Tales from Kentucky: ‘My life is mayhem’ – the full-time vet and the ‘feral’ Irish horse

  • Everyone has concerns as they approach their five-star debut, but for Alex MacLeod, her main problem in the lead up to this year’s Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event was probably unique among the 45 riders competing… she wasn’t sure if she could get the time off work.

    “That was my biggest thing this winter – I was thinking, ‘I would love to do Kentucky but I’ve already basically used all my vacation days’,” said Alex, who is in the early stages of a career as a vet.

    Luckily, one of Alex’s bosses rides in hunters and follows Alex eventing and the other is “amazing and just pretty laid back”.

    “They were able to finagle a week away for me, so I’m very happy about that,” smiled Alex after her dressage test yesterday.

    Alex MacLeod graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2020 and is now doing a diagnostic imaging internship in Los Angeles, which puts her on the path to becoming a veterinary radiologist.

    “Mom’s been the bedrock of letting me keep doing the sport in the mayhem that is my life,” she said.

    Alex based her Kentucky ride Newmarket Jack with Dan and Kaitlin Clasing for part of the time while she was at university.

    “They were right across the street and they’re friends of mine,” she said. “Dan helped us move up to the advanced level when I was in vet school and they really helped juggle my life. They were very invested and helped with the horse’s care and getting the fitness done when I couldn’t.

    “Now I do my own thing a little bit in Los Angeles. I took some lessons with Tamie Smith last autumn and in the spring Dan came out for a week and helped me a bit with the jumping. I just kind of lean on our experience together and I do a lot of the work myself.

    “We have a dressage trainer at the barn where I’m based, Jane Arrasmith Duggan, so we’ve been getting some dressage help after hours at around 7pm – she’s nice enough to wait around for me to get to the barn.”

    Alex’s mother is Spanish and Newmarket Jack is the result of combining a horse shopping trip to England and Ireland with the annual visit to Spain to see family.

    “We’d been looking around the States for a little while and didn’t find anything that really sold us. I tried about 18 horses in Ireland and a similar number in England and the one I really wanted was Jack – and he was completely feral,” she says.

    “He was actually quite good when I tried him in Ireland – he was just very green, but he had a really good cross-country brain.”

    But Jack showed his feral side when he arrived back in the US.

    “If I hadn’t been in Phillip Dutton’s programme when I got the horse, I don’t think we would have turned him around – I definitely couldn’t have done it by myself,” said Alex.

    These days, Alex says the Newmarket Jewel son Jack has mellowed into “a family friendly sort” – anybody can lead him around and handle him– but he still has his moments.

    “He’s a little obstinate. Getting him on the trailer is an ordeal. If he decides he doesn’t like something, it’s pretty difficult to change his mind. And he’s a little sharp behind – you don’t touch his back legs.”

    Alex MacLeod and Jack scored 40.9 for their dressage yesterday to sit 18th overnight.

    “We’re not a dressage pair – we’re both fairly green in it and he went in there and he was as rideable as he is anywhere, so I’m pretty happy,” said Alex.

    “He was a good little boy and wasn’t fazed by anything. I’m just overjoyed to be here and to get through the first phase without any major hiccups.”

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