Transition Year student, Sean Monaghan was a member of The Irish Under 16 Pony Show Jumping Team that won the Nations Cup in Odense, Denmark on Saturday, May 21st. Each member of the winning team, including Sean on Orchids Vienna, jumped a clear round to give the Irish team victory on an incredible zero penalty score from home-side Denmark (with a score of 12 penalties).
This was the high point so far for Sean in what has been an amazing year in the saddle, and it’s not over yet as he explains below. He has already qualified his pony Adja for the RDS Dublin Horse Show and he hopes to be selected for the European Championships in Aarhus, Denmark in August.
Sean took time out from his busy schedule to send us the following account of his remarkable year to date.
Everyone in his year, and all his teachers know that Sean Monaghan has developed a love and passion for horse show jumping. Transition Year has allowed him the opportunities to really test himself and find out if he would be suitable for life as a show jumping athlete…
At the beginning of the year, I put together a programme that was tailored to my sport, but as the year went on I was fortunate to achieve my place on the Horse Sport Ireland Team and that really paved the way for me. As well as competing as an individual athlete, I was fortunate to gain a place on many of the Irish teams competing at international events. I was fortunate to have four ponies with which to compete at a high standard this year: Adja, Ballyowen Maybelle Molly, Orchids Vienna and Shirsheen Cruiser.
First up, was Southview in England in November, where I was lucky to be on the winning team that took part in the Young Pony Cup. In February I spent three weeks in Spain competing at the Sunshine Tour in Oliva Nova, near Barcelona. This was an 8-week programme where the European show jumping schedule for 2016 really kicks off. Competitors from all over Europe come to compete on their young horses. Prospective buyers trawl the shows trying to pick out the next Olympic Champion.
I was working as a competition rider for Hilton Farms, based in County Monaghan and owned by Clem MacMahon, a former Aga Khan winning rider. Clem approached me before Christmas, wondering would I like to go to Spain on tour, he didn’t have to ask twice (although it took much persuasion with my parents)! This farm had ten horses in total on tour and I competed on four of them. My best day’s result, was gaining 3rd position on the podium and I also gained invaluable experience on how the whole business of horse sport works as I was in the same competition with some of the world’s greatest riders. I had to know about the care of the animals, the training, the competitions, and the rules; this – for me – is really what the industry is about.
In March, I was back home to take part in the Pony Spring Tour comprising six shows that were held throughout the country over each weekend. These shows also acted as viewing classes for the Horse Sport Ireland Pony Committee. This committee, which included the Irish Chef Équipe Gary Marshall, observed the classes for potential members of the Irish Pony Show Jumping Team. The final competition of the spring tour took place in Belfast; I was very fortunate to win this on my pony Adja and this gained me my place on the team for Fontainebleau in April.
As part of the team for France, I was allowed take two other ponies, one of which – a five-year-old called Shirsheen Cruiser – won the seven-year final class on each of the three days and was crowned overall champion on the last day. I was very proud to stand on the podium and watch the Irish flag be hoisted whilst the national anthem was being played. Fortunately, my friends and family who were not with me got to watch this live on Internet TV!
After this my attention turned to securing a place on the final ten short list that would be drawn up for eventual selection for the team traveling to the European Championships in Aarhus, Denmark in August 2016. This is the ultimate goal for all pony riders! The competition for this short list took place over three days in Galway Equestrian Centre beginning May 6th. The successful 10 rider/pony competitions were to be split in two, one group would travel to Odense in Denmark for the week beginning May 16th and the other to Sentower Park in Belgium, for the week beginning May 22nd.
My focus for this completion was with two of my ponies Maybelle Molly and Orchids Vienna and I finished the trials with the two ponies in joint second position! My mum got the phonecall on Monday morning to say I was on the team for Denmark with Orchids Vienna… and on the team for Belgium with Maybelle Molly!!!! I was thrilled as I was the only rider getting the opportunity to do both shows! When these shows are over, depending on performance and results, Horse Sport Ireland will then make the final selection for the European Team 2016!!!
There is one more show however that is the mecca for horse lovers and I am lucky to say that I have qualified my pony Adja for the RDS Dublin Horse Show, one of the best five star shows in the world!
In short, transition year for me has been amazing! I am very lucky to have the support of my school, my parents, great ponies and great friends that just ‘get me’!!!!
Sean Monaghan, Syntax