Name: Yousef Sallam

Age: 17

Parents: Raouf and Gael Sallam

From: I have been living in Clonmel in Tipperary since 2012. I have also lived in Wexford, where I was born, and Egypt, where my Dad is from, and also for a short period in Sligo.

School: Yeats College Waterford

Where did you start riding? Markree Riding School in Sligo.

Pony Club Branch: Tipperary Pony Club

Did the pony club help you advance in your career?

Definitely, in more ways than one. I joined the pony club not having any idea of what it would be like. A friend of my mum’s suggested we join and she took me to my first ever pony club rally. My parents are not horsey at all, so I had no experience with horses at all. I did the pony club tests from the D test up to my B Test. These definitely helped in improving my riding and my theory as I didn’t have horses at home to learn how to look after them full-time.

I have kept all my horses at the same livery yard since I was nine. I did a lot in the pony club from Minimus and tetrathlon, to eventing and even pure dressage. I made the best friends in the pony club and It really showed me how to enjoy the sport, whilst not being too stressful.

At first I wanted to event. I was inspired to pursue eventing when an older member of the pony club got onto the Irish pony eventing team and I realised that it was possible to get to a high level of the sport. It would be hard, but still achievable. So I told my mum and my trainer that I wanted to aim to get better and when I was moving from ponies to horses, the decision had to be made whether to buy an eventer or a showjumper. Even though I was mostly eventing at the time, I decided to pursue pure show jumping as the results of show jumping are much more black and white than eventing.

Top horses: My best horse at the moment is my 10-year-old 16hh chesnut mare called Besser Von Tulisa. She has taken me from my first 1.10m to my first 1.30m. In August this year we shared the title of National Junior Showjumping champions with Taylor Peare. Besser Von Tulisa, or Tilly as she is known at home, is really a horse in a million. She has the best temperament and tries her heart out every day when competing. I also have an eight-year-old mare at home that I got earlier this year. This mare is quite green but will hopefully be one for the future.

Who is your trainer?

Marc Davern. He has been my trainer since I was nine and has taught me everything that I know. Marc’s sister has also been helping me with my horses since I was very young and I owe a lot to her as well. Sven Hadley helps me warm-up and walks the courses with me at shows, which helps me out immensely as I have not got much experience in show jumping as I was a late starter to this discipline.

Who has been the greatest influence in your career?

That would be my mum and my trainer Marc Davern. I often doubt my abilities and these two are always there to reassure me or give me the support that I need.

What’s your biggest achievement so far?

That would be sharing the title of joint Junior National champion on Besser Van Tulisa. In pony club I was quite successful in a range of disciplines. With loads of encouragement, I set my sights on winning the bursary competition to spend a week and receive tuition from the army riders at the Army Equitation School in McKee Barracks. I was later very proud to win it.

Who is the rider you most look up to and why?

My trainer Marc Davern has been a huge inspiration. I would look at the pictures of his riding achievements and the countless rosettes in his tack room and just be in awe of it all. I also look up to Sameh El Dahan. I contacted him after my mother suggested it to ask if he would look at some of my show jumping rounds. He did and I was so appreciative that a rider of this level would give the time to watch the videos. The way he is respected at shows and the way he respects others, along with his talent is the reason why I look up to him.

Plans for next season?

Hope to do my Leaving Certificate and after that I would love to get back out show jumping and compete in some 1.35m Grands Prix and National Grands Prix.

What are your long-term goals?

To compete at 1.40m level and higher. I would also like to be able to help young riders achieve their goals.

Yousef Sallam was in conversation with Emer Bermingham.