This presentation to Dad was a great honour, we were delighted to get that in recognition of breeding the Kentucky five-star winner Cooley Rosalent (Valent). Dad also bred the dam Bellaney Jewel (Roselier) who was successful in her own right as a racing mare and I rode and produced Valent. So it’s a real family story.

What made it special was that the presentation took place at Balmoral. We’re from Lisburn originally, so Balmoral is now our local show. It’s still one of my favourite shows in Ireland and the main arena is just fabulous to ride in. We went to Balmoral from a young age. It was the highlight of the year for us back then: the main arena with the big President’s Box and the grandstands, the Kings Hall, the atmosphere, all the farmers about.

Dad was a farmer and was in the demolition business. A few stray horses had been left in the fields, they stayed and we just learned to ride on them.

Highly Commended

My first competition at Balmoral was in the first ridden when I was nine or 10. I got a highly commended rosette. That was it, I never did another first ridden class and took up show jumping.

Mandy, my sister, won three classes in a row on Midnight Mover and then I won it after her as well. We loved jumping in that main arena in the old Belfast venue and Balmoral was one of my first international competitions too.

The pony circuit was different then, no sand arenas. We’d pack up the lorry and go away for the weekend, all around Ireland. If we got stables, they went in stables, if not, we put the ponies out in the field and we’d bring our tents, like when we went to Millstreet. It was great fun.

Mandy and Midnight Mover won everything: Balmoral, Dublin, the Spring Show, everything. My brother Philip was on junior teams with Tom Duggan and Linda Courtney and all three of us represented Ireland at junior level. I finished sixth at the Europeans with Benwee many years ago and Mandy did the Europeans in Ennis.

We had many great horses and ponies and we also sold a lot of young horses through Graziano Mancinelli.

Liscalgot? Daddy, Sam Thompson and James Acheson bought this Touchdown mare when her breeder Terence Harvey put her on the market. That was several months before the 2002 world show jumping championships in Jerez where Dermott Lennon, who rode a lot of our horses, won the gold medal.

Dermott campaigned her alongside our horse, Garrunturton Lady (Cavalier Royale), so my sister Barbra had a great time travelling to a lot of shows with Dermott at that time. They went all over Europe, to Spruce Meadows but she didn’t get to watch in Jerez because there wasn’t enough tickets. It wasn’t live-streamed at that time but when we got the video, we had a party while watching it.

Spruce Meadows, Aachen and Kentucky are my three favourite shows. We went to Kentucky when Hallmark Elite and Dermott were on the Irish team there at the 2010 World Equestrian Games.

They had wins all over Europe, they went to Toronto, Dubai, jumped double clear in the Nations Cup at Aachen that summer and finished in the top-10 at the World Cup final earlier that year in Geneva.

Dermott was very, very unlucky in the final, he could have easily won it. Me, Barbra and Daddy were there but that was the year of the volcanic ash eruption in Iceland and we couldn’t get our flights home. We came home in Dermott’s lorry.

When we were in Kentucky, we walked the cross-country. Those fences are huge. I still have the photos of me standing down in a ditch. I wouldn’t have fancied doing those fences and I’m sure they’re even harder now.

We went to the European championships with Jewelent [Cooley Rosalent’s full-brother] and Clare Abbott, then the following year to Badminton and those courses were unbelievable too.

Five-star mare

We all watched the Kentucky cross-country up at Daddy’s house to see Rosalent and Jewelent, now with Philip Dutton. It was unbelievable when she and Oliver Townend won the five-star. Oliver actually rang after he got home to congratulate Daddy on breeding her and said it was one of the best he’d ever ridden. So that was nice of him to do that.

We’ve loved Valent since he arrived as a four-year-old. I jumped him myself up to Grand Prix, did a Nations Cup at Drammen and then Dermott had him for a while. Valent is retired now and lives in the orchard at Daddy’s house. Daddy still has the farm, doing a lot of crops and we still have beef cattle. And for years, he gets the Irish Farmers Journal every week.