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First off, can you describe a particular moment where you fell in love with horses?
From my earliest memories, horses were part of my life. My mother always rode—she competed for Ireland and placed at Badminton and Burghley and my father ran the Aston Upthorpe Stud and bred some great flat horses. Back then, my dream was to be the first girl to win the Grand National and Badminton. I spent ages building courses in the garden for me to jump and race courses out of straw in the field out for the horses—of course, I was always the winner of these!
Now you have a daughter, Mary—does she enjoy being around horses?
My daughter Mary is very relaxed around horses. She loves to go off on her pony, tie him to a tree, have a picnic, and ride home. She is much more laid back than I was. I wanted to win but she wants a sunny day and a good lunch! I'm sure the genes will kick in soon. We won a gymkhana competition the other day when the first prize was Haribo sweeties and I’ve never seen her kick so hard!
It is quite difficult at times. It’s a bit more expensive as I have needed childcare. I've hated doing that, but you need to know your child is safe and still be able to train. On the plus side though, Mary has attended lots of great competitions, hung out with the other children, and traveled to beautiful places.
Can you walk us through a typical day in your life?
Normally I’ll pop my head into the yard first and make sure everything is going well. After, I give Mary her breakfast, take her to school, and be on my first horse at 9AM. Before marriage and children, I could roll that back two hours but life changes! I try and get the horses to jumping and dressage shows as much as possible, with cross-country schooling whenever needed. I usually do canter/fitness work every four days in the fields around my yard or the deer park down the road. Freedom and a natural diet are important. Horses need to be horses.
In the past few months, eventing has been scrutinised for safety concerns after several deaths of riders as well as their mounts at several large events. Would you mind sharing your opinions in response to the state of eventing right now?
Eventing is an amazing, addicting sport. All the people involved—the fence judges, organisers, riders—are what makes it special. The deaths in our sport are incredibly sad, and although we accept that it is a dangerous sport, it is still not acceptable. I know that the FEI and other organisations are doing everything they can to investigate accidents and prevent these situations from occurring again. The more safety in rider gear, education, and fence safety that can be taught worldwide the better. We are all seeking the greater good—to continue a special sport with special people - safely.
The people, the adrenaline, and most of all, the horses. For me, the greatest thrill is taking a horse from novice to team level. And of course, to have the ability to ride at the international level is so special. I am very lucky and very grateful.
What are some of your goals as a member of the Athletes’ Committee?
The Athletes’ Committee is invaluable as it allows us to share and appreciate ideas from other disciplines. We are all different, but we can share ways to promote our sports, work together, and become a more united front to the public, especially with the Olympics coming up.
Besides training and competing, what do you like to do in your free-time?
I love cooking, gardening, and throwing parties—feeding people, giving them a drink, some good music and dancing. I also enjoy travelling and I love the sea.
What’s something that fans may not know about you?
I have a degree in Zoology from Oxford University and my teenage ambition was to become the next David Attenborough!
Coffee or tea? Both.
Cats or dogs? Both.
Favourite song at the moment? “My Silver Lining” by First Aid Kit.
What’s a saying or quote that you live by? I have two: “Keep it black and white,” which is perfect for children and horses, and “Do as you would be done by.”
Last movie you saw? “The Secret Life of Pets” with my daughter.
Text by Kat Neis
Photography by David Sinclair for FEI