An interview with Rising Star Rebecca McGrath

When scrawling through the recent results of the Dressage Ireland National and all the posts on social media I came across Rebecca’s results and thought she did amazing at the show, becoming the Novice U21 National Champion (Cat.2) and also winning the U25 team competition as part of the Midland and Western Region Team. Rebecca is not new to the dressage scene, she competed at her first National Championship in 2017 at only 8 years of age. I really enjoyed chatting to Rebecca and in the following interview you can get some inside on Rebecca, how she felt about the event, how she prepares for it and what her goals are for the near future.

So lets kick off our interview with a Rising Star Rebecca McGrath.

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

My Name is Rebecca McGrath, I am 14 years old currently in second year of Ballinrobe community school. I am living together with my mum, dad and my two dogs Milo and Olaf on our riding school in Ballinrobe. Next to horse riding I like music and to meet up with my friends.

Tell us about the Dressage Ireland National Championships in Barnadown and how you got on it?

I was competing at the National Championships at Novice level in the U21 section on my pony Terbofens Queen Two and was also part of the Midland and Western regional U25 team. On the first day I had a really early start as my start time was 8.17am so I had to be up at 6am in order to get her fed and ready for the test. But I didn’t mind the early start. We had a very good test the first day and ended up in the lead with 5% ahead of the second place. On the second day she was quiet fresh and got spooked by a chair falling during my test, but I managed to get her through it and we came in 3rd. As I had gained a good lead on the first day, so when the scores where added up I managed to stay in the lead and won the U21 Novice Championships. We also competed in the freestyle but the music playing behind her made her nervous so we didn’t do as well as I had hoped we would, but that is ok.

 Tell us about your pony you competed this weekend?

This year I competed Terbofens Queen Two, she is a 6 year old German sport pony, last April I brought her for the first time to a championship competition (National Winter Finals) at prelim level. After that we progressed to novice level over the summer. We received really good scored and positive feedback from the judges and where able to qualify for the National Championships at Novice level in the U21 category. 

How do you prepare for an event like this? 

It all starts for me at the beginning of the year to set my goals, I am setting them in sections and start working on my 3 month, six month and overall goals. For me one of my goals was to compete at the 2022 Nationals this summer. So the preparation really starts month before the actual event. And then the packing needs to be done, it is good not to leave this to the last minute and better to get the majority of it done a week before the actual show, so you are better prepared. I like to make myself a list for all the things I need.  

Photo by Louise O’Brien Photography

Do you have some advice for people on how to learn a dressage test? This would be part of the preparation too. 

I used to be really bad in remembering my tests, as I got a bit worked up during the test to get things right so I kind of froze. Now I draw the test out on a piece of paper and learn it in sections rather then drying to learn the whole test at once. I also use visualization where I would try to visualize me actual riding the test. 

What are you most proud of this weekend?

I was really happy that I managed to calm down during the warmup for my first test and that we managed to do a good test on the first day. I am especially proud of the medium trot as we struggled at other shows with it, but she done it really well and we ended up getting an 8 for it. I also was really happy with her canter work and the transitions after the medium canters.

Did you feel pressure going for back-to-back titles? How do you deal with pressure?

I wasn’t really thinking about that to be honest, as I competed a different pony this year. I had set myself different goals and the goal was to get qualified and then just to do the best I could on the day, it wasn’t really on my mind that I could get the title this year again. But I did put pressure on myself just before the nationals as we didn’t perform as well as we could in our training, but my mum helped me through that by analyzing the situation with me and we were able to work through it.

 How does it feel to have retained your National U21 Title? 

On the second day I was looking up the scores, but the internet connection was really slow, so it took ages, but when the scores finally came through, I saw that I was down in 3rd place. So, I didn’t think I would have had a chance but because I was 5% up the day before, the combined score showed me in the lead, it took a moment to sink in and then I was just so excited and ran to see my mum and dad to tell them about it.

How did it feel being part of the Regional U25 winning team?

As we were all in different classes we didn’t really see each other on the championship days that much, but it was still great to be parts of the U21 team and we did support each other of course. It is always nice to be part of a team. 

It takes a village to get prepared and get results. Do you have any people or sponsors you’d like to thank or give a shout out to?

 I would like to thank my mom Sinead for coaching me and my mum and dad Fintan for driving and grooming for me. I would also like to say thanks to my mum’s friend Trish for all the help at shows and with my music. Also, thanks to all the kids at the yard for coming to shows to help and for the nomination to Martin Sheridan Bursary award and then getting the award together with 2 other athletes.

What is up next for you?

I would like to get my pony up to elementary level over the next few months. I hope that my older pony at home will help me to improve my riding through the movement of elementary and medium level as she is more experienced, I won’t be competing her, but this will also help me to get better with my current pony “Terbofens Queen Two”. Then hopefully qualify again for the National Winter Finals and then continue to work towards the pony FEI level.


An interview with Rising Star Rebecca McGrath

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