Courtney Stuart


Fanfarron 8 and Courtney representing Ireland after just two months together
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Courtney's earliest memories involve ponies at Gransha Equestrian Centre

Courtney’s earliest memories involve ponies at Gransha Equestrian Centre

Growing up at Gransha, ponies were part of my daily life. My earliest memory was a little brown pony called Barney, he was about 11 hands and I was only about three years old. As I got a little older Barney taught me that if I didn’t sit tight I didn’t stay on! From Barney I progressed onto a black pony that came to the yard one day in the back of a transit van, mum asked me if I liked him and I replied with “a tiny little bit” this is how he got his name.

Richo and Courtney competing in Burghley Sports Pony Class 2002

Richo and Courtney competing in Burghley Sports Pony Class 2002

My next pony turned out to be the one I will always remember. Richo was 12.2, black and white and came from an old friend of mums called Andy McCamand He loved to jump and gave so much confidence.

Richo and Courtney had many successful years together

Richo and Courtney had many successful years together

Our biggest achievement came in the summer of 2002 when we qualified and competed at Burghley Horse Trials in the Sports pony class. Being so small and the youngest competitor there the 1m fences seemed impossible but Richo was amazing and jumped one of only 3 clear rounds out of 67 ponies and finished 7th. This little pony had the heart of a lion and gave me the desire to compete at that higher level across the water.

Courtney studied Performing Arts at college before following her heart to the world of dressage

Courtney studied Performing Arts at college before following her heart to the world of dressage

My success continued with a grey Connemara called Badger. This 14.2 felt like my introduction into horses as I brought him on from a 4 year old. He won many working hunters, the most memorable being the Supreme Working Hunter Championships at the NIWHA summer show. I was up against adults on horses so at the age of 15 this felt like a huge achievement. My introduction to dressage came when I took the ride of my sisters ex-event mare, Antwerp Honey Bee. This 15h taught me the finer details associated with dressage, one wrong move on her resulted in three laps of the indoor! When I left school after my GCSE’s having played Cinderella in the school play I enrolled onto a performing arts course at college, alongside this I performed in the Grand Opera House with the Ulster Operatic Society. Although I enjoyed this it didn’t take me long to realise my passion lay with horses. After a road trip to Armagh with Kirsty to watch an English trainer I came home and announced to mum that I was off to England! Three weeks later my car was packed and I headed to the next chapter in my life, ‘The Talland School of Equitation’. imageI spent 16 months under the watchful eye of Pammy Hutton and Jonny Clarke-West. It was at this point I realized that dressage was going to be my life. While studying for my BHS exams I had the amazing opportunity to ride at Junior team level with Finley. This 16.2 gelding launched me into the world of high class dressage that never would have been achievable without the support and backing of Jonny and my family back home. Many late nights and long hours were spent in the indoor at Talland, where Jonny perfected my technique. One memory that sticks in my mind was Jonny running backwards across the diagonal trying to show me how to ride the perfect half pass, manys others would have given up! I will be forever grateful for those early opportunities.

Supporting Jan and Rafalca while representing their country at the London 2012 Olympics

Supporting Jan and Rafalca while representing their country at the London 2012 Olympics

In the summer of 2010 mum purchased a young grey mare from dressage breeder Sandra Bidelcombe. Boo spent 3 months at Talland with me before we returned home. This stay was short lived when once again my desire to develop my dressage knowledge took me a little further afield this time to sunny California. At the age of 18 I spent 11 months with USA Olympic dressage rider Jan Ebeling. Here my days consisted of warming up, schooling and looking after Jans top horses including 4 at Grand Prix level. Riding at least 10 horses on a daily basis broadened my knowledge and ability to educate a variety of ages and levels of dressage horse. While I was working at the Acers Jan and Rafalca were selected to represent their country at the London 2012 Olympics. Seeing the joy on Jans face when he got the news made me realize that dreams can come true. From this point onwards I mapped out my plans to fulfill my dreams of reaching Olympic level dressage.

Courtney trained in Talland School of Equitation

Courtney trained in Talland School of Equitation

In 2013 all roads led back to Jonny Clarke West and Charlie Hutton Dressage when they informed me of a very special little horse for sale. Fanfarron 8 or Flynn to his friends is 16.2, dark bay and is by the dressage sire Florestan. Flynn has bags of character and has already taught me so much. At the end of 2013 after only having had him for 2 months we got asked to represent Ireland at the home international in Scotland. Being the youngest member of the senior team this was a brilliant experience and once again reminded me this was the dream I wanted to fulfill. Ultimately my goal for 2014 is to represent Ireland At the Young Rider European Championships in Italy at the start of July. Lets hope this is another stepping stone on my road to the top!

Courtney Stuart
Courtney Stuart
Courtney Stuart
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