Multi-talented Kirsty Aird competes in a variety of classes on a range of different types of horses and ponies. From newcomers to natives, working hunters to ridden heavy horses, Kirsty is a master at producing horses to do well in the ring.
No matter which horse or what class she’s heading to next, preparation is a key part of Kirsty’s success. Although her first HOYS qualifiers aren’t until the beginning of June, when we spoke to Kirsty at the beginning of April preparation was already well underway. We caught up with Kirsty to find out her top 5 tips that she uses to ensure she’s Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) qualification ready:
- Practise! If you’re targeting working hunter make sure you’ve been out jumping, whether that’s a bit of showjumping or working hunter course practise. Some of the courses can be quite tricky so if you’ve practised over different types of fences and lines, both you and your horse will be prepared for whatever comes up on the day. If you’re competing in flat classes make sure your horse is going as well as they can, practise their schooling so that you can wow the judges. Think outside of the box as to what shows your pony off at their best – use this in your individual show and don’t be afraid to change it up. If they’ve got a brilliant trot put more trot work in or if their transitions are really good put in movements like picking up canter on a straight line or doing quick changes.
- Turn out. Make sure your horse is looking their best and ready for the season. This starts a couple of months in advance for Kirsty and her team as they look at their feeding regime. Getting their feeding correct is vital, ensuring the horses are on the right amounts of the right type of feed according to their breed and workload. Kirsty uses Connolly’s RED MILLS Horse Care 10 and if they need a little more energy tops it up with their Horse Care 14. She likes to use the Horse Care range as she knows their digestive system is being looked after when they are travelling and working so much, so it helps to make them feel comfortable and be able to give 100% for the job they do. If the feeding is correct you’re already halfway there on their coat and the condition of their hair. Get a good shine on their coat – make sure you’re rugging correctly so that their coats stay as smooth and fine as possible.
- Plan and prepare so that you give yourself time, both on the day and further in advance. Keep an eye on closing dates – lots of shows close quite early for entries, so make sure you get your entries in on time and make a plan for your season of what you’re doing and where you’re going. Don’t rush on the day – give yourself plenty of time to get to the show, find out which ring you are in and to get properly warmed up. This will help your horse relax and go better in the ring.
- Ride judge. Ensure somebody else has ridden your horse before you take them to a show where a judge will be riding. For young or inexperienced horses you can target classes where you know the ride judge is good, it’s really important to get them used to other people riding them and to give them good experiences with different riders.
- Tack & equipment. Choose tack that correctly fits and shows off your horse at its best. Make sure your saddle properly fits – not only will your horse go better if it’s comfortable but a correctly fitting saddle will make a huge difference for a ride judge. Get it checked before and during the season as they change shape through the summer.
Last year Kirsty had three horses qualify for HOYS and she will be targeting qualification for HOYS and the Royal International this summer with an eight strong string of show horses. Two fell stallions; Greenholme Emblem and Nicholwalls Blackjack, will contest mountain and moorland working hunter and open ridden mountain and moorland classes respectively. Blackrock Oscar is a Welsh D that will compete in novice ridden classes whilst Highland pony Dunedin Merlin will head to open ridden mountain and moorland classes. She will be campaigning Clydesdale mare Westbank Jessie J in the heavy horse qualifiers, Remember Rio in small riding horse and Encore VI in middleweight hunter classes. Last but by no means least her two Connemara rides; Castle Diva will be targeting open ridden mountain and moorland classes and novice working hunters whilst Woodbank Smokey Sam will compete in in mountain and moorland working hunter pony classes, junior riddens and open ridden classes. Phew, it looks like a busy season for Kirsty!
Kirsty also loves to showjump, saying it gives her an adrenaline rush that is a nice change to the show ring. Her own younger showjumper, Breckenridge, has qualified for the Connolly’s RED MILLS Senior Newcomer Series so she will be targeting them with him, although she thinks he will really flourish next year, alongside stepping him up to 1.30/1.40m. Her older jumping horse, Jumping Mac Flash, will be heading to the county shows to jump grand prix, puissance and speed classes. He’s won the Scottish puissance for the last two years, what a horse!