The London leg of the Longines Global Champions Tour (LGCT) kicked off with a truly emotional win for Irish rider Aisling Byrne with her super grey mare Wellview Lucy.
This was Aisling’s first win at the London venue and comes four years after a horrific accident on the Spanish Sunshine Tour in February 2018 in which a horse fell on top of her. She spent nine days in intensive care having suffered a catalogue of injuries including a smashed pelvis, broken hips and vertebrae, and internal injuries. Doctors told her she’d never walk again, let alone ride, but the 36-year-old made a remarkable comeback, returning to the sport she loves in 2020.
Receiving the winner’s rug for an exceptional performance in the London LGCT’s opening CSI2* Hyde Park Stables two-phase on Friday morning (19 August) was understandably a poignant moment in Aisling’s journey.
“Lucy was the first horse I got back on and jumped my first 60cm fence again after my accident, so she’s brought me all the way,” said Aisling “It’s suddenly hit me now. I owe her so much.”
Aisling bought the 11-year-old mare Wellview Lucy six years ago. Aisling had previously competed Lucy’s grand-dam Wellview Classic Dream and snapped her up after she spotted the youngster coming up for auction at Goresbridge Sales.
“I loved her grandmother so I had my eye on Lucy – she didn’t look much as a youngster but she’s grown in confidence and she trusts me,” said Aisling. “I feel like she gives her heart to me.”
The pair won six-year-old classes at Knokke and Mijas “and she was very good at that level” but, after Aisling’s accident, the blossoming career of the mare by Wellview Cedric, out of Geelong Speed Line, was put on hold.
“She missed a huge chunk and she spent some time in the field but we’ve been going on and off again for the past year now,” said Aisling, who has a handful of competition horses at home, plus some home-breds. She is also competing the 10-year-old Chin Cham Cham, who stands 18hh high, at the London LGCT.
“Doctors told me only to stick with small horses after my accident – but I ended up with a big one!” she said.
London LGCT: ‘It feels amazing, a dream come true’
Aisling and Wellview Lucy headed the opening 1.15m class at the London LGCT, beating Rachel Gredley riding the Unex Competition Yard’s 10-year-old mare Jalanna into second place with Michaela Whitaker third on Lingala.
“It feels amazing, incredible, like a dream come true,” said Aisling of her win. “I’ve been placed here before but this is the first time I’ve won a rug. There were a couple of fast ones before me and I didn’t know if I could beat them so I thought I’d just go in the ring and see how she felt and she was amazing – so I just kept going!
“She was great today, we just flowed and it all came together. I can’t believe how fast she was! I was afraid to watch too many others go before me, but I saw they were leaving out strides everywhere, they were galloping, but it all worked out – I think it was meant for us today.”
Aisling spent two years on crutches and now, over four years after her accident, Aisling still has “good days and bad days”.
“I just push through – at the start I was riding one every other day whereas now I’m riding three or four a day. If you love it, you just keep doing it! And the more you do the stronger you get,” she said.
“I’d love to keep stepping up and get back to where I was before the accident, I’d just love to prove I can do it. I jumped a bigger class in Spain at the start of the year and that was phenomenal just to know I could, so that’s my aim.
“People would probably look at me now and think I was back to normal, but my walk isn’t quite perfect and I still get a bit of pain. But I honestly don’t care about the pain because I can get back on a horse and they told me I’d never walk again. So to be back competing at shows like this is phenomenal. I didn’t think I’d ever see that vision looking through the ears again. So even to have that, then to get in the ring, then for her to win…
“I think it’s important to keep going because you don’t realise how many people you’re helping – I get so many messages from people who are struggling with various things and have seen what I’m doing. They say ‘If you can do it, it’s made me believe I can do it, too.’ Life is about overcoming adversity so don’t let anything get in your way.”
Keep up to date with all the action from the London LGCT at horseandhound.co.uk and read the full report with all the insight in next week’s magazine, in the shops Thursday 25 August.
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