The Pony Kids are Daryl, Dean, Squeaky, Jade and Thomas. They're being trained by Jessica Kurten, Irelands No1 showjumper who's currently ranked 4th in the world and Ronan Corrigan of Coolrea Stud. Over the course of 10 weeks Diarmuid Gavin must guide the Pony Kids from wild untutored pony riding on the fields of Dublin to the RDS Showjumping Arena.
Tues 29th May 2007:
Diarmuid the Gardeners just been round to my house to say I've been chosen as one of his pony kids. I'm going to learn how to jump and ride a horse with a saddle and reins and stirrups and Diarmuids going to film it for RTE. In August I get to have a go at showjumping at the RDS Horseshow and I'll see myself on telly sometime after that.
Mon 4th June 2007:
Jessica the Showjumper took us to Holmestead Saddlery and Bill and Mags gave us new riding clothes and hats and boots. Bill wouldn't give us a go in his red Ferrari though but I like my new clothes they make me feel like a proper showjumper. After Holmestead Saddlery Jessica took us to Mullingar Equestrian Centre and we met Ronan the trainer and Robert the owner of the centre. Ronan was competing in the Grand Prix that day so we didn't get to chat to him much. The jumps are too high I hope they don't make us jump anything that big.
Tues 5th June:
Today we got on our horses for the 1st time at Mullingar Equestrian Centre, our horses are Sadie, Rosie, Bailey, Ancient and Sylvester. Jessica trained us all day with Ronan, it was horrible, I hate being on a saddle and the stirrups are a headwreck. It'd be much better without the saddles. I like my horse but they wouldn't let us jockey around and kept telling us to slow down, what's the point in that. All we did all day was get told what to do.
Weds 6th June:
Today we spent the day in Mullingar with Ronan, it took the whole day and he kept giving out to us. Its boring when you have to keep doing the same thing over and over, its stupid. We learned to trot (we call it the up and downey thing), we learned how to use the reins although I don't know what's wrong with using the mane, the stupid stirrups won't stay on your feet and they get in your way when you're trying to go fast. Diarmuid the gardener came up to see us this afternoon and helped us muck out the stables. Ronan let us jump over a small jump at the end of the day and that was good.
Thurs 7th June:
Ronan let us jump all day today and it was brilliant, its hard to stay on the horse sometimes but Ronan showed us. Its better when he shows us what to do rather than tells us, then we understand it better. That's the end of the first week of training and filming, its tough but I get to spend my day on a horse and if we get to the Show jumping arena in the RDS in August it'll be worth it.
Tues 12 - Fri 15 June 2007
We're training all week with Ronan getting ready for Jessica's next visit on Sunday. Squeeky got into trouble on Wednesday and had to muck out stables all day on Wednesday and he wasn't allowed get up on a horse. He was in a fouler in the minibus all the way home but Daryl said it served him right for messing and he said he wasn't going to mess again cos he'd had such a terrible day. He had to shovel 5 stables and he could only watch while we were all out in the ring on the horses. We were jumping some low jumps all week and Ronan said we're getting better if we could only stop talking when he's talking. Whats so great about listening anyway, its boring, we want to jockey the horses and jump and gallop, we're not here to listen, he should just show us. We're going to jump for Jessica on these ponies on Sunday but after that we get our RDS ponies, can't wait for that.
Sunday 17 June 2007
Jessica came 2nd in her race in the south of France last night and arrived into Mullingar Equestrian Centre this morning, she told us she was still jumping at 1 o'clock in the morning, she must be wrecked but she won't get up on a horse here so at least she's only standing all day. She'll only ride horses she knows so we won't see her on a horse unless we visit one of her competitions and they're all abroad. James our driver says we can't behave ourselves for 5 minutes in Mullingar so how are we going to behave ourselves away, maybe we'll get to see her on a horse soon. Conor our director showed us a dvd of Jessica jumping and it looks like she can get over high fences alright. We jumped for Jessica and then Dean and Jade had a row and ran out of the Arena so we had to wait for ages for Jessica to sort that out with them, after that we fed the horses and we had to film Jessica talking to us so Julie our Groom helped get our horses settled.
