School – Glenlola Collegiate where they tried to turn me into a young lady – and failed!
Bangor Tech where I won a cup for the best first year student in Business Studies!
During my time in school Dad understood my desire to work with horses and allowed me to take time off to go to Banbridge Horse Sales where I learned an awful lot about horse conformation but probably more about chancy dealers!
I left Tech the day of my last exam and went with my horse on a horse transporter to work in a show jumping and Arab breeding yard in North Wales.
I spent 18 months living in an old farmhouse with 3 other likeminded buddies and had a ball, show jumping in Wales and England, showing the Arab Stallion, making an advert for White Horse Whiskey on Portmerrion Beach, and partying the rest of the time.
That got all of that nonsense out of my system!
When studying the Horse & Hound I spotted a job vacancy in Austria that sounded good to me. It was in a show jumping and dealing yard north of Vienna.
In those days Easy Jet didn’t exist and flights were few and far between and very expensive, but thanks to a loan from Dad I managed to secure the job and book my flight.
Off to the vast unknown!! I didn’t speak a word of German and the boss, Walter Perkhauser didn’t speak a work of English! Not a good start. Thankfully his wife Angelica, former Miss World contestant, spoke excellent English, she also dried her horse after we washed it, with her own hair dryer.
My three years there were the most educational years of my life at that stage. The boss was 4th on the Austrian International Show Jumpers list. He was an exceptionally strong rider and expected a very high standard of both riding and stable management from Susan and me – his only two riding staff.
He taught us how to produce all types of riding and jumping horses and have them ready to show to customers from all over Europe, ride them for the prospective buyers and have all twenty four horses in the yard groomed and plaited before the customers arrived, no matter what time of the morning or night that might be.
We travelled to numerous international shows in Switzerland, Italy, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia and in Austria where I was granted a license to be allowed to wear a green jacket and ride as an Irish rider on some pretty special horses.
Out of competition season Hugo Simon spent long weekends coaching at our yard and we always had a wonderful collection of horses to ride under his strict guidance.
When I came home I started my first little riding school in Belfast. After I had it all set up and running smoothly I handed over the reins to the yard owner and he carried on very successfully.
I took that step because I had been offered a position in an Equine Clinic to work and train with Robin Cutler MRCVS. He was way ahead of the times with the treatments he used along side the tried and tested traditional methods, and treated many of the top Irish International Show Jumping horses plus race horses shipped over from England after crashing falls.
After having eighteen months of very valuable training I came home again and started my own little business – Ballymacormick Riding School.
By modern standards it was tiny but it was a hiving business in a superb location. Unfortunately the area was being developed so quickly that all the surrounding land was eaten up and I had to close down in September 1982 after only two and a half years.
In 1985 on Kirstys’ first birthday we moved into 10 Kerrs Road and started the challenge of turning a rundown smallholding into Gransha Equestrian Centre.
We started with 12 stables but quickly converted the remaining sheds and barns into an additional 18 stables giving us accommodation for 30 horses and ponies.
In the following 30 years I have enjoyed success at eventing, working hunter, showing and producing two talented daughters and their lovely selection of ponies and horses.
I enjoy the challenge of course building and was on the SJAI list of course builders for years but took my name off as I had too many other commitments that didn’t leave me any time to travel the country building for various shows.
My affiliation to RUAS and my building at home fulfils my appetite for course design now.