EVENTING yards throughout Ireland have begun their preparations for the upcoming 2023 season in earnest by now, none more so than Gilford brothers, Steven and Trevor Smith of Smith Brothers Eventing.
According to the pair, they have every reason to hope that this year will be their most successful to date, by helping the next generation of horses and event riders reach their potential and succeed.
The brothers have a lifetime of experience as Olympic and International riders, training and producing horses for the top levels of the sport. Their purpose-built facilities at Ballymac Stables, headed up by Steven as lead rider, and Trevor as head trainer, provides a perfect setting for ambitious riders wishing to live, train and compete with the team and fulfill their equestrian goals.
Steven has represented Ireland on Nations Cup teams and has been leading senior rider in the Northern Region for 27 years. He enjoyed great success last summer placing first and second in the five-year-old Young Event Horse at Dublin Horse Show. He also holds Eventing Ireland records for the most wins in a season (33), most sub-28 dressage tests in a season (46), most show jumping clear rounds in a season (67) and most cross-country within the time clears (77).
Describing his hopes for the season ahead, Steven says; “When it comes to our horses, the year begins with a detailed training programme, combining a mixture of events and show jumping.
“It is very much a team effort; we work in close collaboration with our owners as we want a plan for each horse that corresponds with the owner’s ambitions and aspirations, but that allows every horse to progress and fulfill its potential.
“We very much have an open-door policy for our owners; we always want them to feel welcome and encourage them to come and see for themselves how things are going by dropping in as often as suits them. We have a great team of owners for which we are truly thankful.”
Regarding the team of riders currently training with them Trevor adds; “We have several very promising riders based with us for the season ahead. Casey Webb, our resident rider at Ballymac, is looking forward to another busy year of competition. We have been managing Casey’s progression through the sport, from Pony Club level, through to Young Rider Europeans up to international three-star eventing.
“We continue to support her progress to move up the grades with the aim that she will become our main competition rider. Casey rides horses for us as well as a supportive group of owners from young horse classes to international competitions.
“We are excited this year to have Yu Xuan Su from Hong Kong based with us for the season. He is working towards the Asian Games, as well as his qualification for the Paris Olympics.
“He moved over to Ballymac Stables before Christmas and his winter training so far is going well. It is great to have a rider of his calibre based with us and we hope to welcome more ambitious riders to our base in the future.
“Continuing with the family theme, we have Hollie Smith, Steven’s daughter, who is a key member of our team, assisting with fitness work for our event horses, as well as campaigning several horses in the show jumping ring.
“Sarah O’Shea, a talented young Irish rider based with us, continues to train with us in 2023 with her team of horses. She has gained good results at international one-star level and is aiming to move up the levels this year.”
Steven Smith and CJO Kann Surprise winning the EI100 at Loughanmore, where he also won the EI115 (Open) \ Anne Hughes
Young Professional Programme
“New for 2023 is our ‘Young Professional Programme’ that we have developed for ambitious young people to work and learn with us here at Ballymac. We aim to provide vocational training in all aspects of a successful commercial yard - from riding, to horse and stable management, to assessing horses for purchase or sale.
“We are excited to have Becky Ansley joining us as part of this programme from England. Becky is a promising young rider who has competed up to EI110 level and will continue to train at this level and progress as the season goes on. She is a hard-working and ambitious rider who we are excited to work with this year.
“We are also an employer for the Apprenticeship in the Equine Industry Scheme at CAFRE in Enniskillen. Hollie Smith and Myah Mclean are currently doing their BHS exams as part of this Apprenticeship.
“Myah, a conscientious member of the team, has made immense progress with her riding this winter and we are looking forward to supporting her as she makes her Eventing Ireland debut this season.
“Students who base with us benefit from the support of our wider team. A crucial member of this team is Steven’s wife, Jennifer. The backbone of the yard and familiar friendly face to our students, Jenny ensures that everything runs smoothly on a day-to-day basis, and that our students have everything they might need.
“The team is completed by Sean Paul Gilbride and Colleen Moffett, showjumping coach Joe Marley and dressage coach Alan Dewhurst.”
The first in a series of pre-season eventing clinics run by the Smiths takes place tomorrow (January 22nd) and includes dressage sessions with Steven who will focus on consistency as a key to increasing dressage scores.
Cavaletti and jumping sessions with Trevor provide effective but simple techniques to improve jumping.
The clinics will run in a series with the aim of supporting riders throughout the eventing season and, as the weather improves, will include cross-country training on the extensive cross country facilities at Ballymac.
The team at Smiths - (front row left to right), Myah McLean, Steven Smith, Jennifer Smith, Trevor Smith, Hollie Smith, Sean-Paul Gilbride, (back row l-r) Joe Marley, Casey Webb, Sarah O’Shea, Becky Ansley, Yu Xuan Su, Colleen Moffet \ Courtesy of Smith Brothers Eventing