New Harry Hall Ambassador Jessica Burke, a teacher and keen amateur show jumper based in Galway, explains how her focus swings from maths to horsepower over the course of the year. What a year it's been so far for Coole Sport Horses, our family run business in County Galway, run mainly by myself and my partner Darragh. Summer is here and the weather, as usual in Ireland, isn’t great. But our horses have been on fire lately and at this time of year we compete almost every weekend.
We have a string of about 10 show jumping horses ranging from four-year-olds to eight-year-olds so the young horse classes are our main aim for this year. We also breed from about four of our old competition mares each year too and produce these offspring. Hopefully they will be good enough to be competitive show jumpers but if not, we try to give them the best education possible so they can be sold on as riding horses for either dressage, hunting or eventing.
Our summer season began Louth County in April when Captain Junior (6) and Express Trend (7) both placed highly in the first leg of the Irish Sport Horse studbook series. Apart from the RDS — the Royal Dublin Show in August — this series is the most important competition for 5, 6 and 7 year old show jumping horses with five of the most consistent horses in each age group getting selected for the World Breeding Championships at Lanaken in Belgium in September.
My non horsey job
Between September and May I am also a part-time secondary school maths teacher; life becomes particularly manic juggling work and sport in April and May but I’m lucky to have lots of great family members who help out.
At the moment I'm riding about eight horses a day which could get uncomfortable without the right training gear and I'm absolutely loving my Caldene Bellegra training breeches as well as the grand prix saddle pads for my horses. The breeches are very comfortable to ride in all day as well as being stylish if I need to pop to the shop for some lunch.
Life’s not all work
We try to keep our horses fit and as mentally happy as possible. We exercise them as early as possible in the morning so they can go to the paddock for a few hours during the day. I find this especially helpful for one or two of my highly strung mares. The more time they spend outside in the paddock the more settled and relaxed they are to ride!
I also find it great to hack out along quiet roads or trails in the evenings, this also helps keep the horses happy and healthy. I find a happy horse tries even harder for you in the show jumping ring.
Darragh works full time in the yard and is a keen hunting enthusiast, hunting at least twice a week with the legendary Galway Blazers. We therefore produce some nice Irish Draught Horses through these months. The winter is also used for breaking the three year olds which can be interesting! I also hunt when I get a chance but I like to take it easy on the weekends during the winter as our summers are so busy.