Madeline Backus, the inaugural recipient of the Wilton Fair Grant, has arrived in England and will spend the 2018 season working with Irish international rider Austin O’Connor at Attington Stud in Thame, Oxfordshire. Madeline traveled with her horses, P.S. Arianna and P.S. On Top of the World, and all arrived safely. Madeline will be sharing her experiences with us over the coming months and has sent us her first report from across the pond.
This trip is truly a huge step in my development as an equestrian athlete, and I am beyond grateful for all the people involved in making this journey possible. Thanks to them, I have been at the beautiful Attington Stud for just over a week now with my two horses, P.S. Arianna (Ari) and P.S. On Top of the World (Vinnie) and we are loving it! We arrived last Friday afternoon (March 2), having left the United States on Tuesday night.
Austin O'Connor's yard in England. Photo courtesy of Madeline Backus.
I took the tests required to fly with the horses, and it was such a cool experience. We stayed at a barn in Miami most of Tuesday afternoon and loaded the horses onto a trailer at about 11:00 p.m. They were taken to the airport with us following right behind. At the loading dock, the horses got on their pallets and then were loaded onto the plane at about 1:00 a.m. Eight other horses traveled with us, and five other people including the pilots. It was very helpful to be able to check on the horses during the flight.
The plane that Ari and Vinnie flew over on. Photo courtesy of Madeline Backus.
We arrived in Amsterdam in the evening and waited for the vets to inspect all the horses before they were released. My two went to the Horse Hotel of Holland for the night, where I was able to stay in an apartment right outside the barns. It was a drastic change of weather, coming from sunny Florida to temperatures below freezing, so the horses were happy to load onto a big warm lorry the next morning and start the drive to the UK. We drove through Belgium and to Calais, France, where we waited to catch a ferry. By the time we got to the ferry to cross the English Channel, it was too windy for horses to be on them, so we took the train instead and spent the night in Hythe, England. The next morning it was snowing, and the roads were icy, so we had to delay leaving for Gloucestershire until things improved. We then set out for Austin O’Connor’s yard, arriving around 1:00 p.m. The horses traveled really well and settled into their new barn extremely well. The team here at Attington is wonderful with such great people and lots of opportunities to learn and train.
The lorry that took Madeline, Ari, and Vinnie to the UK. Photo courtesy of Madeline Backus.
I still feel as though I am dreaming, and can’t believe this is actually happening. The Wilton Fair Grant along with the Rebecca Broussard Grant has given me this once in a lifetime chance of being immersed in a program here in the UK. I get to take care of, ride, and watch the horses here and learn how this system works. I have already gained a lot of knowledge just in the first week, along with all the different terminology used over here: grackle instead of figure-eight noseband, headcollars instead of halters, rugs instead of blankets, and many more! It’s great fun, and I can’t wait to start competing!
I will be competing Ari in the Advanced division at Burnham Market at the end of March and at Belton Park mid-April as our prep runs before Badminton. Vinnie will be starting to compete in June.
I am so extremely grateful for this opportunity to go overseas and further my education as well as compete at some of the top international events in the world, and I will be sharing my journey with you throughout the season.
About Austin O'Connor
Austin runs his teaching and training business at Frank and Kate Jarvey’s Attington Stud, a beautiful breeding and training facility in Gloucestershire, England. Austin is from County Cork and with his family immersed in every aspect of the horse world it was a given that he would make horses his future. Eventing quickly became a passion, and he represented Ireland as a Junior and Young Rider. In 1995, he was on the gold medal team at the European Young Riders’ Championships in Germany. He moved to England in 1994 to further his career and went on to represent Ireland on the Senior Team seven times. He and Horseware Fabio competed at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, and in 2008 he rode Hobby du Mee at the Beijing Olympics. He was also selected three times for the World Equestrian Games, but injuries kept him from being able to participate. Americans will know him from his two visits to Lexington to compete in the CCI4* in 2013 and 2015.
About Attington Stud
Attington Stud is owned by Frank and Kate Jarvey. Kate arrived in the UK from the United States in 1976 and competed there in eventing and showing and regularly hunts. Husband Frank breeds and trains National Hunt horses. The facilities at Attington are exceptional and offer many opportunities to learn and experience a wide array of equestrian disciplines.
About Madeline Backus
Madeline Backus has been riding since she was just 18 months old under the careful eye of her mother, Laura Backus, ICP Level III Instructor at Pendragon Stud Equestrian Center in Larkspur, Colorado. She has ridden all types of horses and has produced many horses including her current mount, P.S. Arianna. Madeline and Ari grew up together and worked their way up the levels. Madeline took the ride on Ari when she was 10 years old and Ari was 5 years old. The two continued to learn together, striving to achieve their goals. Their first CCI4* was at Kentucky in 2017 where they finished in the top 20. Madeline graduated high school with honors in 2014 and passed her A Pony Club rating in 2015. She studied under Missy and Jessica Ransehousen for two years and now travels around the country (and the world!) to train and compete. She has made the USEF Eventing 25 Emerging Athlete list for the last three years and enjoys continuing her education in every way.
Madeline and P.S. Arianna. Photo courtesy of Madeline Backus.
Administered by USEA Foundation, the Wilton Fair Grant has been made possible through the generosity of David and Cheryl Lenaburg. The Rebecca Broussard National Developing Rider Grant has been in place since 2011 through the kindness of the family of the late Rebecca Broussard.