Monday 18 June 2007
Ronan brought his own horse to Mullingar and showed us him going over a few high fences, it was brilliant. Jessica told us to watch his hands and feet and which leg he was on and how many strides he counted before each fence and that's what we had to do when we're in the RDS. We're going to enter a competition soon but not until we can stop fighting and keep our focus on our training (boring boring boring). Going into a competition would be Whopper, can't imagine us out in a competition with other pony kids but it'd be good to give it a go before we get to the RDS. Jessica trained us for a few more hours after lunch and then after that she had to fly back to Germany but she said she's going to ring to find out how our training is going each day and we'll see her soon again. Ronan showed her 2 of our RDS ponies and she watched each of the 5 of us have a run around the Arena on them before she left. They're faster than our first ponies and Ronan said we'll have to keep a hold on the reins all the time on these ones even when we're not moving and Squeeky has to stop sitting on it like a sofa with both his legs over on one side and not holding the reins like he does sometimes when Ronan's talking. Ronan said that these horses need more handling from us than the first bunch because they're faster and more up for jumping.
Wednesday 20 June 2007
Ronan wasn't around so we filmed in our own homes with the TV crew, just to show them what we do normally if we weren't training for the RDS. We hung out on the corner of the road and messed around a bit and then took them up the fields to show them our ponies and rode around on bareback for a bit. Then we called on a few mates with horses and they brought out their ponies to show Conor our director, we galloped around the estate for a while until the Gardai told us to slow down or we'd be in trouble. Our mams and dads are going to start coming out to Mullingar one at a time to see what we're doing and watch our training. Its to help us stop messing as well as for them to see us up on a horse and jumping. Jades mam Rosie is out with us tomorrow. Ronan said we're all getting our RDS ponies tomorrow as well so she'll be able to see Jade up on a pony.
6th July 2007
We entered our first competition today. It was in Mullingar Equestrian Centre so we knew our way around the place. We had to arrive really early and get the horses ready and then we weren't allowed jockey the horses up to the Arena because we're supposed to know better by now and Ronan told us to behave ourselves with all the other people around at the competition. Squeeky and Jade did best, Thomas couldn't ride because he'd hurt his leg but he still came down to cheer us on, Daryl dropped a fence and Dean had a couple of refusals at first but then he got over every fence in the end. We all got rosettes and Ronan was impressed that we knew to tip our hat to the judges when we rode out into the Arena without him telling us to, we saw him do it at his competition so we just copied him. We were wrecked from getting up so early but it was worth it to join in the competition. There was about 70 people watching us which makes you nervous cos they're all looking atcha, but its good practise cos I'd say there'll be that many at the RDS in August.
9th July 2007
Diarmuid came down to Mullingar for training. The horse they gave him to ride was massive, its called Speck and he's about 17 hands or higher, Diarmuid was going over a jump with Speck and he fell off it, it was gas, pure brilliant, he told us to shutup with the slaggin but he got back up on Speck straight away even though he'd hurt his arm. It'll be sore when he's digging tomorrow for I Want a Garden, I'd get me money back if I was them! Nothing else good happened after Diarmuid fell off, after that we just rode around one by one and jumped for Ronan, boring. Except for when Ronan showed us how to squeeze our legs rather than kick and to stay in contact with the horses mouth, don't pull on it, which is different from when you bareback, it's a lot harder than it looks. Jessica is coming over tomorrow.
10th July 2007
Jessica arrived and we built the jumps with her. It was raining so we went into the indoor Arena. She let us jump a really big jump and then she kept putting it higher and higher to see if we could jump it, it was whopper it was. We jumped until it was well over the height of Squeekys head. Everyone jumped it, even Thomas and he's afraid of falling. Jessica was really pleased with us and said we were going to get a surprise from her as a treat over the next few days. She went back to the airport then to fly off and we heard after that she won her race in Monaco. That better not be the surprise for us though, we want something good.
