Owner spotlight: It’s all about the love of the sport
The passion and pride owner Wendy Coney takes in her horses’ performance and progress is what fuels her love for eventing.
Supporting our children through Pony Club is how our adventures with eventing began. What was originally a wonderful way to switch off from work has become an all-consuming passion.
We now have nine eventing horses of different ages and at different levels. This includes older horses who have been injured but we have returned to their top form, as well as some home-breds that are coming through. And we have Mermus R Diamonds and Kananaskis, who both competed at 5* last year in Pau.
All about progress
As anyone involved in the sport will know, finding the right horse that has the right temperament, fitness, ability and potential is incredibly difficult. We have learnt over the years that progess with horses is slow but to watch their progress really is a sight to behold.
I started with horses relatively late and not being a rider – I’m a happy hacker – I had minimal knowledge. However, we have been surrounded by amazing people, including Judy Bradwell, Ros Canter, Tracy Woodhead, Caroline Moore and others, and my inquisitive nature saw me grill friends and professionals for knowledge, which meant I’ve learnt as I’ve gone along.
When horses are competing, at any level, they are athletes and it takes a lot of management and care to keep them fit and healthy and not overdoing it. It’s a fine balance to push a horse just enough to fulfil its potential and this can only come with experience, input from your team and the instinct of your rider.
The relationship between owner and rider is an essential one. For the best possible results, you have to work together and honesty, openness and communication are key. Having a good rapport with your rider really is the key to unlocking a horse’s potential. As an owner you can see whether a horse and rider combination looks a good one and you can spot if the horse looks unhappy or is struggling, but this only tells part of the story. The amount of work riders put in is incredible and they are the ones who fully understand the horse’s true capabilities.
Of course, our main rider is Richard Coney, the 5* event rider and our son. This adds a totally different dynamic as an owner. The highs and lows are intense as there really is nothing more exciting than watching your children compete on horses that you have brought on from youngsters, which is what we’ve done with most of our horses, including Mermus R Diamonds and Kananaskis.
Mermus R Diamonds arrived as an incredibly sensitive five year- old. She was ridden by Ros Canter, who was so patient with her. It was Ros’s gentle steadiness and pace that taught us the importance of taking things slowly. When Ros was no longer able to ride her, we encouraged Richard to take the reins, despite him being away at university and having other horses to ride. They clicked during the winter and haven’t looked back. She really has gone from strength to strength, competing at 5* in Pau last year and finishing ninth.
Kananaskis was Richard’s first project when he was 15 and he and the then-five-year-old have progressed beautifully together. They have competed in the Europeans, Junior, Young Rider and Nations Cups with great success and it really has been a true partnership. The partnership has continued to flourish, progressing from 4* to 5* during 2020 and we have high hopes for 2021 and beyond.
Last year, initially, seemed like a disaster, but it turned out to be a fantastic year for us. We’d spent the winter preparing both Mermus R Diamonds and Kananaskis to reach 5* fitness early in the season, but as events were cancelled, we had to make the decision whether to turn them out or keep them ticking over. We opted for the latter and were able to get out more than we thought we would, including events overseas, with some fantastic results, so it was the right decision.
This year is more problematic. Like many others, we were focused on Badminton and Burghley and it’s disappointing that they aren’t going ahead. The Olympics remains a possibility, but with so many strong combinations in the running, it may not be Richard’s time yet.
For Mermus R Diamonds, we will use the time to embryo transfer in the hope that she produces another foal so the time isn’t going to waste.
Eventing is a difficult sport as you are always faced with uncertainty, which can make it hard to plan. The expense is also a factor to be considered. It’s not just the cost of buying the horses but ensuring they are well cared for too, plus making sure they have the training and education they need to fulfil their potential. However, no owners go into eventing for financial reward – we do it for our love of the sport.
Feature first published in the Summer 2021 issue of British Eventing Life