Ashleigh Hughes Lordan (36) is an animal lover through and through. Based in Bandon, Co Cork, she shares her home with her husband, David, and five dogs, two goats and several horses. Ashleigh works at the MSD Pharmaceutical company in Innishannon, and herself and David also run Castlelack Corvus Rescue together, which is dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of crows, ravens, rooks, magpies, and jackdaws.

“We began with one jackdaw, and then word seemed to spread. People were bringing us injured or stricken jackdaws in cages- my living room was full of birds. We decided then to do things on a slightly bigger scale. David built an aviary, and it grew from there. People have brought us birds from as far away as Carlingford Lough. Many people don’t like corvids very much, but we do. They are such clever birds, very personable and affectionate,” says Ashleigh.


“Mum and Dad were very friendly with the Hennessy family from Whitescross in Cork. They bought my first pony when I was five years old, a mare called Ladyhawk. After a few years, Ladyhawk was put in foal, and she bred me my first 14.2hh, a mare called Annaleigh Lass. I broke her in myself, and I did all of the schooling with her too. We jumped in the 148 ABC classes and had great fun. Eventually, we put her in foal as well, and she bred a coloured horse called Fuego. I competed with him in hunter trials, and he was brilliant. Spurred on by the thrill of the cross country, I started to think that I might quite enjoy giving eventing a try.”

Ashleigh didn’t have to wait too long to find out about eventing. A horse called Lance came into her life, and he got the eventing ball rolling. “I joined the riding club, and I started doing a bit with Lance. He turned out to be very willing and capable, and so I joined Eventing Ireland. Lance evented for six seasons, and he was brilliant.”

Ashleigh has also enjoyed some excellent results in the dressage arena. Riding a horse called Castlelack Lancelot Boy, Ashleigh won the category 1 preliminary championship at the Dressage Ireland National Championships in 2018. The following year, they again did very well before the horse was sold to continue his career competing in Europe.

Through her involvement with horses, Ashleigh met David. His mother, Catherine, had a thoroughbred mare by Saddlers Hall, and she was keen to breed a horse for herself. A trip to Firgrove Stud confirmed the decision to use Siobhan O’Neill’s well-known stallion, Westcoast Cavalier, and the following year the resultant foal was born.

Ashleigh Hughes Lordan riding Castlelack Cavalier Breeze. \ Radka Preislerova

We clicked

“As time went by, it became clear that ‘Breeze’ (Castlelack Cavalier Breeze) was not going to suit Catherine’s requirements. For quite a long time, I encouraged her to sell Breeze because not a day went past that I didn’t get off the horse in tears. She was like nothing I had ever ridden before, and I couldn’t fathom her. It was her way or the highway. When Breeze turned seven, I decided I would let her do things her way, and from then on, we clicked.”

The partnership went from strength to strength. Ashleigh and Breeze contested the Eventing Ireland National Championships in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, progressing from EI 90 level up to EI 110 level. In June 2019, they made their international debut at Kilguilkey House International Horse Trials. The Coronavirus pandemic threw a spanner in the works, but it led to an unexpected and wildly successful change of direction.

“It was incredible to compete at an international event. Trotting down the centre line in a tailcoat was a special achievement for me, and I only wish we had had the chance to do it all again. However, it had gotten costly to event as an amateur, and I began to move more towards pure show jumping. It is a more affordable discipline, and it makes for a shorter day at the show. I feel that Breeze has found her true self, and we are both enjoying it. We have competed at 1.30m level, and she is now a Grade A show jumper. I can’t get my head around that I have jumped those big tracks on a horse that I was previously desperate to sell.”

As the 2024 season gets underway, Ashleigh is not making any hard and fast plans. “When I make a plan, something inevitably goes wrong. I have a young mare coming on behind Breeze called Valkyrie, who needs time to find her feet. If I have a nice year jumping with both of these horses, then I will be more than happy with that.”