‘She had no name, no breeding, no past’: mare with a rags to riches story gives owner a first Royal Windsor title

  • A mare who was discovered in a barn in Ireland in 2016 concluded the second day of showing at Windsor, as she became Royal Windsor BSHA ladies’ show horse champion on her debut show with her new rider.

    Michelle Feeney was ringside to watch her delightful eight-year-old grey mare, of unknown breeding, Ballyhoulihan Rags To Riches (Raegan) and her new rider, Robyn Catterall, triumph in a quality field.

    “Has this just happened,” said Michelle, who was in floods of tears, after the pair had won the Royal Windsor BSHA ladies’ show horses.

    In 2016, Michelle was sent a screenshot of a three-year-old filly who was based in Ireland. Five weeks later, Michelle welcomed the un-named horse to her yard.

    “She had no name, no breeding, no past, but she definitely had a future,” said Michelle. “I later found out that she had been discovered in a barn by her previous owner — she had no food and was a couple of weeks off never seeing daylight again.”

    Upon her arrival, Michelle found out the horse, who she named Raegan, had previously suffered from a broken jaw, and that she was incredibly fearful of men.

    “It took our farrier over six months until he could trim her feet,” Michelle said. “At the back end of the year she was lightly backed and turned away, before I tried to find her a job. She was very lightly shown astride but I really felt she would be a side saddle horse, because of her paces and her sensible head.”

    Raegan qualified for Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) last year with Emma Dewhurst at the Royal Highland Show, but at the beginning of the 2022 season Michelle found herself without a jockey.

    “I don’t want to ride in the ring anymore as I suffer from arthritis in my hands and spine, so I struggle to sit on a horse for any length of time,” she said. “Robyn contacted me after I posted on social media looking for a rider. Robyn is based in Ireland and we weren’t sure if it would work logistically, but we decided to give it a go.”

    Interestingly, Robyn, Raegan and Michelle all hail from Irish stock:

    “This was their first show together,” continued Michelle, who travelled down to Windsor the night before the class in her ‘old wagon’, a 1994 box she affectionately names Dinky. “I didn’t even think we’d get here.”

    When asked if she ever believed the little horse she pulled off a lorry all those years ago was capable of royal glory, Michelle said:

    “Absolutely not. If I managed to get her to some local shows that would have been enough. It was one judge who told me to keep going with her. She told me that Raegan was really special and that I must try and do more. At home she’s my fun horse. She jumps and I hack her out. I have no desire to ride her in the ring, I just want to be at the side, getting her ready and cheering her on.”

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