11th July 2007
Diarmuid's arranged for us all to go on a trek in Connemara with Willie Leahy. We went to Mullingar in the morning for our training and then we drove to Carna, it took 4 and a half hours and its in the Gaeltacht and you have to work out what the road signs say in English. We stayed in a B&B with Barbara and John the Farmer. Jade had her own room and the rest of us had to share but it was really close to the beach so we got to play football on the beach and Barbara let us bring the sun loungers from her garden down to the beach with us and loaned us a bucket and spade. Jade went to find crabs in the rock pools and the rest of us played football except for Squeeky, there was an old JCB on the beach and he got up into it and tried to get it started, it was wrecked it was but then the owner came and chased him off. Thomas can't get over the view in Connemara, he keeps saying 'there's a view everywhere, everywhere you look theres a view'. Its nice alright. We went to bed after dinner cos we had to get up early the next day with Willie Leahy.
12th July 2007
Willie Leahy's gas so he is, hes very interesting for an oul fella which we told him after about an hour of meeting him. First when we arrived he told us we had to go into a field and catch our horses which wasn't easy cos horses just follow the one in front and once he decided to run they all decided to run, then we were in a field with horses running around us trying to grab them and tack them up. Then at first we were with another group of tourists but then Diarmuid and Willie decided it'd be best if we were our own group away from the other riders so Willie took us all off into the wilds. Dean kept shouting 'into the west into the west' at no one in particular but he was so excited there was no buildings, no houses, no fences, just big open plains and bog and sea and horses running free out in the fields, it was amazing. Willie brought us to gallop the horses along the beach and we got so excited we rode the horses into the sea and didn't they start swimming, they were swimming like dogs swim, all legs going and loving it they were. They started to swim out to the island. We were laughing and shouting and in the sea with our saddles and our clothes on, Willie Leahy wasn't going to let us because salt water ruins the saddles but he was loving us out there in the water in the sea so he just stood by the shore and laughed and laughed and shouted 'go on' to us, Diarmuid was laughing too and he gave the film crew his watch and phone and then ran his horse into the water with its saddle on, his clothes were soaking too and he came horse swimming with us. We had to go home after to get out of our wet clothes so we helped Willie put the horses back in the field after and then we went back to Barbara and John the Farmer's B&B and changed and went down the beach for football before dinner.
13th July 2007
Willie Leahy said we were the best horsemen and women he'd ever met. He let us jockey the horses on the mountain (he wasn't bringing us near the sea twice in a week or he'd have no saddles left) and we showed him how we jockey the horses on the road around the estates where we live. He said there was a lot of different kinds of brains in the world and not every brain is good at school but that doesn't mean you're worth nothing. He wasn't good at school but his parents helped him with what he loved and when he started out he had less than 10 pounds to his name and now he has over a business and 400 horses. He rode us all over to a womans house and she came out and sang a song for us, the first one was a trad song that Thomas knew and then she sang Elvis which was mental. She was good though and she wished us all luck in the RDS. We rode up around a mountain and a lake until Diarmuid was wrecked and we had to stop for lunch. Willie Leahy is brilliant and we all want to go work for him when we're finished our course. We invited him to watch us in the RDS and if he can he's going to come . Then Diarmuid told us we'd been really good and as a reward for being good and behaving ourselves we were going to go over to Jessica in Germany and she's going to jump for us at her place in Dusseldorf. None of us have been on a flight before and we're going on 2 in one day, its going to be rapid.
