Regaining the Spark

Photo by Asher Close

The mighty Irish Draught Horse! We are celebrating them as our January Breed of the Month on YourDressage!

Dressage riders who choose Irish Draughts as their mounts are eligible for special awards through the Adequan®/USDF All-Breeds Awards program, as the Irish Draught Horse Society of North America is a participating organization.

Here, a youth rider shares about the Irish Draught who was originally destined to be her eventing partner but became her dressage dream, making their dramatic debut after rehabbing from an injury at the famous Rolex Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park.

By Kiera Delahanty

Silver Wend (aka Neala) is a 2008 Irish Draught Sport Horse. I got her as my first horse seven years ago.  She couldn’t have been a more perfect first horse for 11 year-old me. She loves to be around people, she’s goofy and playful, and she is always willing to try everything I ask of her. Overall, she just has a heart of gold.

When I first got Neala, back in 2015, I was focused on eventing. While she was a great little Novice level packer, she really excelled at the dressage phase. We very rarely were outside of the top three after the dressage phase, and it always felt like Neala enjoyed showing off in the dressage ring. When we were not eventing, Neala and I could be found at some of our local dressage shows around New England.

Photo by Kimberlyn Beaudoin

Late in the 2021 eventing season, Neala sustained an injury that ended our season early. This was the latest in a series of similar injuries she had incurred throughout her life.  After  consulting with my team of vets and trainers, we concluded that retiring Neala from eventing would be the best option for her long-term wellbeing, despite being only 13 at the time. While it was a difficult decision, I was excited for the change and decided we could focus on dressage together.

Neala spent the summer recovering, and we started our newfound dressage journey throughout the winter and started to get our spark back again. By the spring, I had moved from Maine to Lexington, Kentucky, where I would be starting my freshman year of college at the University of Kentucky.  Neala joined me and my new mare, Lassie, a 2014 Irish Sport Horse who would become my new eventing partner.  I was still regularly riding Neala, but dressage shows were put on the backburner for a bit as we got to know our new home and I began eventing with Lassie. It was not until the fall I entered my first dressage show with Neala since her retirement. We debuted our first Second Level test in the Rolex Stadium at the Kentucky Horse Park. It was not the most perfect test, but at that point, I could not have cared less. I was just so happy to be dancing in the sandbox with my best friend again. As I was trotting down my final centerline, I could feel myself begin to tear up.

Photo by Michael Delahanty

Looking back I am so thankful for the journey Neala and I have had together so far, and I cannot wait to see what is in store for us in the future. This season, I hope to continue competing Second Level with Neala and maybe even finish up the season at the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®! If you would like to follow along with Neala and I, follow us on Instagram!

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