IN Northern Ireland, there is a wealth of equestrian talent, in terms of horses and ponies, as well as riders, and across the various equine disciplines. While the talented riders fall into many age groups, it is very encouraging to see the number of dedicated young riders, learning their craft and steadily rising to the top. The future looks very exciting!
One such talented equine athlete is Lily Tunney from Tempo, Co. Fermanagh, where she lives with her dad, Gabriel; mum, Madeleine and sister, Elsie, who is nine. Gabriel’s name may be familiar to many, as he is a well-known show jumper and highly respected instructor, while Madeleine also has a show jumping background, but has now assumed the valuable role of groom for her daughters. Elsie is following in her big sister’s footsteps – she was the Under 8 National Champion in 2019 and is now competing in Under 10s on Lily’s pony ‘In it to win it’ (on which Lily won so much in Under 10s). Another potential star of the future!
Lily has grown up with horses and ponies. As a toddler, she had a Shetland pony called ‘George’, which she enjoyed being led around on. By the age of five, she had an accomplished 128 pony called ‘Sharons Choice’, on which she began her show jumping career in the Show Jumping Ireland (SJI) Newcomers classes. Now, at just 11 years old, Lily is a rising star in the world of show jumping. In a short space of time, Lily has achieved such a lot – including securing her first sponsor, Joyce Clarke Estate Agents!
Despite having such a slight build and being so young, it is quite incredible to watch Lily ride. She has skill beyond her years, riding with such maturity and balance, placing her ponies in the ‘sweet spot’ at each fence, with a consistency many a professional would crave. Against the clock, she looks equally as poised, managing to put in a fast speed round without a kick or flap to be seen. She could be the future Rachel Blackmore of show jumping, showing bravery and strength, blended with razor sharp calculated precision.
Lily attends St. Mary’s Primary School in Tempo and has represented the school in show jumping. In fact, she has been on the winning team in the Primary section at the Inter-schools’ show jumping held at Ecclesville in 2019. On that occasion, she also claimed second place in the individual class and was third in a speed class – not bad for a day’s work!
Her new sponsor, Joyce Clarke Estate Agents, is run by the popular Libby Clarke, who has her own fame in the farming world, on the TV Show Rare Breeds.
“We were eager to support young talent. Someone who encapsulates our own values, such as integrity, work ethic and striving
for results. Lily is that person,” Libby said.
Lily currently has four ponies – a 128cm called ‘Scarletts Cromwell’; a 138cm called ‘Brackla Dancer’; a 138cm called ‘Tempo Abbey’ and a 148cm called ‘Simon Said’. She has just begun her 2021 registered show jumping season, which she kicked off with second place on ‘Scarletts Cromwell’ at the Meadows Ulster Region League, which she promptly followed up with a win at Cavan in the 128cm 1m class.
Meanwhile, at Cavan, ‘Brackla Dancer’ was double clear in her first 138cm 1.10m class and ‘Simon Said’ was double clear in Lily’s first 148 1.10m class on him. Lily placed third with both
these ponies that day.
For most of us, managing to keep one horse or pony competition fit, alongside the demands of work or school is hard going, so how does Lily juggle these at the same time as continuing to improve competitively and securing sponsorship?
Horse Week decided to find out more…
What classes are you currently competing in with Show Jumping Ireland?
‘Scarletts Cromwell’ is 128cm and competes in 1m classes; ‘Brackla Dancer’ is 138cm and is competing at 1.10m classes and is ready to go on up and do Grand Prix level this year. ‘Simon Said’ is a new 148cm pony. I have had a couple of great 1m classes on him and have just started 1.10m classes. I hope to finish with some 1.20m classes on him later in the year. ‘Tempo Abbey’ is just five years old and is jumping 80cm in the 138cm classes to bring her on.
What is your weekly riding routine like?
When riding at home, I would walk and trot shallow loops and work over poles on the ground. Every single day, I work on my position to constantly improve. My mum and dad are amazing and help me a lot on this. We might work on grids and bounces later in the week. We have some quiet days.
How do you feel about your new sponsor, Joyce Clarke?
It’s very exciting. I love all my new clothing and numnahs. They look great!
What has been your favourite show jumping round ever?
I was on my favourite and quirky pony ‘Cromwell’. I was riding at the Home Pony International in Cavan in 2020 and it was huge (1.05m). I just saw lovely distances to the fences and I rode such a smooth round.
What has been your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge was riding on the Ulster Team in Cavan in 2020. I had never jumped so high (1.05m)! It was also a team competition, which was an additional challenge to me, as I didn’t want to let my team mates down.
Last year Lily sustained a
broken shoulder and a concussion, but was back
out jumping after just six weeks!
How did you remain so brave and positive?
I just got on with it. I missed riding. I accept that this
is part of riding
and, although I had a few rough nights with my shoulder, it began to heal quickly.
To keep your ponies fit, well turned out and compete them as you do, you clearly have wonderful work ethic. Tell us about that?
I want to make my ponies look good for the show. I don’t mind cleaning tack and ponies. I also don’t mind mucking out. It is all part of horse care.
Who is your horse hero?
Locally, Niamh McEvoy. She is a great rider with incredible position.
I also like international show jumpers, Christian Ahlmann and Marcus Ehning.
If you could have any pony or horse which, would you choose?
Niamh McEvoy’s pony ‘Fireman’ or ‘Dominator 2000z’, who has so much scope and is very honest.
What is your favourite food?
That’s easy. My mum’s home cooking. She makes the best food and is so organised and helps me get outfits ready for the shows.
What is your favourite quote?
My dad’s saying, which is “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try, again!”
What are your best results?
I had my best year in 2019, when I was Ulster Region Under 10 Champion, Reserve All-Ireland Under 10 National Champion and I was a member of the Irish team, along with Harry Rush, Adam Adair and Juliette McIntosh – we won the Under 10 competition at the Home Pony International in Cavan. 2020 was a strange year with Covid and I fractured by shoulder, but I did manage to produce good results over two days at Cavan HPI 2020 and secured a place on the Ulster team. Together with my team mates, Charlotte McCracken, Jamie Clarke, Robert Russell and Peter Morton, we won Silver!
Horse Week wishes Lily every success for the season ahead.
If you know of any rider, groom, helper, horse or pony who deserves a mention in Horse Week, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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