Irish rider breaks world side saddle high jump record

  • Ireland’s Susan Oakes is celebrating after achieving her long-avowed aim of breaking the side saddle high jump world record.

    Susan cleared a 6’8” (2.03m) puissance wall on her stallion SIEC Atlas at the newly-built Equestrian Sports Training Facility in Blanchardstown, near Dublin last week (24 October).

    The feat was witnessed by an FEI representative and several other people, including the CEO of Horse Sport Ireland Damien McDonald.

    The Guinness Book of Records only recognises the greatest height cleared by a horse — and not whether they were ridden astride or sideways.

    “It was incredible,” Susan told H&H. “I was so determined to do it. It’s been a long and rocky road.

    “I come from a hunting and point-to-point background and I’d never showjumped until 17 months ago when I started training [for this]. So it was a full-on 17 months.”

    After clearing 6’8″ over the wall on Atlas, Susan then changed horses onto SIEC Oberon and cleared 6’5” over a triple bar, breaking the record set by Michaela Bowling earlier this year at Aintree of 6’3”.

    Susan and SIEC Oberon clear a 6'5" triple bar

    Susan and SIEC Oberon clear a 6’5″ triple bar

    Susan and Brandy and Red clear 5'9" at the National Show in 2012

    Susan and Brandy and Red clear 5’9″ at the National Show in 2012

    Susan had earlier set a British side saddle high jump record on 28 July 2012, clearing 5’9” (1.80m) on the grand prix showjumper Brandy and Red at the National Show, Aintree.

    Since then she has been eager to better the unofficial record of 6’6” (1.98m) set by an Australian woman in 1915.

    But she fell short of that at this year’s National Show, coming second to Michaela Bowling — who cleared a 6’3” triple bar (1.91m) on Laughing Larry.

    Michaela Bowling on Laughing Larry at Aintree

    Michaela Bowling and Laughing Larry clear 6’3″ at the 2013 National Show, Aintree

    Susan said she finally achieved her goal after sorting out saddle problems.

    “I’ve been begging, borrowing and stealing saddles for the past two years, because I sent my good [side] saddle away to be fixed and it was never completed,” she told H&H.

    British side saddle rider Becca Holland — of the Flying Foxes display group — travelled to Ireland recently to help Susan find a new saddle. Susan credits this with helping her to set the new world record.

    “I couldn’t understand why I could jump 6’8” astride, but not on a side saddle — it was too big,” she explained.

    But “everything fell into place perfectly” for last week’s record attempt, she added.

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