22 year old Jack Dodd, from Ballina in Co Mayo is one of Ireland’s promising young stars. He is the perfect example of a rider who trains hard with various people to further his knowledge of the sport. The Irish rider has worked relentlessly every day to get to where he is today, and still he strives to become better. We caught up with Jack before he heads out on the sunshine tour.
1.How did you get involved with horses? Tell us a bit about your very first pony.
My Mum and Dad have a riding school at home in the west of Ireland so I grew up with horses. Aside from the ponies in the riding school, my first one was a pony called Pepe. I was around nine years old and we were very hit and miss. I won a lot with her but I also fell off a lot too trying to win.
2. At what age did you think showjumping was going to be your career?
When I was ten years old I won the under 10 national championships with Pepe and from then on I decided this is what I wanted to do. (Apart from a brief two weeks at the start of secondary school when I decided being an actor was my true calling!)
3. Have you been based/trained with many people?
I have been very lucky with some of the great places I have been. At sixteen I moved to Hickstead for a year and worked for Shane Breen. I owe a lot to Shane and Chloe Breen for giving me the chance to ride there when I was so young. I remember Shane spending hours every day helping me and I think it was in that year I realised how hard you have to work on yourself as a rider if you want to get to the top.
Once I went home and finished school I was offered a job to ride for Cian O Connor. I also spent a year there and learned about everything not just riding. Cian is one the most organised people I have ever met and I was able to learn a lot from him.
After leaving Cian, I moved to ride for Cameron Hanley in Germany. Here, aside from world class tuition from Cameron, I had amazing opportunities. I rode my first 3* Grand prix, a young rider nations cup and European Championships.
4. Tell us a bit about your new job.
I ride for Bertram Allen mainly helping him in producing the younger horses in the stable. As Bertram does so many 5* shows there normally aren’t classes for the younger horses, so I mostly do 2/3* shows and compete the horses Bertram hasn’t time to.
5. Do you have any personal sponsors?
Yes, I am proud to be sponsored by GPA, Freejump and most recently Alessandro Albanese. They all have amazing gear I must say it’s a pleasure to use their products.
6. How long have you been based in Europe?
Two and a half years.
7. What is your daily routine?
I generally spend most of the day riding, there is an amazing team in the stable so you don’t have much else to worry about.
8. Have you many horses in work at the moment?
There is approximately twenty horses in at any given time, with Bertram, Adam Carey and myself riding. April, Bertram’s sister manages the stable very well so it always runs smooth.
9. Tell us a little bit about your team of horses.
My team changes a bit as a lot of the horses tend to get swapped between Bertram and myself, but my main Grand prix horse is called Wrangler who has had a lot of success with both Bertram and Alex Duffy. We have five amazing 8yr olds along with some really special younger horses which makes my job a pleasure.
10. Have you any aspirations for the top sport of showjumping?
I do, I suppose like most young Irish riders the goal is to try to achieve what the Irish team did this year in Dublin, win an Aga Khan. I want to be a regular Irish team member in the future and work towards championships. I think without setting goals like this won’t push yourself to be a better rider. The biggest fear I have is to become complacent and stop trying to improve.
11. Have you many shows lined up?
I plan to do a 2* in Germany next week and then spend three weeks at the Sunshine tour in Spain where between Bertram, Adam and Myself will take 16 horses. After that I hope to be selected to ride the U25 classes in Paris.
12. Do you have any horse at present you think of as the next “big thing” ie: Flora De Mariposa, Big star, or Sanctos.
It’s hard to say, we have a few really good horses. I think one you’ll see a lot of in the next couple of years is an eight year old horse called Cheese W Z. (Chatman x Galoubet)
13. Who has been the main influence on your career to this point?
My Mum and Dad have supported and encouraged me my entire life. They’ve given me great opportunities and the belief that whatever I put my mind to I can do.
Also when I was at home in Ireland I lived 5 minutes from Alex Duffy who inevitably has been a major influence on my life not just my career. I have always turned to him for advice on big decisions such as changing jobs and when it’s important he has never led me astray. (Although he has led me astray on a few other things.)
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14. Who do you look up to in the top sport and who do you model your riding style on?
I don’t try and model my riding style on anyone in particular I just try to do what feels best for me. I have to say the person I look up to the most is Cameron Hanley. I learned so much in the time that I worked for him. Horses just seem to love him, they fight for him. I’ve seen first hand how hard he works and no matter how badly he gets set back he always bounces back, better than ever.
15. Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
I hope im still In Ballywalter Farm. I really like it here and the future looks bright.
16. What do you look for in a horse?
A good attitude, if a horse wants to jump you’re half way there already.
17. Many young Irish riders are choosing to leave Ireland and base themselves in the United States. Why did you choose to go to Europe? Do you ever see yourself based in the United States?
I came to Europe because I knew I needed more ring time and experience, I think it’s easier to get that in Europe. I’m happiest when I’m in the ring so for the time being, Europe is the place for me.
18. Do you get home to Ireland often ?
Jack laughs, ‘well not half enough if you ask my Mum’.
Photos: Courtesy of Jack Dodd
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