“He just loves it!” – Alannah Kelly: Parents, Ponies and Success at Millstreet.

From eventing with Laois pony club, winning Student Rider World Finals last January, and her most recent placing in the 3* short at Millstreet 2023, 21-year-old student and event rider Alannah Kelly is no stranger to success. I caught up with her to find out more

Who am I speaking with and what classes were you involved in at Millstreet 2023?

Hello, my name is Alannah Kelly, I’m twenty-one years old and I’m studying Animal science, specifically Equine Science at University College Dublin. 

My two horses Cooley Bounce and Stroke of Genius were both in the 3* short at Millstreet International this year. 

Cooley Bounce has proven himself to be quite the competitor, tell me more about him.

More fondly known as “Bouncer”, Cooley Bounce is a thirteen-year-old grey gelding by Grange Bouncer. We have had him since he was six years old, and we began our eventing career together. We started eventing with Laois Pony Club, moving onto Eventing Ireland and progressing through the levels. We just caught the bug! 

Since then, we’ve competed at two Young Rider European Championships, winning two team medals, and finishing 11th and 12th individually.

Photo Credit: Libby Law Photography (Cooley bounce and Alannah at European championships 2022, at Hartpury College)

Tell me more about Millstreet!

I was so proud of Bouncer finishing second at Millstreet, he really tried his heart out on the cross country. He can be quirky at times, but I think all the good ones are!

Being part draught, he wouldn’t be the quickest horse, but he really felt class, and made a difficult time allowed. He’s such a cool horse to ride cross-country, he just loves it! He’s always looking for the flags!

Photo Credit: Bit Media (Cooley Bounce over fence three at Millstreet international 3*short)

Stroke of Genius, known as ‘Clover ’at home, also had a great few days at Millstreet in the 3* short. He gave great feeling in the dressage, scoring thirty, and a double clear around the jumping. A couple time faults on the cross country left him out of the top placings, finishing tenth. He really stepped up to the mark, they both did! I’m really proud of them both!

Photo Credit: Bit Media (Stroke of Genius and Alannah on the cross country at Millstreet international3* short)

How would you prepare your horses for a competition like that?

To prepare for a big competition, I don’t like to change much, I keep everything pretty much the same. The horses get at least one session on the gallops a week leading up to the event. It’s so important to ensure their fit enough. 

I would also usually get some dressage training and a jumping lesson in the lead up. We have a lot of hills at home, so I really utilize them when it comes to improving the horse’s fitness, especially at the beginning of the season. It really helps put our best foot forward.

Photo Credit: Bit Media (Cooley bounce and Alannah mid dressage test at Millstreet 2023)

I also love using lunging to my advantage when getting ready for competition. I use trot poles a lot to help build their core strength and topline, whilst also improving their natural balance and footwork.

Do you have any specific routine to get yourself competition fit?

I would be quite an active person. I think as a rider it is important to keep fit to ride to the best of your ability. I try to go to the gym twice a week and I do a good bit of running. 

I also play Gaelic football, but I’ve had to take a step back recently; It’s just been too busy balancing horses and college!

What strategies do you employ to deal with pressure and stress during competitions?

I don’t really get overly nervous, maybe just right before I enter a ring, especially for showjumping. I try to think that I’m just jumping a round at home and focus on my breathing if I get anxious at any stage.

I also find stress eating helps!!!!

How do you balance your personal life with your commitment to your competitive pursuits?

Sometimes it’s tough to balance everything but I’m very lucky with my parents, they will always help with feeding or putting out the horses. I’m grateful that they’re willing to help if I’m going somewhere or busy in college.

(Alannah and teammate Michelle O’Driscoll, following Ireland’s World final win at Student Riders Nations Cup in Belgium).

It takes a team to compete at this level, is there anyone you’d like to thank?

My parents have always been there, helping me be the best I can be. Although they aren’t horsey people themselves, they have taken to it very well!! My mam helps a lot with packing the lorry and organising things. I would be lost without her!

(Alannah and her parents following prize giving at Millstreet 2023)

I’ve been fortunate to have very good coaches throughout the years. Gerald Bloomer helped me a lot at the start of Bouncer’s career. I also worked for Ian Cassells for a while when I was finished school and he has really helped improve my riding. 

I’d also like to thank Ian Fearon, Heike Holstein, Sue Short and John Ledingham. I am very grateful for their help!

I’d like to extend my thanks to Alannah, there is no doubt that her positive attitude and determined work ethic will continue to propel her even farther in her eventing career. She is most definitely one to watch.  

Thank you for reading!


“He just loves it!” – Alannah Kelly: Parents, Ponies and Success at Millstreet.

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