Silver Spurs finals at Spruce Lodge

  • 12 August 2013, 14:39

THE semi-finals and finals of this year’s Horse Sport Ireland Silver Spurs scheme run by Dressage Ireland took place recently at Spruce Lodge in Co. Wicklow.

The Silver Spurs is a scheme designed to identify and develop talented young riders, and with the support of HSI, bursaries are provided to all of the finalists to help them progress with their training and knowledge. More information can be found online at

Previous winners have shown how the scheme fulfils its ambition of promoting young riders across all disciplines, with the likes of Nicola Fitzgibbon, Katie Nolan and Melanie Young having gone onto to be members of HSI high performance squads in showjumping and eventing.

Organiser Joan Keogh was delighted with how the show ran, calling it “a wonderful competition” and remarking that “there was an outstanding number of entries at all the assessment days, especially at Laurelview, and unprecedented numbers came forward to contest the semi-finals”.

Presiding over the finals was renowned international judge and former British Dressage chairperson Jennie Loriston Clarke MBE, who was very positive about the standard of riding she witnessed over the weekend. “I saw a lot of good jockeys, who make the future of dressage in Ireland look very bright. It’s a good competition, an interesting format to judge and I thoroughly enjoyed it”.

Riders went to great lengths to compete, with U25 competitor Siobhan Schous travelling up from Clare only days after winning the Pony Club national pure dressage championship. She had intended to stay on for the Silver Spurs, but a leaking lorry put paid to those plans, while Emily Kate Robinson spent the entire week at Spruce Lodge so that she could compete at both shows.

U12 riders were not required to swap mounts in ride off, so the placings in this class were decided on Friday. Waterford’s Kate Lenihan and her pony Tyson were the clear winners here, taking the top spot in each test with marks of 58.1 from Leanne Wall and 56 from Dermot Cannon. Second place went to Tara Hayes and Bantiss Holy Joe while Leah Murphy and Cullintra Gold were third. Like the finalists in all other categories, these riders received a training bursary to the value of four hundred euro, as well as free membership and registration with Dressage Ireland next year.

Katie Burns and Caracas were well ahead in the pony semi-final, earning the highest score awarded throughout the day. Emily Kate Robinson and Holly Malone Morrissey followed her into the final, but Robinson overtook her in the ride off to win the championship on a mark of 184.7. Burns was just over two marks behind, with Malone Morrissey third on 170.2.

Speaking afterwards, Emily Kate was thrilled with her win, saying “I absolutely loved the chance to ride the other ponies”. She wanted to thank her trainer Anne Marie Dunphy, and said that clinics with Paul Hayler and Ellen Bontje have also been helpful. Having already experienced competing internationally at the Hickstead Masters last year, she hopes to go abroad again next season, and it is her eventual ambition to represent Ireland at CDIs.

Katie Burns is another pony rider well used to travelling, having competed at BYRDS international shows in previous years, and she was particularly pleased with the three nines she received for the ride on her own pony, while Amanda Goldsbury was very happy with her student Holly Malone Morrissey’s performance.

Susie Berry lead from the front in the junior section, winning the semi-final and the final, with her junior European eventing championship-bound mount, Bolero De Ste Hermelle. The bursary has come at the ideal time for her, as she can use it to fund extra training in preparation for these championships, aside from that she already receives as a member of the HSI high performance junior eventing squad.

Moving up from third place in the semi-final, another Amanda Goldsbury student, Kerri Lyons, finished second, while Rachael Coulter was third. Like Berry, Lyons is a young rider with ambition to be successful in the eventing world. “I’d like to carry on up the ranks if possible and bring on young event horses”. Trained by Dale Roberts and Lucinda Webb, Coulter hopes to progress in dressage and is heading to the Dublin Horse Show for the pony club combined training class next week.

In the U25 category, Gransha Equestrian’s Courtney Stuart took victory in both the semi-finals and finals. Riding her own mare Betty Boo, she finished on a score of 181.9, with Rachel Dowley second on 173.7 and Megan McGrath third on 165.1.


After time spent training abroad, in America with Jan Ebeling and at Talland with the Huttons, Stuart is now based at her family’s equestrian centre and hopes to spend her bursary with an Irish based trainer. She has recently acquired the ride on Fanfarron, an eleven year old Florestan gelding, with whom she is aiming to contest young riders next year. All three riders in the final of this category focus on dressage as their main discipline and it is good to see such potential in young Irish dressage riders.

Second-placed Rachel Dowley, a long time pupil of Anne Marie Dunphy was pleased with her performance, saying that although Cadens was “tired after a long trip back from England, where I am spending the summer working for Richard and Gill Davison, he performed very well, especially since it was his elementary debut”. Heike Holstein was on hand to help Megan McGrath in the warm-up.

Open U25 champion Alison Keogh was another to take the title in both the semi-final and the final. With Hilary Hughes Jazz gelding Pensylvania Vinckenburgh, she was awarded 187.3 from Jennie Loriston Clarke. Two more promising young event riders, Kelley Hutchinson and Angela Murphy, finished second and third in the final on marks of 173.3 and 170.8 respectively.

Although Keogh is not training with anybody at the moment, she has had lessons in the past with Niall Quirk and Alison Mastin Moore, and she intends to put her bursary towards her ambition of qualifying for and competing at the National Championships at Prix St Georges.

The Silver Spurs is a scheme designed to identify and develop talented young riders, and with the support of HSI, bursaries are provided to all of the finalists to help them progress with their training and knowledge. More information can be found online at

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