Four Seasons Stables is one of Ireland’s most respected yards for producing young horses. Olive Clarke and her partner David Scally have a reputation for patiently coaxing the best from young horses and providing a foundation for longevity in sport.
Olive has competed for Ireland in several Nations Cups and big stage competitions including Hickstead and Dublin. As well as producing horses, Four Seasons Stables also runs a successful breeding operation.
When it comes to starting horses out, Olive advocates for giving youngsters twice as much time as you think it will take. “No horse was ever ruined by giving it too much time; many horses are ruined by going too fast with them, pushing them too hard, not allowing them to physically or mentally develop.
“Just because they are four or five-year-olds doesn’t necessarily mean they need to go to those classes. You can cut your cloth according to your measure; if you have a four-year-old that you think a lot of, do you really want to jump it in the four-year-old class? Or are you happy to play the long game with the horse?”
According to Olive you can tell a lot about a young horse from the ground. If a horse is nervous on the ground, generally it’ll be nervous under saddle.
Being considerate to young horses doesn’t mean going too easy on them though; Olive stresses the need for a bit of pressure and exposure, explaining: “You can’t leave them at home and presume they are going to know how to do things.
It’s learning by doing. Young horses have to get the mileage and exposure, but within reason; they don’t need to do the world tour of Ireland.”
Let them settle
When it comes to taking four-year-olds to their first shows, again, time is the vital ingredient. “Give yourself time to tack them up, to load and unload them, to ride in the warm-up arena.
Then, if their head gets blown as soon as they come off the truck, can you go somewhere and give them a little lunge and let them settle.
“Try and pick a quiet show; before you go to your first show bring them away somewhere to school. Don’t just jump at home; throw them on the truck and expect them to go in and jump around.
“It’s all very overwhelming for them sometimes. “The more preparation you can do, the less stress you put on them, the better. They learn then that it’s a good experience rather than being stressed out.
When I ask Olive if there was ever a horse she knew had the X-factor as a youngster that went on to prove her right, turns out there was more than one.
“When we got Disco Z, he was really cheeky. I always said to Scally, there’s a jumper in here somewhere if we can find the right buttons to press.’ Disco went on to place in the Millstreet Boomerang before being sold.
Lackamore Storm was another very good horse who placed in the five-year-old class at Dublin Horse Show before being sold to Greg Broderick.”
There are currently a few hugely talented horses in the barn in Galway, including six-year-old mare Norway Grace by Aganix Du Seigneur out of a Lux Z dam.
“She seems to have all the right ingredients to be a top horse. It’s just about giving her enough time to put it all together.
“We also have a four-year-old homebred called Shamrock by Emerald out of a Kannan mare that I jumped. He’s from the Paradise G line.”
Super-talented 1.60m mare Paradise G sadly passed away this year at the great age of 25. Paradise G was a foundation mare at Four Seasons Stables aboard whom Olive won many Grand Prix and placed fourth in the 2006 Hickstead Speed Derby.
“Shamrock looks very nice, he’s probably 17hh already; we’ve just done a handful of little shows with him. Hopefully, he will do some good things for us.”
“It’s a satisfying process to bring a horse all the way along. We have brought FSS Outlaw from a dot on the ultrasound screen to jumping his first national Grand Prix. It’s nice to know that he’s been in our system all the way along.”