ORLAITH O’Hagan, proprietor of Old Orchard Stables in Armagh, is a regular at the All-Ireland National Dressage Championships in County Cavan. But this year, she won’t be travelling alone, as seven riders and their horses from her school have also qualified!
The ‘Magnificent Seven’, along with a delighted Orlaith, will set off for the prestigious three-day event at Cavan International Equestrian Centre – all whom have qualified for the first time.
Among the horses going are ‘Blackwater Cleopatra’, the undisputed Queen of Old Orchard Stables, and a walking miracle. In her 18 years, she has come through some very serious health problems, all of which were life-threatening. Four years ago, ‘Cleopatra’ faced her toughest battle when she suffered a horrific leg injury and the prognosis was poor. Orlaith was advised to prepare for the worst, but she and her team set about intensive treatment and devoted one-to-one nursing. ‘Cleopatra’ pulled through, but Orlaith was told she couldn’t be ridden again. After a lengthy period of rest and against all odds, ‘Cleopatra’ proved everyone wrong, when she was passed fit to be ridden. She has gone on to form a winning partnership with her rider, Nuala Quinn.
Training for the qualifiers is dedicated and strict, in order to fine-tune the intricate dressage movements. On one of their last practice sessions before setting off, there was time for the Magnificent Seven to take a short break for a group photograph.