May 06, 2020

Now on Course: Claire Robinson and Doonhill Dancer

By Jessica Duffy - USEA Staff
Claire Robinson and Doonhill Dancer competing at the 2019 USEA Young Event Horse Championships. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Two years ago, Claire Robinson was traveling from her base in Georgia to attend the USEA Young Event Horse Symposium in Ocala, Florida with her 5-year-old Thoroughbred mare. Robinson’s parents were acquainted with Mike and Jennifer Keane through their common interest in Connemaras and arranged for Robinson and her horse to spend the night at the Keane’s farm. “On my quick trip, we drove by to see their young but aspiring Connemara stallion – he was bred in Ireland by Mary Gorham and is by the Connemara stallion Currachamore Cashel,” Robinson shared. “At the time, I admired this spunky stallion, having no idea that he’d be heading to Georgia just a few weeks later.”

Mike and Jennifer happened to be looking for a rider to start their stallion, and Robinson, having experience working with Connemaras, agreed to take him on and campaign him as an eventer. Doonhill Dancer, or “Dancer” as he is known in the barn, was a 4-year-old when he arrived at Robinson’s barn and had just been started under saddle. “He had the longest legs I’ve ever seen on a pony,” Robinson recalled.

“In the first year, Dancer started eventing at the Beginner Novice level, and then as a 5-year-old we moved him up to Novice,” Robinson said. “I say ‘we’, because the Keanes have been his biggest supporters. Competitions, clinics, body work – this horse earned the jackpot in owners! Whether the horse earned blue ribbons or stayed home to school, the priority has always been making the best decisions for Dancer. And as a result, he has brought home several blues!”

Dancer winning Champion Purebred Connemara at a Region IV competition. J Bishop Photography Photo courtesy of Claire Robinson.

“Last year, I had the dream of getting him to the USEA Young Event Horse 5-year-old Championships at Fair Hill,” Robinson said. The Keanes agreed that Robinson and Dancer could shoot for the Championships, so Robinson hauled Dancer 10 hours to the Virginia Horse Trials in May to compete in the YEH qualifier. There they earned a score of 75.15, which qualified them for the Championships.

Robinson and Dancer competed at the Area III Championships at Poplar Place Farm the following month, where they were crowned the winners of the Novice Horse Championship division. Later that summer, they made the trip to the Kentucky Horse Park for the USEA American Eventing Championships, where they added a single rail to their dressage score in the Novice Horse division. Following their success at the Championships, Dancer made the step up to Training level.

“The week of Fair Hill was such a blur for me,” Robinson reflected. “Surrounded by so many top-level young horses and professional riders, we were pulling twelve hours from Georgia and the smallest pair on the field. But, I was backed by owners who believed in their horse!”

Dancer competing at Training level in January 2020. Photo courtesy of Claire Robinson.

Robinson and his owners have made the decision to geld Dancer and offer him for sale. “We will see what the future holds for this game horse,” she said. “As a young professional, I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive pair of owners. They’ve pushed me as a young professional to be transparent, communicate, and given me further experience in developing the young horse that I’ll use for years to come. But, more importantly, Dancer was given the right tools to succeed, allowed to develop at the pace he needed to, and believed in.”

“Ours isn't spectacular or a huge comeback story, but I am so grateful for the amount of support I've received from this little horse's owners. His owners, breeder, and sire’s owner have been constant fans and supporters. Even though I'm just a little-time rider, they have been behind their horse since day one.”

The USEA is made up of over 12,000 members, each with their own special horses and experiences. The USEA's Now on Course series highlights the many unique stories of our membership. Do you and your horse have a tale to tell? Do you know someone who deserves recognition? Submit your story to Jessica Duffy at [email protected] to be featured.

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