Life lessons: show producer and showjumper Kirsty Aird on superstitions and perfectionism *H&H Plus*

  • The Scottish show producer and showjumper on parting with perfectionism, the importance of quality feeding and her superstitious habit.

    Kirsty is based at Netherton Equestrian in Perthshire. She has won major accolades, both on the flat and over fences. In 2018, she won two mountain and moorland (M&M) working hunter classes at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS), as well as the section championship.

    When it comes to training, we can do the impossible every day, but miracles take a bit longer. In other words, you can’t try to do everything in one go. You need patience with your horses and should work on the building blocks. Some take more time and need that little bit longer, while others pick up lessons quicker.

    I live by the importance of good feeding. It shows in the horse’s body and performance. You might need to spend more money, but they will reap the rewards, with shiny coats, strong feet and they generally feel well.

    A good farrier who shoes according to conformation and breed is essential, too. If a horse has solid, hard feet and is confident without shoes, then brilliant, but it depends on the individual and his own needs.

    My lucky socks

    I’m superstitious and if I’ve done well at a certain show, I’ll wear the same socks the next time I attend. Similarly, if I’m having a rubbish show, I’ll change my socks several times throughout the day until I find my lucky pair.

    Before I step into the ring, I focus on what horse I’m riding. Because I compete in both showing and showjumping classes, I have to change my style of riding regularly – I can be in a jump-off one minute and on a novice M&M the next. I concentrate on the horse of the moment and what we’ve been working on in training.

    I have always admired Marcus Ehning. I love his style of riding and how quiet he is in the saddle. He lets every horse just be themselves and never restricts them. I do a lot of showjumping and take techniques through to the showing. I find the difference in style is good for the show horse’s brain and suppleness.

    I wish I’d known when I was 16 that things will always work out in the end. At that age I was still considering university and, looking back, I’m glad I didn’t go – I still say that I’m on my gap year! Be confident and true to what you love doing.

    My parents taught me two things; don’t let go and always get straight back on. When we were handling the young home-breds, my dad would tell me to hold on tight and never, ever let a horse get away from you. About six years
    ago, I fell off one of the youngsters and true to form I got straight back on. The next day, I did four days at the Royal Highland Show and I knew something wasn’t quite right. The week after, I went to hospital and found out I had dislocated my collarbone.

    When I was younger, I was often criticised for being a perfectionist. As I’ve worked with different types and breeds over the years, I’ve been made to think outside the box. I now realise I can use different techniques and achieve the same results.

    “She just loves life”

    There would be two horses I’d have back now, the first being my 14hh working hunter Haysford Hideaway Harry. He was complicated, but we eventually got there with him and given the experience I have now, I think he could have been a HOYS winner.

    I still have my 15hh worker Freckleton Mayday at home. Her jumping ability was amazing, but I was restricted to what I could do with her due to my age. She is now a broodmare and has left me with some offspring who share her character; she just loves life.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 17 December 2020

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