Our roving reporter, Lynne Clark, rounds up an exciting year with our sponsored rider, Eilidh Costelloe.
So it’s that time of year again when I get to catch up with Country Ways sponsored rider Eilidh Costelloe (though I can hardly believe another year has flown by already!) It’s always such a pleasure to chat with Eilidh, because not only is she super talented, she is also incredibly candid about her experiences. There is no pretence, no bluff and bluster. Just a humble honesty about the rollercoaster journey that is horses. Indeed whatever level we may be at, we all know horses can take us to the highest highs and the lowest lows. It would be easier for a professional rider to disguise the swings of the pendulum of horse ownership and competing, but in Eilidh, we get a refreshingly honest insight into the trials and tribulations of competing at the very highest level of eventing.
This year, Eilidh went to her first 5*. I’ll say it again. FIVE. STAR. Because how awesome is that?! It’s an incredible achievement and one that only comes with a bucketload of talent, hard work, determination and a network of support from family, friends, coaches, specialists and sponsors. And of course, not forgetting a formidable equine powerhouse as your partner in crime – our favourite lionheart, Buddy.
Here Eilidh talks about how it felt to go to her first 5* and the tough road it took to get there, the first year of running her own livery yard, the exciting new youngsters in her string and her plans for the future.
“Wow Eilidh, what a year it’s been for you! You said you wanted to complete a 5* before your 30th birthday, which you did! How did that feel?”
“Yes our first 5*, happy memories as I type this…. Well, I got to ‘compete’ at a 5* but not ‘complete’ after our early bath in the water jump!! Which sounds horrid however at 26c heat and the pressure of taking on a serious track, it was quite a refreshing end!!! Haha (finding a positive!!) In all honesty, I didn’t think it was going to happen as we had sooo many set backs this year. A tweaked check ligament made us start the season late, then when we did start at Richmond in May, we ended up in the vet hospital after Buddy inhaled some hay in the lorry on the way home and went into shock and then got pneumonia! Was a scary night! Sigh. A massive vet bill later but a horse that survived! None the less we made it to Bramham in June, which was an amazing experience and a seriously tough beefy track that took no prisoners! We completed and learned a lot. But once again Buddy decided we needed another scare and a vets bill and tied up at the event. So hooked up to the drips for an evening, pumped 200l of goodness through him and he was right as rain again!!! A couple more solid runs at Burgham and Blair 4* gave us the qualifications to enter our first 5*. Very exciting and very stressful trying to plan the trip to the south of France! So as everyone was winding down after the event season and the crap weather and dark nights were setting in, Buddy and I were doing hill work and fitness sessions right up till the end of October before heading out. It took 3 days to get there stopping off each night, he travelled well though and arrived happy and keen to get going. The event was relatively low key for being a 5*, nothing like Badminton or Burghley, even smaller than Blair. Which was perfect to keep us relaxed. We were stabled next door to Alex Bragg and Zagreb, Ros Canter and Tom McEwan – to name a few of the big wigs! We felt special!! The British team coaches, vets and physios were on hand all week providing support and guidance, which was invaluable to us. The dressage phase is our weakest and the pressure got to me a little and I didn’t ride well, we kept a lid on it though and got through!!! The XC was twisty, technical and big! Everything you would expect I guess. We rode through some combinations eating them up and some a little trickier. I made some mistakes but we kept going great guns until our fall in the water jump (4th and last water jump!!!) I was gutted to be 4 fences from home and to crash out. I just counted myself lucky that Buddy only required some stitches in his knees (another vets bill!!!) Unlike the poor Frenchman who lost his horse with the exact same fall 😞 All in all, an amazing experience and I can’t wait to give it a go again!!! My family and husband were an amazing support and I couldn’t have done it without them. And yes, two days before my 30th!!! Best present!!”
“What was this most important thing you did to prepare for the challenge?”
“The best preparation was myself mentally. I didn’t tell too many people I was going, to keep the pressure off myself. I told myself it was totally rideable and the fences were not going to be any bigger than what we have done before, so as not to make the event impossible in my head. I don’t cope well under too much pressure and perform at my best when relaxed and feeling confident”.
“Last time we spoke about the burgeoning success of many of your homebreds. How are they getting on and do you have any new additions you are particularly excited about?
“The homebreds have had some success this season. Graffite my 6yr old did his first 2* at Burgham and absolutely romped round feeling amazing. A couple of nervous poles in the showjumping knocked us out of the top spots but he felt smart. May Day had a good start of the season at 2* then a niggiling splint meant he missed most of the summer but came back out in the autumn to do showjumping and has had a few wins to pay the diesel home! I have a couple of newbies coming through for next season which is exciting. One of which I’m hoping to sell shares in and form a syndicate (if anybody is interested in joining in the journey 😜)”.
“What was your favourite trot-up outfit you wore this season?”
“I’m so lucky to have Country Ways providing me with such fabulous outfits to wear at the big events. I loved my Pau outfit, the grey Barbour tweed cape and burgundy Hicks & Brown fedora and matching Fairfax & Favor boots. The whole outfit felt elegant, with a touch of Scottish flair for our trip abroad”.
“Last time we spoke, Oldtown was still under construction and you hadn’t long opened for business. How has your first year been of running a livery yard?”
“Oldtown is coming along nicely, we have 8 lovely liveries and more stables are going in as we speak to have more room for my horses. We are continuing to finish and add new things all the time to keep improving facilities and in turn help the horses performance”.
“What was your biggest high and also hardest low of your 2019 season, and what are your aims for 2020?”
“The biggest high would have been going 5* before I turned 30! And with my husband and family there to support. Biggest low, all those vet bills! And almost losing Buddy when he went into shock was a horrible experience. 2020 I’d like to give 5* a go again and try do better! No more qualifications required so the pressure is off!!! And just to enjoy the events and continue travelling around the country seeing new places and venues and meeting new people. I would also like to thank my sponsors, Country Ways, Devoucoux, Muck-Off and Dodson and Horell for their support this season and hopefully the coming seasons too”.
Happy New Year everyone! L.C