Behind the Scenes at the Dublin Horse Show: The Working Hunter

This post is the second in a series of posts covering the Dublin Horse Show, from the perspective of some of the people who will be actively taking part in it this week – from the business with a trade stand, to the people who work behind the scenes to ensure the horses are in tip-top condition, and of course not forgetting the competitors themselves!

Follow the links to read Part 1: The Equine Startup and Part 3: The Equine Physio.

Part 2: The Working Hunter

Davina & Balief Clover are currently eventing at EI100 level

Davina & Balief Clover are currently eventing at EI100 level. Photo Credit: Louise O’Brien Photography

Davina Gray is an Eventer based in Ardee, Co.Louth , and will be competing her 6 year old ISH Mare ‘Balief Clover’ (stable name ‘Heidi’) in the 5 & 6 year old Working Hunter Class on Sunday. Alongside Heidi, Davina has 5 other horses: her schoolmaster Mooche, whom she has evented to 1* level; a homebred 5 yr old, her old working hunter / eventer Hati (and her current 2016 foal) as well as a yearling bought from last November’s Cavan Foal Sales. 

You bought Heidi quite recently – can you tell me a bit about what you were looking for in a horse at the time, and what made you decide to buy her?

I was looking for an older horse that had some mileage as I have also have a homebred 5 yr old. But I was struggling to find what I wanted within my budget and that passed the vet. Then a chance conservation at an event led me to Heidi, who was younger but had done quite a bit as a young horse. It was her attitude when I tried her, that I really liked and I felt very comfortable on her. I bought her in the first viewing (which I have done for a number of my pervious horses) and thankfully she passed the vet with flying colours.

Eventing is your main sport of choice – are there any learnings you have taken from Eventing that you are able to apply in the show ring, or vice versa?

Before I started into eventing, I actually did a lot of working hunter and showing classes with ponies. I had a super working hunter mare, who won in the RDS with Kay’s (my trainer) daughter Katie back in 2006. The show ring teaches you showmanship, which really helps with the dressage to present a test to the best of your ability. The dressage training really helps with the flatwork element of working hunter. I also find that going XC is great for the working hunter as it helps the horses to jump out of a more forward rhythm.

Dublin is such a vastly different experience from any other show – how have you been preparing for both the atmosphere and the more challenging courses you’ll face?

Davina Gray Eventing

Davina competing at 1* with Mooche.

The atmosphere in Dublin is really something else and it is very hard to replicate at other shows / events throughout the year. I generally bring the horses going to Dublin to some of the local agricultural shows where there is lots going on to try and get them used to the noise and mayhem…but until you step into that ring in Dublin you really don’t know how they will react! This year i brought Heidi to Ballivor show and behind the hedge of the jumping arena was the fun fair – so it was great to see how she reacted to that distraction when jumping. I have also gone to Grange Farm XC and Killossery to school over lots of different types of fences and over the years we have collected a range of fillers to practice over – including a sheep bath painted bright blue!

What’s your favourite part of the Horse Show?

I love watching the young horse classes and the the atmosphere for the loose jumping is always great. However, you can’t the craic or atmosphere of the long bar on the Thursday or Friday evenings!

You can watch Davina & Heidi strutting their stuff in the show ring at 11am on Sunday morning in Ring 2. 

Natalie xo

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