Briar Hill & Corinne Doran – AIRO Welfare Award Winner 2023

Coco Doran and Briar Hill jumping at the Treo Eile
Christmas Show 2022


Corinne “Coco” Doran winner of the Association of Irish Racehorse Owners Welfare Award chats about her experience with the former chaser Briar Hill.

Do you have a thoroughbred background?
I always had an interest in the racing industry, and I started riding out while on work experience at college in 2015 and caught the bug! I made the switch from cobs to thoroughbreds.

What made you want to retrain a racehorse?
From riding out, attending sales and race days you can see the movement, and the potential they have to go round, forward and jump so well. It was an easy decision for me.

How did you come across Briar Hill?
A friend in the yard with us at Macanta Equestrian had been contacted by his previous owners who were no longer in a position to keep him, so he was looking for a new home. When we first went to view him we didn’t know who he was, when they said his name I couldn’t believe it! We had originally planned to retrain him for sale but after only two days I knew I couldn’t let him go.

Had he any retraining done prior to you taking him on?
We didn’t have much info about him when he arrived so we took it as if he hadn’t any retraining done and started him as we would any of the others that we had in.

What was your initial reaction when you met him first? What drew you to him?
Its always exciting when we get a new arrival at the yard. When I first saw him I was taken aback at the injury to his face, I was concerned about any complications that may come along with it as I hadn’t experienced an injury like it before. But he has the kindest eyes and was so cheeky and sweet in the stable – it was about 30 seconds before he was in my pockets looking for treats!

What does his lifestyle look like now?
Life for Briar Hill now is very busy! In 2022 he became part of the equine team at Grennan Equestrian Centre so, from September to May, Monday to Friday, he is the perfect “riding school pony” bringing the young adults from lead rein up to stage 3 riding in a double bridle and jumping courses up to 1m.

On the weekends I compete with him in show jumping and riding club events, and in the summer’s One-Day Events and showing at Irish Agricultural Shows.

Briar Hill was included in one of our parades at Naas Racecourse this year, how did you feel about the experience?
It was great! It is fantastic to get the opportunity to parade and showcase the ex-racers. I think he really enjoyed it, and he most definitely knew where he was as every time he passed the canter down he was quite keen to get down the shoot – we had paraded twice at Punchestown and he didn’t have the same reaction!

What was your reaction as recipient of the AIRO Welfare Award?
Shock! I was thrilled to get the call from Regina at AIRO. It’s fantastic to see these organisations starting to recognise the work that’s being done with these horses after their careers in racing and starting to help with funding to give us small yards and owners access to training days and clinics. It took a lot of hard work, massage therapy and time to get to where we are now, and I am so grateful to have been rewarded for the work.

What tips would you give to someone considering retraining a thoroughbred?
I’d advise anyone considering retraining a thoroughbred to do plenty of research on feeding and hoof care. I’d also advise finding a coach who is familiar with the thoroughbreds and not to rush them as some have spent years in training and becoming a ‘riding horse’ would be like us trying to learn a new language and can be confusing for them, and always have plenty of patience and offer reassurance.

Check out Corinne speaking about Briar Hill and the award here.

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