumpers Horseline.”

 

Written by Ellie Kelly