Young Oscar to take up reins at Horse of the Year Show
Young pony rider Oscar O'Connor is set to fly the flag for Wexford when he represents Ireland at one of the world's most prestigious horse shows in the world next month.
The eight-year-old from Cleariestown will hop in the saddle for The Horse of the Year Show at Birmingham's NEC arena to compete with his 122cm show hunter pony Birtley Rainbow Quest. It will see them up against some of Britain's top 20 122cm show hunter ponies and riders in front of a packed crowd in the NEC.
The pair impressed the judges at the qualifier in August, securing them a place in this year's contest alongside many experienced riders, some up to three years older than Oscar. However, the moment almost didn't happen for Oscar, who only entered into the qualifier five minutes before the entry deadline.
'We travelled over to Grantham with the Irish pony team and he was doing well in some of the other events. We hadn't intended to enter the qualifier at all but the other kids were talking about so I entered Oscar in at five to ten. Nobody knew we had entered,' explained proud mother Susie.
After impressing the judges and receiving a place in next month's competition, Susie said she is very proud and excited for what is to come. 'Oscar takes everything in his stride so he is Mr cool and calm about the whole thing,' she added. 'He likes the competition side of things and doesn't get stressed over it all.'
Since he began riding two years ago, Oscar has become a member of the Killinick branch of the Irish Pony club and is mentored by top International Event rider Michelle Kenny. He rides regulary under the tutelage of Kitty Wood and team at Shelmalier Stables and will train with them in the runup to the competition, which will test the discipline of both horse and rider.
This year marks a very successful year on the domestic show circuit for Oscar and Birtley Rainbow Quest. In recent months, the duo were crowned as Irish Overall Mini Champions and Prestige Show hunter champions. Following these wins, they travelled with the Irish Pony Society Show Team to the British Championships at Arena UK Grantham to gain some valuable experience competing against the elite of ponys and riders in the UK.