Life lessons: show producer Kirstine Douglas *H&H Plus*

  • Kirstine is a leading showing figure who is based in Dumfriesshire, Scotland. She has been producing horses and ponies for just under 30 years and over that time she has won accolades at all major shows, including championships at Horse of the Year Show and the Royal International. She is also a British Horse Society (BHS) accredited trainer.

    When I was 28, I was unlucky enough to have a life-threatening blood clot. It went right from the top of my lungs down to my groin and I was in intensive care for five weeks. On leaving, I was under strict instructions from the consultant to take it easy and not ride. But – me being me – within three weeks of being home I was back on a horse. When I went back to see him he couldn’t believe how much the leg had gone down; he was gobsmacked and hailed horse riding as the cure for any swelling.

    The injury did change how I used my leg when riding, until in 2004, when I was asked to take on a horse who was due to compete in the Paralympics later in the year. A trainer came over from America to help establish a training and fitness program for him.

    We were practicing an exercise, which I knew I couldn’t do because of my leg. She immediately stopped me and said, “There is no such thing as can’t. If you think you can’t, push harder.”

    She gradually repositioned my leg and I was able to do it. This was the biggest kick up the backside I had ever received and I still keep that saying in my head when riding and training. The horse, Phoenix, ended up winning a silver medal in Athens.

    Confidence is key

    My grandfather was a farmer and big into Clydesdales; he always told me that you only get out what you put in. My sister, brother and I had ponies when we were children but nothing was ever handed to us. We’d go to the sales and my mum and dad would buy a pen of ponies and we’d get them all going to sell on to then buy better ones. We didn’t have staff and we’d have to get up before school to do them.

    Even today I like to do most jobs myself so I get to know the horses. On show day, I always do the plaiting, trimming and preparation as well as the majority of the working in. I like to feel how my horses are going and know that we’re confident in each other. Right before we step into the ring I will adjust my number to make sure it’s in the centre of my back; wonky numbers are my pet hate.

    I had always planned to be a farrier when I was younger, but at 16 I broke the news to my dad that I was going to work for Robert Oliver. It was a time when many great show people were around. Dad said I could do one year but one year only, and then I had to become a farrier. That never happened and the rest is history.

    My parents always told me that if you have to think about buying a horse, walk away. Let your eye be the judge. When I went to buy Fair Breeze – 1989 Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) supreme – I saw him in a field with three others and instantly knew he was the one. I just love buying youngsters and finding potential in the rough.

    I’ve found and produced so many fabulous horses and ponies over the years. I would love to have District Court back in my stables so he could have another go at getting that HOYS crown. He was a proper middleweight, which is so hard to find these days.

    He hunted every year throughout his showing career from a five-year-old and is living out his retirement at home with me. At age 22, his legs are still as clean as they were then.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 2 April 2020