Rachel Dowley and Cadens Join Dressage Development Squad
- 18 March 2020, 15:38
This week’s STABLE TALK is with Horse Sport Ireland Level 2 Coach and member of the High-Performance Dressage Development Squad, Rachel Dowley. Our interview takes place at Spruce Lodge following a high-performance dressage training session and gives readers an insight into the sport of dressage and Rachel’s journey up through the ranks from U16 to Senior level.
It’s no surprise that Rachel Dowley, aged just 27, was picked up on the talent radar of Horse Sport Ireland’s High-Performance Dressage Director, Johann Hinnemann, when he attended last year’s Dressage Ireland Championships held at Cavan Equestrian Centre.
Rachel won the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle with her then 12-year-old Hochadel gelding Cadens, she also won the Elementary Category 3 with her Florencio gelding Insticator B.S., before going on to place second overall in the Elementary Freestyle Championships. Rachel’s second young horse, Just A Ball B.S. won the Preliminary Category 3, placed third in the Young Horse five-year-old Championships and placed second overall in the Novice Freestyle Championships.
Rachel is no stranger to Horse Sport Ireland’s high-performance programmes as she was a member of the high-performance pony eventing squad when Sue Shortt and Sue Smallman managed the programme. However, her attention turned to dressage when she began to ride for Irish international dressage rider, Anne Marie Dunphy.
“I went to school near Anne Marie’s house and I used to go up to her yard after school,” Rachel begins. “Around the time I finished on ponies, Anne Marie retired her Grand Prix horse, Egano S, from high-level competition. One thing led to another and I was lucky enough to have him for two years as my Junior horse.
“I had my first international outings on him, I did my first Prix St George and Inter I with him, I won my first Advanced national title with him – he was just a star to learn on. You really do need to have a schoolmaster at some point when you’re learning, otherwise it’s the blind leading the blind. I still train regularly with Anne Marie, she’s like my second mother, she’s been great to me.”
TRAVEL, TRAINING AND TRINITY COLLEGE
When Rachel completed her Leaving Certificate, she decided to take a break from her studies to travel to Germany and train with renowned German dressage trainer Conrad Schumacher. “His head rider had just had an accident and then retired from competing altogether,” Rachel explains. “I had just bought my own horse Cadens, he was four at the time, and I had the opportunity to go and train there. I was working in the yard; riding client’s horses and it was a brilliant experience.”
A year later, Rachel returned home to Co. Kilkenny having accepted a place to study at Trinity College in Dublin. Rachel continued to ride during her spare time, travelling during the summer holidays to train with the likes of four-time Olympian and European show jumping medallist, Richard Davison.
Rachel graduated from Trinity College with a First-Class Honour’s Degree in English and Psychology, before deciding to establish her own training and competition yard at home in Carrick-On-Suir. “I usually keep 10 horses in work, three to five of which would generally be my own horses. Currently, I have Cadens, Insticator B.S., and Just a Ball B.S in work and then I have two nice three-year-olds who will be broken next year, the remaining horses belong to clients.”
“I teach a lot too, I’m a Horse Sport Ireland Level 2 Coach and would highly recommend the Coaching Programme. It’s a fantastic way to make connections with people in the industry. I do a lot of work training show jumping horses and coaching show jumpers who want to improve their flatwork. Basic rideability is just so important no matter what you do. I would also prepare a lot of horses for the sales. For anyone producing horses for sales – they have to be rideable, otherwise it’s so hard to sell that horse.”
CADENS – KING OF THE YARD
Rachel and her journey with Anne-Marie’s superstar schoolmaster Egano S came to an end during the summer following Rachel’s final year in secondary school – it was time for him to enjoy a happy retirement from competition. Rachel’s current Grand Prix horse, Cadens was imported by Anne King as four-year-old and sold to Rachel that same year.
“We have gone all the way from Pre-lim to Grand Prix together. He has always been a handful and the whole yard routine revolves around him. He’s king of the yard. To have come so far with the first horse that I have trained myself, he deserves to be King. He has given me so much enjoyment and confidence.
“He’s 13 now and in May of last year he did his first Grand Prix test – he has only done about 10 Grand Prix tests to date. Johann Hinnemann saw me competing at the Nationals and he was so positive toward me and the horses. It was really nice to meet him – he was there warming up Heike Holstein but he gave me as much time and advice as he could.
“It’s great to be part of the High-Performance Development Squad now and to be able to train with Johann. I’ve had some really good training sessions with him, everything he addressed I have taken on board and will work on, but it’s all very positive which is great. I’ve had the best possible start to 2020, I got to compete at Addington where Insticator B.S. won the Medium and then I came straight back home to train.
Rachel and Cadens qualified for this year’s Winter Finals, are also aiming for more international experience in 2020. “For me, even if he isn’t the most fantastic Grand Prix horse in the world that doesn’t matter – he is a fantastic educator for me as a rider and I have enjoyed a great time on him at International Small Tour Level.”