Latest News

Dates for UK para dressage competitions in 2006-7 published. More...

Read US Grade IV rider, Robin Brueckmann's report from Belgium CPDI***

November news


October 2006

New Uniforms for Irish Para Dressage Squad

Thanks to my sister, the Irish para dressage riders have new uniforms to wear at internationals. Portwest clothing, a corporate workwear company from Westport, County Mayo in Ireland are providing smart polo shirts, baseball caps and jackets all embroidered with the Irish flag. Many thanks to Owen Hughes and Fiona Corcoran of Portwest for arranging this.

Portwest ujackets

Also, Ali spotted some lovely pale green polo shirts in the Joules Spring & Summer collection and Joules Clothing have agreed to give us various garments in green and orange (or as Joules call it 'Parrot' and 'Mandarin') to complete our team outfits!



Lots of the riders in Belgium asked where we had got our clothing and we were very proud to be wearing our fabulous new Joules kit - you could spot the Irish a mile off in our bright green and orange!

Diary of a Trip to Belgium

Paralympic Qualifier, Moorsele  28 Sept – 1st Oct 2006

Belgium was an exciting yet quite daunting prospect.  It was the first time that I had ridden there and we knew that nearly 100 riders from all over the world were expected to take part.  I was proud to have been selected to ride for Ireland, and I felt that a place in the top 12 in Grade III would be a realistic prospect.

The Journey

The paperwork seemed endless and we were grateful for help with this from Mark and James who are both used to transporting horses to and from the Continent.  At last me, Hayley, Mum and Indi of course were ready for off.  We left on the Monday morning and were to meet the others at the Blue Barn Equestrian Centre in Kent where we had overnight stabling booked. 

Adeline, Eilish and Ailsa had all driven from South Wales with her mare, Oberlina, in the trailer – Adeline and Eilish had actually set off on the Sunday from Ireland.

Mum drove the horsebox with Indi and Oberlina on board – the horses seemed very relaxed and behaved well, and the crossing was smooth.  The drive to Moorsele was not quite so successful and we managed to get completely lost on a narrow country road in Flanders – resulting in Mum backing the lorry into a tree while turning round!  Anyway, we eventually arrived at Zilveren Spoor (the Equestrian Centre in Moorsele) but not by the straightforward route!

It took some time to find our stables and get settled in but we were lucky to have a couple of nice stables for the horses (this was not the case for everyone) – we shared a stable block with the Brazilians who had brought their horses over from South America - they all had huge trunks full of their equipment including a mattress for the groom to sleep on! 

Stables in Moorsele

Our stables were close to one end of the block which gave the horses a breath of fresh air, which was good as the weather was quite warm, and we had plenty of room for all our horse gear and Eilish’s buggy.  The buggy proved to be very popular with everyone and saved our tired legs when going back and forth to the horse box.  It was also great having the horse box nearby where we could lock saddles and other tack away, have a ‘free cuppa’ whenever we liked and a place to rest – Eilish enjoyed a peaceful time in the luton on several occasions – even a trip to fill up with diesel did not disturb her sleep.  It’s surprising how tiring it is at international competitions – the travelling really takes it out of you.

Once the horses were settled the first group set off for the hotel – little did Hayley, Mum and me know that Adeline and Ailsa were not going to find their way back to pick us up!  Eventually a taxi was sent from the hotel to pick everyone up and it was after 10pm before we had dinner.  The hotel was great with lovely rooms, nice hot baths, delicious breakfasts and very helpful staff.  The one disadvantage was it was over half an hour to drive to Zilveren Spoor and it was not easy to find the way, although it did get easier as the week progressed.

Donie Arrives

Wednesday was the day Donie McNamara, our trainer, was arriving – it was very foggy at the airport and after several attempts to land, his plane eventually landed at another airport and he was brought back by bus.  He just arrived in time for Eilish and me to have a lesson and then Hayley plaited and tidied the horses ready for the trot up – this all went to plan and both horses looked very smart and in good form.  There were some dodgy trot ups and several horses were spun and probably a few sneaked through on the soft sand! 

