I’m from a livery yard in the south of Sweden. I met my husband – or future husband – in Sweden when he was working there. I was young and promised “yes, I’ll move to Ireland, that’ll be no bother”. The first challenge was that I had to get my horse over. I said to Liam: “We’ll have to build the stables first because I am not moving without my horse.” Filip was my horse, but sadly he is no longer alive. He was bred at home on our farm, so he was my baby. I’d known him longer than Liam so that was my selling point.

In May 2008 we moved over. I had worked in England in a yard and the woman I worked for was taking part in an international event in Sweden so Filip and myself got a lift with her on her lorry over to England. I then booked a transport company to take us over to Ireland. I must say, moving with Filip was one of the best things I could have done. Straight away neighbours were offering that I could borrow their horsebox and asking if I could give lessons. So I got to know people.

By day, I take care of the Ukrainian students at our local secondary school. It took nearly five years to get my Swedish teaching qualification approved here, so I had to work somewhere in between. I was very lucky that my brother-in-law owns a shop and I started working there. When I worked in the supermarket, anytime anyone came in wearing jodhpurs the poor person was attacked by me with a thousand questions. I made friends quickly – really, really good friends that I still have today.

Settling in

The first few years here were very busy because we had built the stable but we had no house so we had to build a house. Then we got married and then we had a baby. So those first few years were very intense. When I had Ted, my first son, I said to my husband: ‘I don’t want to work in the shop anymore because with childcare the way it is in Ireland it just wouldn’t be feasible.’ So, during my maternity leave, I did a start-your-own-business course and that is how the riding school began, which is now 10 years old.

As everyone who has started their own business knows, there is a lot of work at the start and you can’t say no to anyone. It can be hard with small children. I also had Harry, my second child, in the middle of all this, which meant working up to a week before I had him and then back to work the week after. Looking back, I don’t regret anything. I have now built up a business that I am very, very proud of.

Hanna Bjoremark Deegan with her horse Rosie.\ Lorraine O'Sullivan

I have lovely students and I am so happy they come here to me. There have been so many that have come through my doors and when I see them, they are always smiling and saying hello. Some of them have gone on and have their own ponies and still come for lessons, some are at university or college and don’t have time at the moment. Some have found their way back. Not everyone is in a position to have their own horse and I hope I can help them with that because I have ponies of all sorts of abilities so they can stay riding and stay being challenged. Some come to competitions with me and take part on my horses.

New traditions

The Christmas show is a tradition I began at the riding school. Students get very excited, I get very excited, I love it! It’s not a competition, it’s more a performance. Each group gets to pick a song, they dress up with tinsel around their helmets and maybe some on the ponies too. The weeks leading up to the Christmas show are always very busy, a bit of pressure because you want this to be good.

The kids have to remember a sequence. It is a bit like a dressage sequence but you have to ride it with a partner. Normally it’s just you and the horse but now it is you, your horse, your friend and their horse. The horses have their own mind and you have to remember where to be and what to do at the exact same time so it is a challenge to get it all right on the night. Most of the students want to do jumping in their performance but that is something I don’t allow because it means my horses have to do way too much and that is not fair on them.

I am so lucky. I am I in a beautiful area with so many nice people. Having my riding school would not be possible if I did not have my husband supporting me. He is the one who helps feed them, helps me with the tractor and he is great to chip in when I need a hand. I would not have been able to do this without him.

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