Friday 3rd August
We went to Bristol in England and a minibus picked us up and drove us for half an hour and Diarmuid wouldn't tell us where we were going til just before we arrived. We pulled up outside some place called Gatcombe Park and a lady called Jane met us and brought us inside the stable area and we met Zara Philips. She's a princess but she doesn't call herself one and she's got brilliant horses (nearly as nice as Jessica's but no horse is prettier than Libertina & Poubelle or sweeter than Mika) but they weren't bad at all. Then Zara brought us out into the Garden Club so we could have lunch and watch the events in the Main Arena, we saw Dressage for the first time, its mental. Its sort of like horse ballet, the horses have to really perform and it looks like a dance with its rider. Zara wished us good luck with the RDS and said she's looking forward to hearing how we did. We're only a week away now.
Monday 16 July 2007
We're going on our Jessica trip to Germany. We got up at 4am so we could be at the airport for 5.30am, we all wanted Window seats but we didn't get them at check-in so we asked the Aer Lingus Air hostess if she'd swap us around and she did so we all got a window if we wanted it. Then the pilot said that the Pony Kids were on board on the way to visit Irelands No1 Showjumper Jessica Kurten and that we were welcome aboard. Dean and Daryl got into trouble after that for drinking too many cans of coke but apart from that we were well behaved but only because we were so tired after getting up stupid early.
We didn't even get through passport control without causing a stir, Jade pressed a red button that said DON'T PRESS THIS but it was in German so she didn't know but she was after setting off an airport alarm and the military police ran around to where we were standing to see what had happened. We all pretended not to have done it til the armed police went away to turn the alarm off and then we had to swear we'd be good for the rest of the day and no more messing. The passport man stamped all our passports for us cos they're all brand new, Germany looks sunny.
Jessica's driver Haki collected us all from outside the airport and we drove for about half an hour to Jessica's place, we were trying to get him to drive really fast but he said we'd have to pay the on-the-spot-fine if he got caught and the camera crew wouldn't give us any money. Jessica met us out the front and gave us all a drink and showed us around her stables, they were brilliant, she has millions of rosettes and cups and the horses are huge and really shiny. Her garden was full of jumps that she'd set up to show us and after we'd had a look around she took some of her horses out and jumped for us. Germany is really hot.
Jade loved Mika, Libertina and Poubelle the best but then the horses had to rest before their trip to Portugal so she found a black kitten to hug for the rest of the day. Squeeky and Daryl kept asking Jessica can we have a shot of your horse but she wouldn't let them up on it because it was travelling to Estoril later that day and needed to be kept calm. But she let us stand really close to the jumps to watch her go over them. She goes so high up in the air, the way she was jumping the horses was whopper, she leans down low over the horses neck and balances herself in the middle of the horse and then they both just sail over the jump, no problem. Ronan keeps telling us to get our hearts over the jumps first, then our heads and the body and horse will follow naturally, you can see what he means when you watch Jessica jump. She floats over.
The horses they love Jessica they do, she called a horse over to us from the back of the field, it ran over to say hello to her the minute it saw her. You'd be in horse heaven in her stables, theres a quad bike (she wouldn't give us a shot on that either), theres a horse sauna that plays music to calm the horses, she let us all have a go in that and it was brilliant so we were allowed go in it twice. Theres a horse jogging machine like the ones at a gym and we all ran on it together and Jessica turned the speed up really high so we had to belt along on it so we didn't fall off the end it was rapid. We had a big barbeque then with all her Grooms, one of them was from Limerick. We watched them getting the horses ready for Estoril and our driver was busy with fixing the horse trucks and when it got late Jessica had to drive us all to the airport so we didn't miss our flight. We were allowed have McDonalds in the airport as a treat and we all had 2 burgers.
Monday 30th July
Today was brilliant Diarmuid took us to the Army Equitation School in Phoenix Park in McKee Barracks, they showed us their horses and we met some of the Aga Khan cup team who'll be at the RDS the same day as us. They lunged the horses for us and we met their Olympic hopeful Shane Carey and he told us about his training. The best bit was with CS Byrne when him and the CQ taught us how to march...AR AIRE he'd shout and then we stomp our foot down beside the other one and stand to attention. They showed us the stables so we could see the horses that weren't away down the Curragh that day and we met Aoife the Groom and Squeeky met a fella he knew from his area who's a Groom there as well and then CS Byrne and the CQ gave us all baseball caps. Thomas wants to join the army so he asked the CS to remember him. The TV crew wanted the CS to come with us down to Mullingar to our own training so we behave ourselves and stand to attention all day but he wasn't able to leave the barracks. We've training all week and then there's another trip on Friday but they won't tell us where to yet and if we don't behave then we're not allowed go.
