It was the moment that Ireland’s Kate Kerr-Horan pulled out of the driveway of her family home at Broomfield Equestrian Centre in Wicklow when the magnitude what it meant to be going to the Tokyo Paralympics hit her.
“The Monday before we left, a load of our friends came and they threw me a going away barbecue. That was a complete surprise and that just took my breath away,” said Kate, who is riding as part of the Irish side aboard Broomfield Farm’s Serafina T (“Fina”).
“But then the day we were leaving all down our road was lined with our neighbours, wishing me good luck, and that meant the most because usually when we go away to a competition, we go, we come back. No one knows. This was completely different. And it was then that it hit me just how much going to a Paralympics means.”
Kate, 28, was riding high on the crest of a wave of momentum two years ago, then injury and the Covid pandemic hit.
“I had my best ever competition [at Keysoe CPEDI] in October 2019 and I got my first 70%,” said Kate.
“It’s always been my aim, to get a 70, then you’ve hit the big time. Then that December I broke my wrist. I was just coming back from that – my first competition was meant to be the 14 March and it was cancelled because of Covid.”
The pair have built back stronger to reach their goal of making their Paralympic debut at the Tokyo Games.
“At this moment, there’s no words to describe [what it is to be a Paralympian],” said Kate. ‘It is the most incredible thing to experience. What has made it more special is Fina’s breeder. Karin Hoerner, from Wales contacted me a few weeks before we came out, thanking me for making a breeder’s dream come true. That just meant more than anything because I’ve kept in touch with her since we bought her. That meant more than nearly everything else, because I was making a dream come true for her as well as myself.”
She explained as a grade III rider, a super walk and a trot “that has potential to grow” are what she looks for in a horse.
“When we went and we saw Fina, we knew she that was special,” she said. “I rode her and when I get down off a new horse I always say, ‘that was amazing’. So we contacted my trainer, Donie McNamara, who said he would come out and look at her. I rode her for 15 minutes and he said, ‘I’ve seen enough’. And he told us afterwards that she was the one.”
Kate scored 65.77% in tonight’s team test aboard the 10-year-old Rossgold Sunstar mare.
She said it is a “huge honour” to be riding as part of the Irish team.
“This is the first championships I’ve been at where there’s only three on a team, so it’s a lot of pressure, but when I get onto my mare, that just drifts away, because what I live for is riding,” she added.
You might also be interested in:
Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.