Over this festive season, we are shining a light on up-and-coming talent across the equestrian disciplines. These are riders you really need to keep an eye out for during the 2021 season…
Next up, we catch up with Jessica Ely, 27, who produces show horses and ponies alongside her sister, Rebecca, 29, at their base in North Yorkshire. The siblings quit their full-time fast-paced careers to concentrate on the show ring just over two years ago.
In 2018, Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) debutantes Jessica and Rebecca Ely had their first NEC centre line moment when their intermediate Brindlebrook Little Scoundrel (Yorkie) captured the small riding type class and stood section reserve. The sisters, who only started producing earlier in the year, cemented their names as ones to watch on the showing circuit.
“We only decided to go full time in February 2018 and one of our first goals was to qualify for HOYS,” explains Jessica, who rode Yorkie to victory at the final and was also champion with him at Windsor the following year. “HOYS was all such a blur. I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life. Just to qualify was enough so we were obviously over the moon to win.”
Also making his debut HOYS appearance that year was lightweight show cob Silverwoods who has since been sold and has gone onto win a host of accolades with his new owner Charlotte Alford. Jessica and Rebecca were sent Silverwoods to produce in 2018 and introduced him to the show scene.
“He was very green when we got him in summer and he was at HOYS later in the year,” says Jessica.
Based in the village of Little Smeaton, West Yorkshire, the sisters produce their rides from the family farm which they run alongside their mum, Melaine, and step-dad, Rodney. They have 31 boxes which are split between liveries and their 14 show animals — ranging from mini ponies to hunters and hacks — in for production.
“We’ve always been into horses; I got my first pony when I was eight and Rebecca started well before me,” continues Jessica, who used to race motorbikes until she was a teenager. “We had a pony called Suzie who cost £250 before Mum bought us a show pony called Daldorn Nutmeg. When I finished with bikes I got a 14.2hh Stanley Grange-bred pony.
“Mum spent hours and hours with us and we owe her everything. We would come home and go straight out to the horses and we never went on holiday to afford the showing.”
Both Jessica and Rebecca has different careers before making the jump into show production:
“I studied law at university and worked in the industry for about three years,” says Jessica. “Rebecca worked as an area sales manager in construction. At the time I had a chestnut Irish Draught who I ran on while I was at university. We were both at the point where we couldn’t juggle our time consuming jobs and the horses so we needed to make a choice. We had the stables and an arena at home so we decided to take the plunge and give it a go. And it’s definitely been worth it.”
The sisters are currently gearing up for the 2021 season. Included in their string are three novice hacks, including two horses from the Brindlebrook stud who are similarly bred to their intermediate icon Yorkie.
“We’ve also got a Connemara to come out and also have Caroline Saynor’s middleweight Moylough Melody who is already a winner in hunter ranks,” says Jessica. “We also have some dressage horses in. I’d always wanted to do dressage as I enjoy that you can progress in training and move up the levels, but an up and running horse is expensive. In 2018 I bought former show horse Formidable who is by Vivaldi. Last season he won the British Dressage summer regionals at both novice and elementary and will be out contending medium classes next year; I think he’s going to be a star. We also have two novices to produce and we like to aim the show horses at some dressage during the winter, too.”
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Over Christmas, Jessica and Rebecca usually enjoy a day out hunting on boxing day but it will be business as usual heading into the next year.
“We’ll probably have Christmas day off,” concludes Rebecca, who is busy on the run up to the big day selling Christmas trees with her partner. “But we’ll be cracking on for next season as soon as it’s over.”
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