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Introducing: Jacqui Ridley

By Jacqui Ridley

There will be a few times in your life when all your instincts will tell you to do something, something that defies logic, upsets your plans and may seem crazy to others. When that happens, you do it. Listen to your instincts and ignore everything else. Ignore logic, ignore the odds, ignore the complications and just go for it! 

My instincts told me that there was something more waiting for me…. I ignored logic, ignored the complications and critics and went for it! Listening to my crazy impulse has led me to Haras Du Ry in Normandy, France and opened up a whole new and unbelievably exciting time in my life!

Haras Du Ry, Amy Graham’s training facility in Normandy

Haras Du Ry, Amy Graham’s training facility in Normandy1

Haras Du Ry, Amy Graham’s training facility in Normandy2

Haras Du Ry, Amy Graham’s training facility in Normandy, France where I am currently riding and training. Photo credit (above and below): sporthorsesonpics, Daniel Sebire

Let me tell you more: I spent the past 6 years working as a civil engineer in a secure, responsible, job trying to juggle work and horses, but totally lacking the fulfillment and passion I yearned for. Then came the moment when those crazy instincts kicked in and I decided to throw caution to the wind and resigned from my job with no real plan for the future except to follow my passion and commit 100% to my riding. While I’ve done eventing and dressage in the past, jumping is where my heart is and where I’ve set my goal!

 Jacqui Ridley at Deauville International 1* in France on Gordon Vd Riloo

Recently competing at Deauville International 1* in France on Gordon Vd Riloo

Growing up in the country on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, I was able to have a horse as a child and did the usual run through pony club and lessons. Horses had an unavoidable attraction for me and I soon became totally afflicted by that dreaded disease known as ‘horse addiction’! All you fellow addicts will certainly understand: it’s surely something in our blood or DNA that makes it impossible to extinguish!

Trying to be smart, knowing that further down the track supporting my riding would be expensive, I eased back on my riding after leaving school in order to study. While completing an engineering degree at the University of Queensland, I did many clicks back and forth to home in order to ride as much as I could. I took on some ‘off the track’ project horses and also bred, broke, educated and sold a few horses too. When I left uni I tried hard to combine full time work and riding. It’s a familiar story… working to get enough to support your horses but ending up with no time to ride enough to get anywhere! Trying to prepare and compete 2 or 3 horses became a juggling act that ended up with too much frustration and permanent tiredness! 

After too many years trying to combine work and competing I decided to listen to those instincts and take the plunge! While leaving a well paid, secure job to follow an ambitious dream earned me more than a few disparaging comments, I felt that for once I was being true to myself and following my heart. 

After fruitless researching online for training opportunities in Europe I took a leap of faith, bought a ticket to Amsterdam and set off …. not really knowing where…. to satisfy my thirst for training.

Turning up on the door step of a few good stables I soon found myself in the saddle, having top quality lessons and riding a variety of horses, from young less experienced ones to schoolmasters. I was on a roll and for 3 months I wallowed in the European horse scene! Gradually I developed a string of wonderful contacts in the dressage, eventing and show jumping world and managed to travel to Germany, the Netherlands, France, Finland, Ireland and England. I had always appreciated that Europe was the heart of all things equestrian but actually being in the thick of it all was beyond my wildest dreams! The exhilaration of fox hunting in southern Ireland, seeing the elite of International show jumping at the Longines International 5 star in Helsinki, training at some of Europe’s top stables and competing along side some of the best riders in the world are just some of the experiences that those crazy instincts have led me to!  

The view from the grandstand at the Longines 5* in Helsinki, Finland 

 The view from the grandstand at the Longines 5* in Helsinki, Finland

Having experienced just a taste of the equestrian experiences on offer I forged a business plan to enable others, just like me, to experience the thrills of the horsey scene in Europe.  Enter Global Equine (www.globalequine.com.au) and an opportunity for all riding enthusiasts to get in on the act: there are a variety of tour and training options available for riders and equestrian enthusiasts through Global Equine.


 Fox hunting with the Tipperary hounds in Southern Ireland

Fox hunting with the Tipperary hounds in Southern Ireland1

Fox hunting with the Tipperary hounds in Southern Ireland.

I personally just can’t get enough of Europe. In late 2013 I spent a few wonderful weeks training at Haras Du Ry in Normandy with Amy Graham, one of Australia’s top showjumpers currently competing on the International circuit in Europe. After a quick trip back home for Christmas I returned to Amy’s idyllic training facility early this year to train and ride…. and further fuel my passion. With WEG (World Equestrian Games) just down the road in August/September the months ahead are guaranteed to be full of wonderful horse-frenzied times.  

On a busy day I have been riding up to 8 or 9 horses and under Amy’s watchful, experienced eye I’m improving so much.  Next weekend I will be competing in an International 1* class at Chantilly in France on Gordon VD Riloo (Concorde x Lord Z).  Some days I definitely wake up and pinch myself! 

 Chantilly, France where I will be competing next weekend

Chantilly, France where I will be competing next weekend. 

So … is there a moral to my story so far? Simple…. life is too short to not be happy.

Do what makes you happy, and don’t give up on something you can’t go a day without thinking about. You will not do incredible things without incredible dreams.

I look forward to sharing my adventures with EQUESTRIAN LIFE readers in the months ahead!

 - Jacqui



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