Every once in a while at Horsewomen of Ireland we stretch the rules a little and celebrate a horsewoman who, although not based in Ireland, is championing Irish horses and Irish breeding. This applies to Laura Smith.

Outstanding homebred mare Zaragoza is a few weeks on from representing Team France in the CHIO 4*S in Aachen here the team won bronze. Zaragoza was partnered by her incredibly talented rider, rising star Gaspard Maksud.

After impressive performances across all three disciplines, it comes as no surprise that the door is being knocked for both horse and rider, beckoning them to the very top level.

Zaragoza is the type of animal that once in motion in front of you, brings something otherly along with her, a type of rare elegance and harnessed energy. “She has the Frankel factor,” says Laura and she really does. She looks for all the world that she should be hitting the racetrack.

Zaragoza’s dam, Saracen’s Pride by thoroughbred Saracen Hill, was bred by Jessie Hetherington in Donegal.

Zaragoza with rider Gaspard Maksud Laura Smith owner and producer

Nine year-old Zaragoza herself was bred by Laura’s mum, Jane Young, who wanted to fulfil a lifelong ambition of producing a horse for eventing. She covered the mare with Cevin Z after long admiring Borough Pennyz (by Cevin Z) who was ridden by Vittoria Panizzon to 5*.

There are very few breeders in the world who can claim to have bred a national team horse on the first go, it’s the stuff of dreams.

Careful production is so often key to success and Laura and Jane are smart horsewomen, there is never any rushing of their horses, time is a treasured tool. According to Laura, Zaragoza didn’t start to come into her own, or really show her full jumping potential until she was six.

She then went on to finish 2nd in the seven-year-old Young Horse 3* at Osberton, finishing 2nd in her first 3* later that year.

Something special

“That’s when we started to realise she was really quite special,” admits Laura.

“Without doubt, I’d say she has inherited an incredible brain from her Irish dam. Saracen’s Pride was a lovely, easy going but forward-thinking mare. She knew how to stand her ground, but loved her work and always eager to please, all traits that Zaragoza has inherited.”

Irish connections were fuelled further in 2019 after Laura purchased a half-share of a super five year-old called Ballypatrick Liberty, by Elvis ter Putte, who she planned to produce as a working hunter.

“I decided to reach out to Greg and Cheryl Broderick of Ballypatrick to let them know we had the horse. Staying in contact with a horse’s breeder has always been important to me, having bred ourselves.” Laura now has a string of young Ballypatrick horses and results so far are proving the combination is an exciting one.

Gaspard has formed a brilliant partnership with all of the Irish horses we’ve had in our yard

“For me, Cheryl’s breeding programme is second to none. She understands the mares she produces from so well. Every horse we’ve had from Ballypatrick has had an exceptional temperament and without exception have been outstanding jumpers.

"This quality has enabled us to achieve great success here in England so far with the young Ballypatrick horses.

"Where Ballypatrick have typically focused their production on horses for show jumping, because of their blood types and excellent jumping abilities, many of them have also made good candidates for eventing, which is the job we primarily produce the horses for.”

Just like in their Irish horses, Laura and Jane have invested their faith in talented French rider Gaspard, who if the media is a gauge, seems to have the whole world watching him.

"Gaspard and Zaragoza have been partners for five years and they make for a thrilling watch, they have a magic that equine sport fans like me know isn’t the norm.

Laura says Gaspard is also a fan of the young Irish horses: “Gaspard has formed a brilliant partnership with all of the Irish horses we’ve had in our yard. He has been able to really maximise their potential.

"He likes the can-do attitude of the Irish horses – even those who are sharp, or sensitive, they are bold and want to do their job. It creates quite an international team with a French rider, on Irish horses, based in England!”