Renowned for her love of the thoroughbred Elizabeth P0wer explains how the breed has been pivotal in her career
EQUESTRIAN DISCIPLINE: Eventing
BACKGROUND: Elizabeth, who lives in County Meath, started her competitive career in show jumping, coming up through the ranks on ponies. She represented Ireland at her first European Championships in 1997 on Normans Choice at Hartpury in England, winning team bronze. With former racehorse Kilpatrick River she was 11th on her Badminton debut in 2009.
Power also competes in FEI show jumping – and has competed in 5* internationals at Hickstead (placed 14th in the Derby) and Royal Dublin Horse Show where in 2019 she won the Royal Dublin Stakes with Doonaveeragh O One. In 2021 the pair competed in the relay at Aachen.
Power is from a family of equestrians – her father Con Power was an international show jumper and won three Aga Khan Cups, while her mother Margaret evented and competed at Badminton. Her brother Robert was a leading pony show jumper but changed careers to become a jockey and in 2007 won the Grand National on Silver Birch and in 2017 the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Sizing John.
Tell us about your involvement with the thoroughbred industry?
I feel like I’ve grown up in it – Dad trained horses before his accident and Robert my older brother is a jockey, so another very obvious reason to follow it. A lot of my friends are involved in the industry, too, so I didn’t really know a world that didn’t involve thoroughbreds.
When did you realise that thoroughbreds could transition to a different career?
My mum was the instigator behind that – they are just a beautiful model of a horse and we’ve always had them and, in our heads, they have never been limited to being just racehorses. I suppose the first notable horse was Kilpatrick River – he was bought for a junior rider with the idea that I would produce him and pass him on but I kept him and we ended up going to many fabulous places. I have always been open minded that all breeds can do all things.
Tell us about some of the thoroughbreds that you have had in your yard that have gone on to event successfully.
Until this year, anytime I have been to a 5* event, it has been on an ex-racehorse. It all started with Kilpatrick River, who took me to incredible places and achieved amazing things. In the end soundness got to him but he did have 26 races under his belt before he came to eventing. We grew up together and learned a lot as a partnership and he was the one that started it for me. September Bliss came next, he did Badminton and Burghley 5*s. He was a weak ex-racehorse who came from Jessica Harringtons but he had a heart of gold and tried his best.
Soladoun most recently joined my string, he came from trainer Alan King when I was based in the UK. He was a funny one – physically he shouldn’t have been the horse he was but, because of his incredible attitude and willingness to work with you, he went far beyond his capabilities. Every time he went into the ring he put his best foot forward and that type of attitude is worth more than anything.
Elizabeth Power Power on board Soladoun at Burghley Horse Trials – Photo Courtesy of Irish Eventing Times
What have been the common traits between these horses that you have felt helped them transition successfully?
The desire to give you more than they have ability wise. They all performed above more than their natural ability would have suggested and gave me more than they had. Horses love what they do and they enjoy
competitive life. I’ve had many other thoroughbreds, who have gone on to serve many different purposes, not just eventing. The idea that thoroughbreds can be “crazy” is not true and some of them I’ve had have been the most laid-back horses to come through my yard. They have gone on to do wonderful things for different people. They are no different to any other breed; a sensible soul is a sensible soul regardless of their breed and thoroughbreds are obliging, willing characters.
What is the retraining process for a thoroughbred?
I’m very open in the retraining process and I don’t like to restrict it. Each horse will take as long as it takes and if you put time into the basics at the beginning you will be rewarded down the road. Some of the weaker ones may need longer, maybe it is physical weakness or they just take time to adapt mentally to new routines. They may need to be worked in a different way and you have to take time to figure that out. Others advance much quicker depending on how strong they are or where they’ve been before they begin the transitioning process. Open mindedness is key and you have to let the horse tell you what it’s able for at each step.
Sizing John has made a very successful transition from Racehorse to Riding Horse, tell us how he has taken to his new career?
Sizing John is one of life’s special animals – he could have been a superstar in any career and luckily for my brother he chose racing. He could have been a 5* eventer – he’s the most beautiful horse and mover, he jumps well and he is the dream. He has adapted to his retraining as quickly as any horse I have ever had.
He’s physically a great model and he doesn’t find dressage hard and he is an absolute character and total monkey – if there is no audience watching he gets up to all sorts of trouble but as soon as eyes are on him he shows off! He is loving life and is definitely a lot happier with a purpose than being out in the field. He loved the Royal Dublin Horse Show – he thought everyone was there to watch him and him only! He’s been a lot of fun to work with and is a special horse that I’ve enjoyed producing.
What tips would you give to someone considering retraining a thoroughbred?
Be open minded – thoroughbreds are wonderful horses and have so much to offer. Be patient – they are no different to any horse, give them a chance and teach them the correct way. Enjoy the ride! They can give you so much and there is no better feeling than sitting on that sort of blood and travelling around the big 5* Eventing tracks – it’s incomparable!
Last year we saw you riding Sizing John in the Moyglare Champions Parade, this year Robbie Power is taking back the reins and taking part in the Team competition – have you been giving Puppy any special instructions?
I love the way he just claims him back but I suppose they were Gold Cup champions together and have an incredible relationship so who am I to stand in the way of that! I won’t be giving him any advice as I’d love
John to give him some hardship in the ring but I’m sure that won’t happen! It’s special that Robert gets to see him every day as Sizing John is a huge part of his life.
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