Remember the name: Megan Cookson — the NHS worker making waves in the show ring

  • 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…

    Today we meet Cheshire-based home-producer Megan Cookson. The 26-year-old show rider works full time as a pharmacy dispenser for the NHS and has won mutiple titles, including the amateur supreme hunter championship at the 2019 Royal International Horse Show (RIHS) with Louvaine Rooney.

    Megan has been riding in the ring since she was a three-year-old lead rein jockey. Her dad, John — a well-known showing judge — and her mum, Janet, is also a key part of her success.

    “I didn’t really do Pony Club stuff but went straight into the ring on a mountain and moorland (M&M) lead rein,” says Megan. “I had a few mini ponies but my first taste of the top was with Welsh section A first ridden Foxtrot Gemma who won Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) in 2004.

    “She started as a lead rein but she really shone off the lead. We eventually trimmed her out as a show hunter pony and she went to HOYS again before I out grew her.”

    Megan moved up the hunter pony heights and found her current intermediate and small hunter star Rooney as a six-year-old:

    “He was advertised and when we rang up the lady told us that he only had half an ear on one side so wasn’t sure if he’d show,” says Megan, of the now 14-year-old “He’s not a Van Gogh but he has a small semi-circle out of his ear. We decided we didn’t mind and set off to Cardiff to see him. Our car broke down on the way so we viewed him in the dark with only headlights to see. We went back to see him and after having a ride we bought him and he’s been with us ever since.”

    Rooney and Megan have been a formidable partnership, standing at the top of the lines at all major shows. In 2014 they stood second in the intermediate show hunter of the year final at HOYS and in 2017 they won both intermediate show hunter and amateur small hunter finals at the RIHS:

    “The RIHS was so surreal,” reminisces Megan. “I was nervous going into the horse class. He was pulled second before the judge had to ride him. I couldn’t believe it when he came up to win. In 2019 he was pulled top and stayed there right through until the supreme. It was an amazing day.”

    Megan juggles showing with her full time working hours.

    “We keep the horses at a field down the road from our house. It’s a lot of early mornings and late nights. We don’t have any facilities so during the winter we hire out a local arena. When we’re in full swing during show season we often don’t get home until 11pm.”

    Alongside her parents, Megan’s partner Billy is a great supporter of her showing:

    “He shares the wagon driving with Dad if he’s judging and he’s just the general support party at the side of the ring,” says Megan.

    Looking to the future, Megan would love Rooney to add a HOYS victory to his enviable tally:

    “I would like him to win there before he retires. He’s my horse of a lifetime and he’s been the perfect horse to take me into hunter classes.”

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    When asked how she maintains her top spots against the professionals, Megan says keeping a postitive attiude is the key:

    “I always enjoy every single outing to the maximum. Wherever you place in a class it’s a chance to pick up something to work on at home; it would be boring if there was nothing to improve on. Even if I win I like to make sure my championship performance is always better.

    “I always say well done to the riders on either side of me, too, and I’ll always smile as a I leave the ring no matter what the results.”

    “In the NHS, we have a Christmas rota where we work one year on, one year off; I’m off work this year so we’ll have the whole period to relax. We’re a bunch of kids at Christmas, we love it. We also follow our local hunt, The Cheshire Forest, if they head out this year.”

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