My name is Mairi and my horse is Wally. I’m a 26yr old Physiotherapist, now living in Aberdeenshire.
Wally is an 8 year old bright bay gelding from Ireland. Our main discipline is eventing and he is currently competing at BE90 but my plan (was) to get him out BE100 this year. Let’s hope this still might happen!
I genuinely believe horses like Wally are one in a million. He has a brilliant attitude, is very forward and loves having a job to do. I feel so safe when I’m riding and trust him completely, but he’s also never boring! The feeling he gives you round a XC track is something else and he will always try his heart out for you. My ‘horse of a lifetime’.
How did your horses come into your life?
Most have just been through chance or circumstances! I took a break whilst at University and then started riding for friends or through word of mouth. In all honesty, I wasn’t planning on buying another horse so quickly but when I saw Wally I knew he was the one for me. He came from a small, hunting yard in Ireland as a very green 5 year old. I rode him once before buying….when you know, you know!
How long have you been riding?
I think I was four when I first started having lessons…so a while ago now!
When and where do you ride?
As Wally is the only horse I am currently riding, I’ll generally exercise him 5 or 6 times a week. This obviously depends if we are building up to the event season or not. He is currently liveried at a yard in Aberdeenshire which has two arenas for flat-work and lots of off-road hacking. We do occasionally (pre-covid) box up and head off for a hack, the beach is his favourite!
I’m lucky to have brilliant coaches that either come to my yard, or I will travel to their facilities. I think it is important for horses to experience new surroundings regularly, so it is not as daunting when they’re out competing.
How did you start riding?
I was very lucky to start riding at a young age as both my mother and auntie competed. My granny is a big horsey lover too. I have been ‘horse-mad’ since then and have been lucky with various riding opportunities throughout the years.
What you and your horses currently working on?
Pre-covid Wally and I were building up to the 2020 event season so it was fitness, fitness, fitness! We were hoping to do most of the Scottish events and if all was going well, step up to BE100. His show-jumping had been coming along really well with the help of my coach and I was finally beginning to see our dressage scores go in to the 70’s.
Unfortunately given the circumstances, we no longer have any specific competitions to work towards. I’ve chosen to let Wally have a bit of down time, so we’ve mainly just been hacking and doing hill work to maintain some basic fitness. I would love to get out training again and if we could fit a few competitions in before the end of the year, that would be great.
What do you love about riding?
Everything! I think horses are just the most amazing animals and if you form a bond with one, it’s very special. I think non-horsey people think we’re mad but it’s true! I love that you put your full trust in a 600kg animal that’s galloping towards a big solid xc jump.
What you would you like to be doing in the future and do you have any goals?
I would love to keep competing BE and see where we get. One day I would like Wally and I to qualify for a BE championship and perhaps a few working hunter classes at Blair. To be honest, as long as we keep having fun then I’m happy.
Have you ever had to deal with nerves in riding?
All. The. Time.
I might seem like a confident person, but I really struggle with self-confidence.
How do you deal with them?
I’m very lucky to have a fantastic group of friends and family who come to most of my events which helps so much. Being able to have a good laugh on competition days definitely calms your nerves.
Try not to over-think things, but that is very much easier said than done.
At the end of the day, you have to think “what’s the worst that can happen?!” Yes, I could go in to the ring and have every pole down, I could have three stops round the xc and be eliminated, my horse could jump out the dressage arena…but as long as you and your horse are okay, all of these things you learn from. Plus, you can have a good laugh about it in the lorry home!
Your Top Tip
Find a coach(s) that you trust and stick with them. If you can do this and they get to know you and your horses over the years, it makes a huge difference.
The Final Furlong
Who would be your dream horse to ride?
Oooooo that’s tough! Can I have three!?
Laura Collett’s Mr Bass
Oliver Townend’s Ballaghmor Class
Caroline Powell’s Lenamore
Who is your equestrian hero?
William Fox-Pitt hands down. He’s such a calm, sympathetic rider and seems to hardly do anything but gets the job done. Very different to my ‘panic and flap’ mode!!
If you could have 5 people to dinner who would they be?
I think these answers would be different if it wasn’t week 8 of lock-down…but I would love to have my friends and family round right now. More than 5 people and a cheat answer, sorry!!
Favourite colour horse?
I love a bright bay, they just glisten in the sun!
Favourite horse event
Blair horse trails and Glamis. Both Scottish events with a brilliant atmosphere.
Pretty much anything but will depend if I’ve visited a country recently. Thai, Italian, Greek etc etc
Favourite way to relax
A nice gin and tonic somewhere hot and sunny. Or just a long hack and chat with friends.
Childhood favourite is 101 Dalmatians. Nowadays anything funny or feel-good!