Jessica Ní Fhloinn, a 17 year old show jumper from Ireland has been named Young Rider of the year by Show Jumping Ireland (SJI) for 2016 in the south east branch. Surround by family and friends, many of which are esteemed equestrians themselves, Jessica has flourished as a well respected rider within all areas of the community and one of the top pony riders in her county!
Having received her award in mid January, Jessica has now progressed to horses in order to further compete in the sport she loves, and tells us a bit about it.
How long have you been riding/ working with horses?
I started when I was about 4 years old, so about 12 or 13 years now.
What inspired you to begin you career with horses?
I have a very horsey family! My granddad is a racehorse trainer and is probably my biggest inspiration. He has a very good eye for spotting quality horses and has had many wins with his own home-bred horses, including wins in Cheltenham. Since my uncle produces show jumping horses and ponies, he has been a great help and has sourced all of my horses for me and my mum loves horses, so I think it’s just in my blood!
What has been your greatest difficulty so far?
My biggest obstacle was, and still is, definitely my attitude towards new opportunities. I have a tendency to find my comfort zone and stay there! My parents and my trainer always have to push me to progress up the heights and improve.
What would you say is your favourite SJI competition?
I don’t particularly have a favourite competition to be honest. I love going to different shows to bring on my horses, but if I had to pick my favourite show grounds it would definitely be Cavan Equestrian!
Do you hope to obtain a career in equitation, like other members in your family?
I’m not too sure yet, I am certain that I definitely want to work with horses, just not sure in what way. For now, I really enjoy competing and bringing on younger horses, so maybe I’ll make a career out of it.
Most riders tend to stop competing after ponies, how do you feel about transitioning onto horses?
I will really miss my time on ponies but I do feel ready to make the move up onto horses. I have some very nice young prospects lined up for next year as well as an older mare, Molly, to help me settle in. I plan on qualifying with Molly in the young riders for Dublin horse show in the RDS this year, or at least try!
Do you have any hopes or fears for the future?
I am certainly a bit worried about juggling my horses and my school work next year seeing as in will be doing my Leaving Certificate [senior finals]!Hopefully, qualifying Molly and maybe even my Connemara pony in the Performance Hunter in Dublin this year will take my mind off it.
And finally, what tips do you give to future young riders in their training?
I love using elastic training reins on my horses when I do flatwork, I find that they help my horses really understand the concept of release so I can focus on using my leg to ride the horse into the contact rather than using the dreaded sawing technique to pull them into an outline. I also usually do a lot of grid work and bounces when I jump my horses at home. This helps my horses jump in a nice round shape and prevent them from hollowing and rushing.
Article by Susan Doran. You can follow the trials and tribulations of this mad Irish pair on Susan and Stimpy’s very popular Instagram account.