Trot up

This was the first day that we had worn our new uniforms from Joules Clothing and Portwest and everyone was thrilled with the outfits.  The bright ‘parrot green’ Joules polos stood out from all corners of the equestrian centre and it was always easy to spot the Irish contingent – also so many of the other countries came to say how much they liked the clothing and were extremely jealous that Joules had been so generous. 

Irish uniforms from Joules

We can’t wait to wear our contrasting orange bodywarmers as well, but the weather was really warm in Belgium and we rarely wore anything over polo shirts and the lovely zip up sweatshirts.  It was too warm for us to wear our warm jackets that had been donated by Portwest, but we look forward to wearing them through the winter.

Time to Socialise

Lunch and evening meals were eaten at the equestrian centre which had excellent facilities for accommodating a lot of people – we generally enjoyed the food although the choice was limited - so maybe a few less chips and a few more salads would have been better for us super-fit athletes!  We certainly enjoyed the little extras – ice creams were delicious – thank you Adeline, and some people enjoyed the odd G & T in the evenings too. 

social evenings

This was the time to meet and chat with other people – we were pleased to make contact again with Jen and Vi McKenzie from Canada and there were lots of other people we have met at events over the last few years.  Donie is well known by everyone and he is a great boost to the morale and confidence of the Irish squad. We even had time for a little retail therapy at the excellent tack shop. I bought some nice grey and black breeches and we all (even Donie!) bought some knee length pop-socks which are excellent for wearing inside long leather boots. We bought Ali an 'Anky' fleece scarf which she now wears all the time - it was about the only thing we could afford from the superb Anky range!

The Competition

The first day of the competition went amazingly well and both me and Eilish had excellent rides and achieved over 65%.  I was 7th in Grade III and Eilish was 9th in Grade II

Indi is a star




Eilish continued to do well throughout the competition and was thrilled with the kur – Oberlina behaved so well throughout the trip.  My day 2 and 3 were not quite so good as the first but we have all learnt from our mistakes and these will not occur again.

The best news is that we have both achieved the Paralympic Qualifying Standard (as did James Dwyer in Canada) – it was very exciting to receive our certificates which confirm that we have achieved Paralympic eligibility, but there is still a long way to go to get either an Irish team or one or two individuals into the Paralympic Games.


On Saturday evening there was a dinner and displays – Anky’s demo was great – (similar to Olympia) and so was Bert Vermier who performed a Pas de Deux with an able-bodied partner - but some of the other displays were less good. 

Everyone queued up to get Anky’s autograph – including Lee Pearson who had one of his crutches signed!  I wonder if Anky got Lee’s autograph! 

Lee Pearson

Unfortunately, Donie’s return flight had been booked for Saturday so he was very disappointed to miss Anky’s demo.  We missed him on Sunday in the warm up for the Kur as well, but Hayley did a good job.

Going Home

After the Kur, Sunday was packing up day – it’s always difficult to get everything back into the space it came out of, but we managed, and got on our way mid-afternoon.  It was a long haul back, but we found our way more easily and although we were delayed by an accident outside Calais we got on the ferry and were back at Blue Barn in Kent before 8pm  Everyone was getting a bit grumpy and over-tired by now - we had our last meal together before falling into bed.  Next morning we were up early and ready for off – our group from Yorkshire wanted to get over the Dartford crossing and well above London asap and Adeline and co had to face the M25 yet again.  They still had more travelling on the Tuesday before they reached Ireland.

In all, the trip was very satisfying but quite exhausting and I have a lot to work on and look forward to in 2007.  This includes a further Paralympic Qualifier in Austria in May, to improve on our percentages and individual rankings , two training camps in Limerick, a possible acclimatisation camp in China and the big one – a chance to ride on the Irish team at the World Championships in Hartpury in July.  There are only a few months to go, so the hard work starts here!

Thank you to everyone who made this trip possible – especially to Hayley who was groom to both Irish horses, and was kept very busy!



Home | About Me | Getting Started | My Horses | Sponsors | Competition
News | Gallery | Results | Products | Links | Contact