From a classroom to international jumping glory: ‘I’ve a lot to be thankful for’ says Jessica Burke

  • Irish showjumper Jessica Burke has forged a stellar career on the international circuit since switching from her role in the classroom as a maths teacher just three years ago. Speaking to H&H showjumping editor Jennifer Donald on episode 126 of The Horse & Hound Podcast, Jessica starts by reflecting on winning an amazing hat-trick of international classes at this year’s Horse of the Year Show.

    “I never imagined how good the atmosphere there was,” says Jessica, who is based in Hampshire at the Arion Stud and won all three classes, including the prestigious speed horse of the year, with the great mare Inpulss. “I would have been delighted to win one class there, to canter down under the spotlight. But to do it three times was class.

    “I wouldn’t normally be one for punching the air – maybe if you get me on a dancefloor late at night I’ll be throwing some shapes, but not on a horse! So some of my friends were giving me stick about my fist pumps, but by the time I got to day three I didn’t know what to do!”

    “She felt the crowd as much as I did”

    Jessica said the nine-year-old Inpulss, who is owned by Louisa Church, enjoyed the experience as much as she did, giving the 30-year-old the feeling she really wanted to win.

    “I think she felt the crowd as much as I did,” she says. “It was incredible.”

    Jessica only took the reins on Inpulss at the start of the year and behind the scenes, she has been working on the careful but quirky mare’s flatwork.

    “She has improved, but I’ve found it’s best not to overfry her brains – she goes her own way,” says Jessica, who takes her hacking and gives her as much field-time as she can. “We barely jump her at home. She doesn’t take the training that I’m used to doing with the other horses.

    “I’ve had an amazing year anyway and she’s just really added to it.”

    Jessica Burke in action at HOYS

    Jessica Burke: life on the road

    It’s fair to say that Jessica Burke’s life has been transformed since she decided to take a sabbatical from her teaching job to concentrate on her showjumping career and she says she’s enjoying spending so much time on the road.

    “It’s been very busy, I haven’t done it to this rate before, so it’s still new to me,” she says. “You can’t be everywhere, but I’m enjoying it.”

    One of Jessica’s many highlights of 2022 was being part of Ireland’s winning team on her Nations Cup debut in Lisbon, Portugal, but looking ahead, the ambitious rider says: “No matter what you do, you’ll always want more but I think it’s important to take a minute to appreciate where you’ve got and enjoy it. The year has been amazing – I’ve a lot to be thankful for.

    “You’re always setting goals and things you want to do, you can think about things and dream about things, but I try to look in the near future to see what is possible and you know what that can turn into.

    “I’d love to jump at five-star and in a five-star Nations Cup, to ride at championships and do an Aga Khan but realistically you have to do one step at a time, you need to have good results and a good partnership with your horse – the horses have to stay healthy and you have to stay lucky, so one day at a time.”

    You can hear more from Jessica Burke as she talks about her exciting string of horses, competing in Abu Dhabi, stepping up to five-star level and always chasing her dreams on episode 126 of The Horse & Hound Podcast – listen here or search “The Horse & Hound Podcast” in your favourite podcast app.

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