WENDY Harris doesn’t do things by half. Whether it be her job or her sport, if she’s going to do it, she is aiming for the top.

Owner of two of Sarah Ennis’ most successful young horses, Wendy detailed her fascinating background in eventing and business and outlined her future Olympic aspirations.

“I started riding in Donacomper riding school in Celbridge when I was a child. I went on to train with Grainne Sugars and did a lot of eventing back in the day. I was on the Irish pony eventing team that competed in Germany in 1995, riding a Connemara Pony named Ashfield Carna,” said Wendy.

“I rode throughout my college years, competing on intercollegiate teams for Trinity College. After graduation, I moved to London to work for Goldman Sachs and gave up eventing for a few years while concentrating on my career.

“I came back to it in 2009 and I ended up buying a horse that had been the first horse to represent South Africa at the World Equestrian Games, named Kings Courier (Bell By You - East Suffolk), and I also bought a horse called Just Appeal (Just A Native - Arkan) which had been around Badminton and competed both of them up to what is now three-star level.

“At that time I still lived in London and was training with Olympian Jock Paget from New Zealand, and Australian Olympic eventer Kevin McNab. I was working as a trader for Goldman Sachs and had five horses, so it was a pretty busy schedule. I worked from 6am to 6pm and then drove out to ride three horses so it was full-on but I loved it.

“It was great to get back, they were fun times. I was delighted to go back for a ‘second renaissance’ around horses if you like, and Jock and Kevin were amazing to train with.

“I moved back home to Ireland in 2013. I had two horses which I brought with me and was based with Elizabeth Power. One of the horses, King’s Courier, then had a career-ending injury at an event and I was absolutely devastated.”

Back in the game

“At that stage, I had moved back into town for work and as I had a young horse, I decided to base it with Sarah (Ennis) as it was easier for me to commute to her yard in Meath.

“Unfortunately then he sustained an injury which ended up with him having to be put down; it seemed it was just one bad thing after another so after that I just felt like I needed a break from the horses so I took a step back together.

“Sarah then called me in at the very start of the pandemic, she knew I had always loved racehorses and she said, ‘I know you said you may be interested in buying a new horse and I’ve been told about one that may suit’. I was so we went to look, it turned out not to be of interest but at the same time it started me thinking.

“While I was in the UK, I had been based with John and Chloe Perry from Brookfield Farm in Berkshire, they source all of their horses from Brian Lusk so I had thought that if I was ever looking for another horse I would go to him because they had some amazing horses.

“I got in touch with him and said, ‘I’m in the market for a young horse, do you have anything’? So in June 2019 Sarah and I went up to look at three horses.

“It was funny because I remember when I went to look at my first pony in Kilkenny many years earlier we arrived at the yard and I saw a pony’s head looking out over the car park and I thought, ‘oh I hope that’s him’, and it was, and he was fantastic for me.

“So on this occasion it happened again; we arrived and I saw a horse looking over at us and I thought, ‘I hope that’s one of the ones we’re here to see’ and it was; he was the one I liked the most and he is Silken Icon.

“I found out later that he was bred by Helen Troughton, and is by Colandro out of Silken Twist (Coronea Eagle), and was champion foal in 2016. His mother had competed at Le Lion D’Angers.

I bought him when he was four and with Sarah on board, he finished third in the Stepping Stones league that year and then went on to win it as a five-year-old,” explained Wendy.

Wendy Harris's Silken Icon in action with Sarah Ennis, winners of the 2021 five-year-olds division at the final of the Stepping Stones to Success League at Wexford Equestrian \ Tadhg Ryan Bit-Media

Good timing

“It turned out to be very good timing. Covid was so miserable and I was working so hard I needed something to distract me from the stress of it all. It reignited my passion for the sport. It was so exciting. I had made peace with myself that I was moving from the rider to the owner stage of my career, because I just don’t have the time with my job to train, and Sarah is amazing to work with.

“I began thinking more about it and I knew I would love to be involved in a horse for the next Olympics. We thought that Silken Icon would still be too young, but the idea had begun to take root.”

Olympic plan

“I had just come back from a holiday in Italy this year and I got a call from Sarah saying, ‘any chance you would like to be part of a syndicate to buy a horse that I think could go to the Paris Olympics’?

“I was like, ‘I wasn’t planning for this for this exact moment, but talk to me… I don’t love the whole syndicate thing but we ended agreeing that I could own him with you and we will aim for the Olympics’, and that horse ended up being Dourough Ferro Class Act.

“He ended up coming seventh in the six-year-olds at Lions D’Angers, and we are aiming both of them for Le Lion this year.

“We are hoping that one day they will both be competing at the top end of the sport. I know that his previous owners were afraid that he would be sold out of the country so it’s nice that we could keep him here representing Ireland.

“It was so nice for me to go to Le Lion with him. I said to my boss I normally do 14 zoom calls a day and I took five days in France where I walked 30,000 steps a day and was around horses all day, just a happy and delighted life, and also as my parents would say no risk of me being killed this time round… so all good, and I absolutely loved it.

“I work for an artificial intelligence firm called Gong. I’ve been building a team here in Ireland and have hired 30 people in the past six months and will add another 70 this year. It’s a very fast-growing business. It’s very high intensity, high pressure so it’s good that I have the horses to keep me sane.

“I have a great time with Sarah’s other owners, which is fab. She has a lovely group of owners who genuinely support each other.

“We all can’t make every event but we will run around trying to record each phase, the show jumping, dressage and cross-country to send to the other owners so they will still feel part of it. You feel part of a community.”

Utmost respect

“I have the utmost respect for Sarah. I’ve been around lots of riders and I have to say she is among the top one percent for work ethic and attention to detail. I think she could have been a vet in another life.

“I couldn’t believe it but the week before Stepping Stones, she drove Arlo all the way to Wexford just to let him have a look around the arena before the competition.

“I said to her, ‘I can’t believe you’d go all that way with a four-year-old’ and she said, ‘I did, it’s important for him to be prepared’, she always goes the extra mile.

“It’s nice that I own the horse together with Niki (Sarah’s husband). We get on well, he’s great fun and it’s a comfort for Sarah to know that the horse will never be sold out from under her.

“We are on a journey, we know the horse is special so we are hoping for the best,” concluded Wendy Harris.