Rory Gilsenan is one of the top show horse producers in the UK. After competing in most of the major shows for the last 25 years, the number of accolades he’s picked up is astonishing. He’s won at the Royal Windsor Horse show for the last two years running as well as most of the major county horse shows and if he has his way, he’ll continue his winning streak indefinitely. We caught up with Rory at the end of his 2017 season to ask him about how he stays on top of his busy life.
What does your typical day look like?
Horses fill my life. I get up around 3am and a little later on I go to the yard, where I set to work. It’s handy that we only live a couple of miles from the yard now. In the winter, we get home around 5.30pm, but in the summer we could be getting home at 9 or 10pm. Event days are long days too. They start at 2am and we could be getting home at midnight.
With so much going on, how do you stay organised?
I like to think I’m organised! I’m preparing for next year right now. At the end of the year, it’s important to look at the shows coming up for the year ahead and to keep on top of all the entries. That’s because entries for all the big shows close really early in the season. Then the shows start again properly in April – we really have to hit the ground running. It’s vital that all the horses are prepared and that they’re in the right frame of mind.
I plan backwards from each show, so I know when to start training the horses. But I can’t do it all on my own. I’ve got a great team behind me – all of us pull in together and I have their support. We work the horses’ owners, for sure!
Have you always been organised?
Not always. I remember when I was in my early twenties, renting a yard and getting on well. I saw a lovely build just outside Buckinghamshire that could have easily been converted into a yard. It was perfect, but you know what it’s like when you’re young and you get a few quid in your pocket. I wanted it but being disorganised – and just having my head in the clouds – meant I missed the opportunity.
That was a lesson: you need to be prepared if you want to go for these things. I have people looking at my finances now but if I had someone keeping tabs on me back then, maybe I could’ve got it.
What’s your relationship like with the horses’ owners?
There are people who come and go but the owners do tend to stay with us for a long time. Claudine O’Connor, who owns Vision Impossible and Bluewatch III, has been with us for 17 years.
It’s a very social yard and we like to have fun. We ran a go karting night recently where everybody from the yard came along. As you can imagine, it was ultra-competitive. It was the best go karting night we’ve done, but obviously that has nothing to do with the fact that I was on the winning team.
Does that atmosphere transfer to the horses?
It does. When the owners are relaxed, the horses are relaxed.
We know you love playing golf. Is there anything else you do to unwind?
The only hobby I’ve got time for is golf. Although I can only really play once a month, it’s great because I need to make sure I get away from the yard every now and then.
What are your hopes for 2018?
I want to win the Royal International Horse Show again and win Horse of the Year Show again. I’ve also got a beautiful six year-old mare called Sugar Bella. I want to produce her on to winning shows.
Do you have any aspirations beyond just the next year?
If you aren’t completely given to horses you wouldn’t do the job, so this is my life and it’s all I think about at the moment. Of course I do think about the future when it comes to my family, though. It’s great to watch my daughters grow up. One of my daughters wants to be a primary school teacher and the other is a top international show groom.
Training youngsters is the future. I love training the kids. I could train them to run the yard and in the future, I could focus on breeding horses.
Rory Gilsenan, thank you for your time!
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