FUTURE STARS: Seamus Hughes Kennedy

  • 20 June 2023, 11:16

Seamus Hughes Kennedy and EIS Ali (ISH) pictured with CEO of Horse Sport Ireland Denis Duggan and Head of Breeding, Innovation and Development Sonja Egan at Balmoral International
Photo: Prime Photography

Kilkenny rider Seamus Hughes Kennedy is making his mark and has his sights set high

You could say that 2023 has been the year Seamus Hughes Kennedy rose to the top of the sport, however, this wouldn’t be entirely true.

At the tender age of 20 and in his last year of Young Riders, the Kilkenny native has represented Ireland at Youth level three times, and at the FEI/WBFSH World Breeding Jumping Championships for Young Horses twice, including winning an individual gold medal.

A glance at his results from this year shows that he certainly has taken it up another notch. With 28 top ten international placings, 11 of which were in ranking classes, so far this year Hughes Kennedy means business.

Speaking after yet another successful show at Mullingar International, where he picked up the leading Young Rider prize as well as claiming both second and third place in the 1.45m Grand Prix, Hughes Kennedy is optimistic about the season while remaining very grounded. With an excellent string of horses and a great support team, he is very much one to watch.

Modestly, he says in the aftermath of his Mullingar exploits: “It’s been a good season so far anyway, we started out by going to the Sunshine Tour at the start of the year and I brought down a nice group of horses, many of which were stepping up a level.”

Hughes Kennedy explains why this season has been particularly rewarding to date: “I’ve had all my horses since they were young and produced them myself so it’s great to see them stepping up a level now this year.

“I’ve had seven ranking class wins, four placings – second and third today, sixth in Paris and a ninth on Saturday (in Mullingar International) as well. These results have come on my four different older horses, so it’s been good that they’ve all been able to step up.”

Having won the 1.45m Grand Prix in Balmoral earlier this year with ESI Ali (ISH), Hughes Kennedy was hoping to make it two from two at Mullingar International. Narrowly pipped to the post by Rhys Williams in the Grand Prix, Hughes Kennedy is pragmatic about the result.

“I set the time to beat but I didn’t quite put enough pressure on Rhys.

“He doesn’t feel the pressure anyway,” Hughes Kennedy jokes. “He did a great job to get it done. Rhys is a hard man to beat.

“I’m delighted with how they both went. ESI Rocky jumped in his first ranking class on Saturday, so it was great that in his first CSI2* Grand Prix he placed third, and Castlefield Hera finished second.”


Looking Ahead

Undoubtably the future looks bright for this rising talent. Hughes Kennedy focused his first half of the season on moving his horses up a level and aiming towards Balmoral and Mullingar International. His focus is now shifting towards Dublin Horse Show qualifiers with his younger horses, and he hopes to compete in the CSIO5* at the Dublin Horse Show.

“My biggest aim now would be to get into the CSIO5* in the Dublin Horse Show. I’ve always dreamt of jumping the big classes there.”

As if this wasn’t a big enough aim, he is hoping to be selected as part of the team to represent Ireland at the 2023 European Championship this year. With this as his final year in Young Riders, and having narrowly missed out on a team medal last year, Hughes Kennedy is focused on the task at hand.

Post European Championship and the Dublin Horse Show, his focus will turn to towards the FEI/WBFSH World Breeding Jumping Championships for Young Horses in Lanaken, Belgium.


Support Team

Success like that of this season does not come without a big team effort, something Hughes Kennedy is very grateful for.

“I would like to give a big thank you to my whole family for supporting me the whole time. To my mother who lives and dies for horses – she absolutely loves them. Her idea of a day off would be to go out and muck out stables and just always be out with the horses.

“We’ve had all our horses from when they were as young as two- and three-years-old. She has a great eye for young horses and can really see the potential when others can’t – it’s one of her greatest talents. She’s brave as well to go out and take a chance on them. I’m lucky to be reaping the rewards of her decisions.

“We have a tight knit team at home. Hugh McOwan, my cousin, helps me at all the shows, he’s come all around Europe with me so far this year. Then we have Alex Corscadden and Conor Campion who have both been a great help all year.

“And then my sister Isobel came and gave me a hand this week at Mullingar – I better give her a mention!

“My sister Chloe just came back from Zuidwolde after winning the Pony Nations Cup there on Friday, so it’s been a busy but good weekend for the whole family.”

Also within his support team is Ger O’Neill and Castlefield Sport Horses who have been very support of Hughes Kennedy throughout his career to date.

“I also want to give a big thank you to GAIN Equine Nutrition, who have helped so much with getting all our horses conditioned and feeling well and they’ve all been jumping so well this season. It’s definitely a big help, it’s half the battle that the horses are all feeling well and looking good. GAIN have been a big help since we started working with them.

“Michael Phillips came down to our yard and gave us a big hand, he knows exactly what all my horses needed. It’s been a big help, they’ve definitely come on leaps and bounds in the last two years since I’ve been working with GAIN Equine Nutrition.”

The journey to the top in any sport is never easy but with talent, determination and the right support team anything is possible. Seamus Hughes Kennedy is one of Ireland’s rising starts, he’s jumping in the big classes, and he’s there to win.


Castlefield Hera (ISH) – 2014 mare by Plot Blue (KWPN) out of Little Miss Puissance (ISH) by Puissance (ISH). Breeder: Jim O’Neill. Owner: Clare Hughes. Rider: Seamus Hughes Kennedy (IRL).

ESI Ali (ISH) – 2015 gelding by Stakkato Gold (HANN) out of Adelheid (KWPN) by Tygo (UNK) Breeder: Ennisnag Stud. Owner: Clare Hughes. Ridder: Seamus Hughes-Kennedy.

ESI Rocky (ISH) – 2015 gelding by Stakkato Gold (HANN) out of Clonaslea (BWP) by For Pleasure (HANN). Breeder: Ennisnag Stud. Owner: Clare Hughes. Rider: Seamus Hughes Kennedy.