Wednesday, Jul. 24, 2024

No Longer Just The Younger Brother: Harry Allen Is Riding Horses Now!

It’s tough to grow up in a big Irish family. It’s even tougher when you are one of the youngest of seven siblings. But for Harry Allen, being the younger brother of international showjumping wunderkind Bertram Allen means drafting behind his brother’s success to create his own path to international competition.

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It’s tough to grow up in a big Irish family. It’s even tougher when you are one of the youngest of seven siblings. But for Harry Allen, being the younger brother of international showjumping wunderkind Bertram Allen means drafting behind his brother’s success to create his own path to international competition.

Harry, 15, just jumped in his first senior FEI classes at the Longines Global Champions Tour stop in Vienna, Austria, riding two of Bertram’s young horses. He won a 1.30-meter CSI** class on High Valley, 9, and was fourth in a 1.15-meter CSI** class on Valentino vZ, a 7-year-old.

The show jumping world first took notice of the talent in the Allen family four years ago. Based in County Wexford, Ireland, Bertram had been an Irish star in the pony jumper ranks and built a spectacular junior career. In 2012, he made his international debut on the Irish Nations Cup Team. In 2014, he won the first leg of the Alltech FEI World Championship in France on his mare Molly Malone. He was 18 years old at the time and instantly became an international sensation.

Currently sitting 16th in the FEI world rankings, Bertram is now 21 and runs a large stable out of Hunxe, Germany. He is based just down the road from legendary German rider Marcus Ehning, with whom he now trains.

Meanwhile, back home in Ireland, Harry was growing up and rocketing around the pony jumper circuit. In August 2014, he created a bit of a stir when a video of him winning the 138-cm Pony Championship at the Dublin Horse Show on Lough Gill went viral on social media.

Since then Harry has continued to compete and win, both in Ireland and abroad. He’s represented Ireland in two FEI European Pony Championships (2014 and 2016)

We sat down with the two brothers during the Longines Global Champions Tour in Vienna. If you weren’t told that these two were related, it wouldn’t take long to figure it out. They share the same rolling Irish accent and polite, reserved manner. And they look alike; blue eyes and blond hair, small stature. Albeit Harry, who is six years younger, is much shorter and still wears braces.


Harry Allen. Photo by Stefano Grasso/LGCT

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They also share a very visible brotherly bond. Bertram admits to watching out for Harry when they are on the road together. Harry shyly describes Bertram as “a very nice brother.” But when Harry describes how the two of them shared a bedroom back home in Ireland, Bertram quips good-naturedly, “That’s why I left.”

But the family pride is evident. Bertram trains Harry whenever they are together in Germany and says his younger brother can be a bit “cheeky” but has both talent and potential.  “He’s not too bad, eh? We have good fun and always a bit of a craic,” he said, referring to the Irish slang for good times. “What you see is what you get with Harry. He is very laid back, he enjoys it, good sense of humor, he gets on with everyone.

“I suppose he is very natural,” Bertram said of his brother’s riding abilities. “He is obviously not the strongest so he has to find others ways of doing it, the same as me. Different methods of being with the horse. He is very nice with the horses; the horses jump good for him. And he is competitive too.”


Harry Allen on the 9-year-old High Valley winning a 1.30-meter CSI** class at the Longines Global Champions Tour of Vienna. Photo by Stefano Grasso/LGCT

For such a young rider, Harry has clearly set his sights on the top of the game. He admits to being singularly focused on school and riding: no movies, no reading, no music for this teenager. He said if he suddenly won a lot of money he would “buy two or three young horses, then put the money into something else. Maybe build a yard for the young horses.” Clearly there are no aspirations for fancy cars or fast living for this young equestrian.

And he has little admiration for rock stars or action movie actors either. Harry idolizes Marcus Ehning and Ludger Beerbaum.

For the rest of this year, Harry plans are to continue his dominance in the pony jumper divisions and keep moving up to the horses—following the same career path that Bertram managed so successfully. And his long-term ambition is to “try to jump horses at a competitive level.” He added with wide-eyed enthusiasm, “I’d love to go to the Olympics.”

“It’s a few years yet,” Bertram said dryly.

But the opportunity to see if Harry has what it takes is shortly upon the Allens. Like Bertram had before he moved to Germany, Harry is attending boarding school. And like Bertram, he is a good student that keeps up with his studies despite his constant travel to competitions. Next year is his transition year—a year without classes to travel and study. Harry plans to head straight to the farm in Germany.

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“When he finishes ponies and comes out here, that’s when you will really see,” Bertram explained. “[Riding] comes easy to him, he enjoys it, and he has had reasonable success. But you never really know. He will come to Germany for a year next year, and see how he gets on, and if he can make the grade. Hopefully he can.”


Bertram Allen (left) helps his younger brother Harry at the ring. Photo by Stefano Grasso/LGCT

In the meantime, Harry is very focused on his riding, learning from his brother and other riders on the circuit and making it happen in the show ring. “I really like to win,” he admits quietly. He said he prefers, “a hot horse that takes you to the fence, is sharp and you can turn tight. I like that.”

Asked which horse he’s pick if he could steal one from Bertram’s impressive string of top jumping talent, Harry stole a quick glance at his brother and then boldly selected Hector van d’Abdijhoeve, a powerful 9-year-old Belgian Warmblood stallion.

“He’d have to eat a bit more porridge before he can ride him,” Bertram quipped.

For Harry, there are clearly advantages in following Bertram’s footsteps. He has access to the sport and its riders at the highest levels when he joins Bertram on the circuit. And he has the opportunity to move up to more horses, more quickly, at Bertram’s farm in Germany. But the bright lights and notoriety of Bertram’s success can create additional expectations for the young rider to perform.

 “I don’t think too much about it,” Bertram said. “But I suppose sometimes for Harry it is not the nicest thing, I suppose it is a bit of extra pressure. Maybe it would be easier for him if he didn’t have it. But at the same time there are pros to having me as a brother.”

While the brothers frequently travel together to competitions, it will be at least a few years before Bertram needs to worry about facing off against Harry in a grand prix event, he said. In the meantime, they frequently bookend each other’s successes. Asked whether Harry’s win earlier that morning at the LGCT put more pressure on Bertram to win that evening’s five-star jumping event, he said it was actually a blessing in disguise.

“I think it takes the pressure off,” he said. “At least we’ve won something today.”

They looked at each other. And then both brothers laughed.

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