Diarmuid had a surprise for us, he bought us to the Aras, where the big boss lady lives, so that we could meet the Mounted Garda. We thought it would be really stupid, but it was Whopper! Superindendant Pat Lynch introduced us to all the horses there, they were huge, even bigger than Diarmuid. They even let us have a shot at riding the horses around the yard, only we had to wear the Garda helmets, but Squeeky put his hoody over the helmet so as you couldn't see the writing!
Tuesday 7th August
This is RDS week, which means we're all bricking it as we only have 2 more training days to go. Daryl's had a bad day, the pressure might be getting to him, he stormed off from training and said he's not getting up on that horse again. Dean and Squeeky weren't listening to Ronan and just jockeyed around the arena, Ronan nearly lost the head. Jade was giving out about Mac her pony and says she wants to change horse. Thomas trained separately today, without the rest of us getting on his nerves. Messing today was the worst its been yet.
Wednesday 8th August
Last night Daryl & Squeeky were out on their push bike, Daryl was steering and Squeeky was peddling, they had an accidnet and Daryl's face went into the handle bars - he's off to the dentist this morning to see if his teeth are alright. Only two days to go...
Thursday 9th August
Last day of training today and Daryl nearly didn't even come, James the driver had to go into Daryl's house to persuade him to come along even if he didn't ride. Ronan made us train separately so we wouldn't mess around. Jade rode a new pony called Mist and she really likes her. Dean threw a strop and stormed off saying he isn't gonna ride at the RDS. Thomas rode a clear round on his new horse Kenco, which he was really buzzed about. Daryl wasn't going to ride, but eventually he had a shot on Milly, Thomas' old pony. Everyone is getting really nervous about tomorrow.
Friday 10th August
When James the driver came to collect everyone at midday, Jade's house had a huge big banner outside saying 'Go Jade at the RDS'. Everyone's families came out to wave them off this morning, you could feel it was a special day. Daryl said he isn't going to ride, but he'll come along to support us, it won't be the same without him. Jessica & Diarmuid met us outside the RDS and bought us in for lunch, but hardly anyone could eat cos we were so nervous. Then we went to watch the Aga Khan, in the arena we'll be jumping in later and it's huge, so many people, it's really scary, we're the last ones to jump here today, the place is jammers, I wonder if anyone will bother to stay and watch us? Shane Carey and Gerry Flynn who we met at McKee barracks were both riding as part of the Irish team, which was pure brilliant.
At 5ish we started to get changed into our posh outfits, white jods, white shirt, smart green jackets, black boots and chaps, everyone said we looked the part. Diarmuid & Jessica put all our names in a hat to draw the order that we were to ride in this evening. Daryl's name was first, but is he going to ride? Squeeky's name was next, followed by Thomas and Dean, he also said he wasn't going to jump today and finally Jade. Jessica gave us lots of good tips on how to deal with jumping in front of a crowd. Willie Leahy came all the way from Galway just to support us and Zara Philips rang Diarmuid to send us lots of luck. When we got out to see the ponys, they looked pure stunning, all platted and shiney. We had new numbers and blankets with 'Diarmuid's Pony kids' written on them, they looked really professional, pure stylish.
We could hear our names being announced over the loud speakers and it was getting closer to the time, lots of cameras were taking photos of us, we felt like stars. As we were being led up to the arena we were thinking, who will jump? Who will do well? Will anyone make a fool of themselves? Will anyone cave under the pressure? Will there be anyone there to watch us?