An interview by Aoife Brady with the founder and owner of Derryham Stables, Nicola Clarke

Who are you? Tell us little about yourself and your interests?

My name is Nicola & I was born and raised in Cavan. I own Derryham Stables and my main passion is working with horses. When I am not working with horses my favourite things to do is travel (when I can get away for a few days) spend time with family & friends & attend as many horse shows as possible! 

Why and when did you start riding?

I started horse riding lessons when I was 5. I always loved horses & all animals, I’m not sure where the love of horses came from, I just always had it. I begged my parents for a pony every minute of the day for 2/3 years and I got my first pony Molly when I was 7 years old thanks to my amazing Daddy. She was a little 12.2hh palomino.

Still one of my happiest memories ever. 

Can you give us an insight into you and your own horse? 

I bought my horse Nova in April 2021. When I set up the riding school 11 years ago I worked every day teaching & building the school so I didn’t have time for my own horse & I had missed it so much. I had decided I was going to start looking for a horse for myself again & then covid happened. The school was closed for a several months so my budget was very small. I decided to look for a thoroughbred & after a few viewings I found Nova and she was just perfect. She wasnt long out of flat race training when I bought her and we have since done a little bit of everything, combined training, showjumping, unaffiliated eventing, and we recently went to the Dressage Ireland National Championships and had a brilliant time. I can’t wait to continue our training & see where it takes us. Nova got me back into the sport I love so she owes me nothing more. Thoroughbreds are such fantastic horses, so versatile & so willing to learn and smart. 

Why and when did you set up Derryham Stables?

I always wanted to be a riding instructor from a young age, I just loved the idea of sharing my knowledge & passion for horses with others. I started all my BHS exams at the youngest ages permitted, and had my PTT by age 18. Since then I went on to gain my BHSAI & went to CAFRE college completing a degree in Equine business management. I started teaching on weekends during my college years & the first stables were built at home during my final college year. As soon as I was finished college Derryham Stables was officially set up & I started teaching & building the business. 

Who comes to Derryham Stables and how do they learn?

My favourite thing about the stables is that we make it as accessible as possible. We have everyone attend lessons from children to adults, beginners to more advanced riders. Private lessons & group lessons, we try our best to cater to everyone. A few years ago I completed a therapeutic riding coach course, so the stables also runs inclusion riding programmes and riding sessions for riders with a disability. 

What facilities are offered at the Stables?

Facilities include;

• 40 acres for grazing 

• 19 stables in an american barn

• Secure tack room

• Outdoor sand arena 20 x 60 metre

• 20 x 50 metre outdoor sand arena

• Five large outdoor surfaced winter paddocks, which provide a natural herd environment for our horses with 24/7 turnout 365 days of the year

• 450 metre purpose built sand surfaced therapeutic sensory trail

• Miles of beautiful hacking on quiet countryside roads.

What is the riding school’s greatest achievement so far?

I think the schools greatest achievement is providing an excellent service to our clients in a friendly, professional yard that is AIRE approved. I am always thinking of new ideas & expanding the yard. Every year I have built on a new facility to the yard for our clients & horses to enjoy & I really enjoy doing this. In 2020 I also won the young farmer of the year award in the other category to include equestrian businesses. 

Are there any yard favourites? If so what are their names? 

I am so lucky to have what I believe are the best team of school ponies & horses. They really are worth their weight in gold & they make my job so enjoyable as they are the real teachers. I trust them & they trust me and we work together as a team. I love them all and it’s hard to pick any favourites, but if I could clone Snowdrop the most amazing 12.2 into all sizes I definitely would! Also Manwell my gorgeous 15.1hh cob who is suitable for all riders beginners & advanced. 

How do you encourage clients/students of various abilities to learn?

Generally when someone makes a booking for a lesson it is because they love horses and animals & want to spend time with them & learn, so straight away we are all on the same page. We generally go through their goals and I make lesson plans to achieve them, at a pace that suits my riders & horses, no matter their age or ability. 

Describe a funny moment that happened within the riding school?

Myself & my non-horsey Fiancé (who has since been dragged into the world of equines) went hacking together a few years back. We were just walking up the final laneway towards home when he let the reins loose for his horse to grab some grass in the hedge, not knowing the electric fence was in the hedgerow. He had his first fall that day & hasn’t been hacking since

If I was a parent or guardian, or person looking to book in for a lesson, who do I contact?

Contact Nicola Clarke on 0863193769 

For more info 

Are there any seasonal themed events running in Derryham Stables?

We run Easter camps, Summer camps & Halloween camps during the holidays. We also run training shows at the weekends.  

Quick fire questions:

Describe Derryham Stables in 4 words?

Professional, friendly, inclusive & fun

Describe yourself in 3 words?

Determined, loyal & ambitious 

Name your favourite area/spot in all of Derryham Stables?

Ah so many! My favourite place is the main stable yard which is the heart of the school , it was the first step in building the riding school all those years ago. It has since been extended 4 times. Also the ‘big arena’ as I call it, building an arena that size was once only a dream & it has allowed the stables to grow in so many ways. I also wouldn’t be without my surfaced outdoor pens which allow for turnout 365 days a year which keeps the horses happy & healthy. 

A future goal you have for the riding school?

To keep providing an excellent service to my clients & to keep building & improving the facilities of the stables. It is also a dream of mine to build a track system one day. 

A target you have for your own horse?

My goal is to keep learning & enjoying my time with my horse. This year we joined Dressage Ireland & we hope to continue to improve our scores and I hope to start eventing next season. 

Honestly everyone who pushes themselves out of their comfort zone is an inspiration to me. Lots of my clients are an inspiration to me. From those who find mounting & getting started  difficult, to those working on completing a course of x poles that they find terrifying, or those working on moving up a level showjumping. I aspire to keep trying my best & compete against myself only. I love seeing my clients grow in confidence over time and achieving their goals, as it is the best part of being a coach.


An interview by Aoife Brady with the founder and owner of Derryham Stables, Nicola Clarke

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