Name: Niamh McEvoy
We have all followed your tremendous success at the recent Pony European Championships, how did it feel to win a gold medal?
It was absolutely fantastic. It was such a close competition. We were worried about the British, the French and the Germans. At the end of the 2nd round we had forced a jump off with Great Britain and when we won everybody was clapping and cheering and the Irish were going mad!
What was the best thing about the Pony Europeans?
It was such a great experience and atmosphere and it was great to meet competitors from different countries. The Swedish team were lovely even though they threw me in the water jump! Because I had only one pony there I had time to mix and everyone was so good to us. The best part was of course winning a gold medal under Gary Marshall and there was a great team spirit with everyone pulling together and helping each other. It was a real team effort.
What pony were you competing?
Tell us about her…
Ardfry Skye was bred and is owned by Pascal Crawford from Galway. Pascal was originally from Omagh. Skye is a full Connemara and she is a brilliant and honest pony and an incredible jumper.
How long have you been preparing for these championships?
I have had Skye for just over a year and I did the Coolmore Premiers with her last year and she had a lot of good placings. From the start of this year I aimed to get on teams with her and especially the Europeans
This wasn't your first trip to Europe this year to compete, where all have you competed this year?
I have had a really busy year. Skye jumped a double clear in the Nations cup in Fontainebleau and we finished 3rd. She was double clear in Wierden in Holland on the team and we finished 2nd so the Europeans was my 3rd trip abroad this year. Milchem Shes a Keeper also placed in every class in Fontainebleau and Toscane Davnir was in the ribbons in Wierden
You had a successful Dublin aswell, tell us how you got on.
Dublin was great this year. Firemen was runner-up in the first class in Simmonscourt and was 4th in the Championship in the Main Arena, Glenford Melody was also 6th in the first 6/7yo class.
What's your favourite show? if you can name just one
This definitely has to be the RDS in Dublin. I have been going there for as long as I can remember and have completed at it since I was 11. The jumping is brilliant and the atmosphere is great!
We know you always support the TRI Equestrian Spring and Autumn Tours and with this years Autumn tour starting soon, what do you enjoy most about these regional tours and why do you support them?
Tours are great for bringing ponies on and the competitions are really good. With the different heights it means that I can jump novice ponies as well as the more experienced ones. I think that the tours are great preparation for the next level and I love practising my clock rounds. TRI Equestrian also provide really good prizes which encourages so many people to follow the tour. The tours have really upped the standard in the Region.
Who do you receive lessons from?
My mum helps me a lot with schooling and training. She used me as her rider for her coaching exams and it really helped my flat work. Flat work is so important for showjumping.
I also get help from Denis Flannelly who is a brilliant trainer and he has taught me so much. I am really lucky as I also get help from Lucy Allen who is another really positive and knowledgeable coach
We know it takes a team of people to keep any successful competitor on the road, which people do you feel have been most influential in your riding career so far?
I think my mum has helped me so much. She has ridden and competed herself so she was able to help me from the start to try to ride correctly. I have been very lucky with the owners who have given me great ponies to ride and Denis and Lucy have been brilliant
What advice would you give to someone new coming into the sport and starting in ponies?
I think it is really good to watch other riders as you can learn so much just from watching them on the flat and jumping. Concentrate on your flatwork. Watch the top riders school and warm up their horses. Listen and take advice and help from others.
What age did you first start riding?
I started riding when I was 10 months old on Huckleberry my first pony. He was about 10 hands and my mum said it was the only thing that stopped me crying! When I was 3 I managed to get rid of the lead rein and jump my first course of fences. I started out in the Seskinore Harriers Pony Club and had brilliant experiences at the pony club camps and on teams.
What is the best thing about show jumping?
when everything works out and I get good results! I love my ponies and am really passionate about them. I love going to different shows and meeting my friends every week
Which is done first, homework or riding?
Unfortunately homework. I go to the Loreto Convent in Omagh and they have a good showjumping team. I have competed on lots of school teams which my cousin Ellen Thompson. For the last couple of years I haven't had ponies to do schools jumping with but if I had I would definitely be there especially as it gets me out of school.
Do you have any sponsors you'd like to mention?
I am really grateful to TRI Equestrian who have sponsored me now for a number of years. I get lots of great tack and riding gear and it means that I can turn the ponies out really well. The Meadows Equestrian Centre and Portmore Equestrian Centre have also been very good to me and I really appreciate it.
Why do you like working with them?
TRI Equestrian are so generous and they put so much into jumping. Gareth is always there to make sure that I have everything I need and I get the chance to try out new products before they are launched to let him know what I think. I recently got a Tesoro saddle which was brilliant. It was really comfortable and a good fit on all of the ponies.
What’s your favourite product from TRI?
I really love the Tesoro tack.
What's next for your career? What ponies are you competing at the moment?
At the moment I'm competing on Fireman, Ardfry Skye, Toscane Davnir, Milchem Shes a Keeper, Glenford Melody, Sparking Boomerangs Clover and Sparkling Mr Boomtastic.
Which ponies are you most excited about?
It's hard to choose I am so lucky with the ponies I have but I always love jumping Fireman because he is so exciting to ride.
What are your aims for the rest of this and into next year?
The Premier final is coming up soon and it is very close between Frano, Rhys and myself. After the Europeans I was invited to jump at the Longines Masters in Paris at the start of December and I am really looking forward to this. I will hopefully also get selected to compete in the World Cup series show in Lyon at the end of October. Next year I will again concentrate on the RDS, the Coolmore Premier Series, the TRI Equestrian National Championships and hopefully the European Championships.
On behalf of the Ulster Region Pony Committee, we would like to congratulate you on your tremendous success this year and wish you every success in the future.