Picture the scene if you will, two young Irish equestrians meet in an English pub whilst both working away from home. They get to talking about ponies over drinks and as fate would have it, it was to change both of their lives.

“I bought Seb (Caherpuka Chappy) from Nicola Kerrin, a good friend, around the time I met my boyfriend. We met in a pub in Cheltenham. He said to me, ‘Would you like to see a nice pony?’, I thought it was going to be a Gyspy Cob or God only knows what!

“It was a Sunday night and I was having a pony vetted the next day in Ireland. The boy in question, Lee Cosgrove, turned his phone around and I looked at the photo of the pony on the screen.

Then I said: ‘Would you like to see the pony I am having vetted tomorrow?’ It was the same pony! And that was how Lee and I met. Over two years later, I’m still with Lee and I still have Seb. I am a believer of what’s for you won’t go by you, and if something is meant to be in your life, it will be.”

Accomplished rider Ciara Mullen won at the Dublin Horse Show a mighty six times and competed at the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS), she’s also an inspiration to many young riders. “If horses are in your blood, they’re in your blood. I’ve tried to be normal, have a normal job, so many times.

Caherpuka Chappy and Lee Cosgrove hanging out behind the show scenes having a good old chat about Ciara Mullen. \ C. Mullen

I’ve tried to go to college and do all the normal things and I just don’t know any different. I was lucky my parents were so horsey and I’ve been riding since I was four. I didn’t have a saddle, so I rode bareback and I broke my ankle five times, I spent most of my time on my first pony in a plaster cast!”

The pony from the pub date was three-year-old Caherpuka Chappy (Seb)and just broken when Ciara bought him off a video. “Seb loves his job, he’s just exactly what you want in a ridden Connemara pony, and from day one he’s been quite special.

It was love at first sight really. When I got him the plan was to do the novices for his four and five-year-old year, so I sent him to Katy Marriott-Payne, a fantastic mountain and moorland pony producer and she worked wonders with him.

The goal was to compete at Royal Windsor, which we did, and with the Royal International scratched, we aimed him for Dublin 2022 where we placed a brilliant third.

“In prep for HOYS last October, we were very lucky spending time with show horse producers Vicky Smith and Jayne Ross.

"I did a bit of jumping with Seb as he loves it, plus a bit of cubbing with him, just to keep him occupied as it gets to that time of year after the Dublin Horse Show where there’s not a lot going on showing.

"It was important to keep him fit and clipped so his coat is right and maintain him feed and work-wise before HOYS where he went amazingly in that electric atmosphere.”

Connies have always been a huge part of Ciara’s family life, her mum and dad used to breed Irish Draughts. “When I got into ponies, I had a Welsh from my local riding school,” explains Ciara. “Then mum and dad said it was time for a Connemara. I was just coming out of 12.2hh and so we set off on a holiday to Clifden and came home with a pony! That pony was Black Bobby Sparrow, who won Dublin and qualified for HOYS and was unbeaten for a long time.


“Connemaras cemented a lot of friendships for us, my friends now come from competing ponies, including Colin Finn who we bought two or three ponies from and who have all won at Dublin.

"He was very lucky for us! I’ve ridden in the Connemara Championship in Dublin since 2012, which is a very lucky thing to be able to say. It’s hard to find a nice Connie these days.

"It took me ten years to find Seb and it might take me 10 years to find another one like him. Seb is actually going to be moving on to pastures new this very week all things being well! He’s going to the most perfect home I know he will be loved, they aim to compete him at Dublin and some HOYS qualifiers.”

Based in Malahide and looking to the future, Ciara has six horses in at the moment including her Dublin champion Chantilly On The Rocks and another Dublin winner Ballarin For Joy.

“I would love to have a really smart ladies horse, I’ve been doing side-saddle for a long time now. My goal would be to win the Ladies Class in Dublin; I’ve had four reserves, so a champion in Dublin would be very, very special.

"And one day I’d like to win HOYS. Whether that’s now or in 40 years it doesn’t bother me as long as I do it before I die!”

A wise horsewoman, Ciara shared her secret to good horsemanship: “They have to be your partner. They are not machines,” she says. “We can’t talk to them so we have to give them the benefit of the doubt, you have to spend time with them on the ground, you can’t just show up, put your tack on and ride.

It’s so important whether you are a groom or a trainer or a rider, you have to know them inside out, know their quirks, know the things that annoy them. Give them time.

"Especially a young horse, if it’s not ready this year and you want to go to Dublin, well sorry that’s not going to happen! You need to give them another year. Good things come to those who wait. Let them come in their own time.