2004 Olympic Ireland Eventing Roster

Aug 13, 2004 - 10:00 PM

Ireland’s Squad Can Certainly Jump
But will their strength over fences outweigh their weakness in front of the letters, wonders Louise Parkes.

The living legend himself, New Zealand’s Mark Todd, once described Ireland’s Susan Shortt as one of the greatest exponents of the art of cross-country riding. Generations of her family have been involved in competitive equestrian sports, and her late mother, Elizabeth, and her father, Paddy, spent much of their lives immersed in life on the racetrack. Her brother, John, followed in his father’s footsteps when becoming a jockey, but Susan’s heart was always in eventing, and, at 38 years, she’s a veteran of some of Ireland’s greatest successes in the sport.

She took over the ride on Just Beauty Queen in 2002, and, in their debut season, they finished 10th in the Punchestown CCI*** (Ireland) to book their ticket to the World Equestrian Games, where they placed 28th. At last year’s European Championships at Punchestown, they finished 11th individually, helping to secure Ireland’s Olympic qualification, and this season they placed consistently at home before travelling to Britain to grab fourth place at Belton Park and 18th in the Chatsworth CIC***.

Shortt previously had considerable success on Menena, with whom she completed the Badminton CCI**** (England) and the European Championships in 1993. She began a long friendship with Karen and David O’Connor following the sale of her junior horse to Karen back in 1985 and was bridesmaid at their wedding.

From Richhill in Northern Ireland, Sasha Harrison can never be overlooked for the team, as long as her partnership with the brave and consistent French-bred All Love du Fenaud continues.They’ve carved out an admirable eventing career over the last nine seasons, including eighth at Burgie CCI** (England) in 1997, fifth at Punchestown and ninth at Boekelo (the Netherlands) in 1998, and ninth at Punchestown again in 1999. The pair came dangerously close to victory at Punchestown in 2000 but eventually slotted into third, and in 2001 they finished 18th at the European Championships. The horse has only been lightly campaigned over the past two seasons but has the capacity to produce a big result on request, and so far this year has been 10th at Belton Park, a winner at Bicton and fourth at Chatsworth CIC*** in England. Harrison, who trained as a beautician but decided to put that career on the backburner to concentrate on riding, recently became engaged to Andrew Stewart, and they plan to marry next May.

From Newcastle in County Wicklow, Mark Kyle has been in the saddle all of his life and carved out a great career in pony showing, working hunters and show jumping before moving into the senior ranks. His show jumping father Johnny rode internationally for Ireland, and his mother, Gillian, was a successful eventer and show horse judge, while brother John Jr. has long been involved as a commentator and show organizer. Gillian was event director this year at Punchestown, where they ran the short-format CCI at the three-star level .

The highlights of Mark’s career include the World Equestrian Games in 1998 and two European Championships, but his career with Drunken Disorderly happened accidentally just two years ago. His then girlfriend, and now wife, Tanya, suffered a broken arm in a fall from another horse and she handed her big, reliable gray to Mark to ride. The rest, as they say, is history. In 2002 Mark steered the horse into 19th place at Punchestown and then finished 25th at the Burghley CCI**** (England) before taking the 17th spot at last September’s European Championships. This horse has never made a mistake on cross-country, and Mark also rode him into runner-up spot in the hotly-contested Eventing Grand Prix in Hickstead (England), where top show jumpers and eventers do battle each summer. Mark’s prowess in the show jumping ring is considerable, and he runs a strong team of show jumpers along with his event horses, so the extra individual show jumping round in Athens should hold no horrors for him. He and Tanya, who spend a considerable amount of time each year training riders in the United States, were married last November and run a private yard at Arena UK in Grantham, England.

Niall Griffin is the surprise package of the Irish squad, having only come to prominence in the last year and booking his place on the team with a superb performance when third with Lorgaine at Punchestown in June. Griffin went to England at age 17 and worked with Mark Todd for two years before moving on to a sales yard, where he prepared young horses and found Lorgaine. When foot-and-mouth disease broke out in England in 2001, he headed for the United States and worked with David and Karen O’Connor and then with Phillip Dutton.

He now runs his own yard at home. The combination jumped clear cross-country at last year’s European Championships, and the 9-year-old gelding was impressive at the Olympic format at Punchestown in June. Niall’s father, Liam Griffin, is the legendary manager of the Wexford hurling team and a trained sports psychologist, and Niall said he has greatly benefited from his father’s motivational techniques.

Edmond Gibney has also spent time with the O’Connors. He’s been a talented producer of young horses for some time, and he came to prominence when taking up the ride on Grainne Ward’s King’s Highway in 2000. The following year the partnership finished eighth at Blarney Castle (Ireland), and, on only their second international outing together, were 23rd at Boekelo. In 2002 they were ninth at Blenheim (England), just weeks after competing at Punchestown, and last year Gibney moved from Ireland to a new base in England.

The partnership began their 2004 campaign with runs at Britain’s Ardingly and Bicton and then went to Chatsworth, where they finished 30th. They returned to Ireland for the Punchestown fixture in June, where they cruised around the cross-country until suffering an injury that led to withdrawal.

Team Members

JUST BEAUTY QUEEN: br. m., 11, Thoroughbred, by Seamanship.
SUSAN SHORTT: age 38, Kilcullen, County Kildare.

ALL LOVE DU FENAUD: ch. g.
SASHA HARRISON: age 29, Wiltshire, England.

DRUNKEN DISORDERLY: gr. g., 14, by Macrocket.
MARK KYLE: age 31, Grantham, Lincolnshire, England.

LORGAINE: ch. g., 9, by Ballinvella.
NIALL GRIFFIN: age 26, Rosslare Harbour, County Wexford.

KING’S HIGHWAY: b. g., 12, by Rising.
EDMOND GIBNEY: North Lopham, England.

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