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AGS Student Endures all to Achieve her Dreams

Local Newspaper Article

Morgan Skillen, a Year 13 student at Antrim Grammar School, has just come home from Seacliff, Scotland where she was competing in her first FEI International Endurance Race.  Morgan is delighted to be able to say that she exceeded her own expectations and is totally thrilled to have achieved her goal and gained her FEI 1* qualification at her first attempt.   She travelled by ferry to Scotland only hours after completing her last AS exam.  She did manage to stay focused for the physics exam but hasn’t had a moment to think about it since.

Morgan has been riding in local Endurance events with ILDRA (Irish Long Distance Riding Association) for over 5 years and currently competes as a member of the Ireland squad against Wales, England and Scotland.  Last year she travelled to Builth Wells, Wales and in July 2017 she will ride again as a member of the Ireland team in the Home International and Celtic Challenge competition in Market Rasen, England.

However, FEI is a whole new level for Morgan.  This event has taken Morgan and her new mare, The Hollows Diamond, nine long months to train and prepare for.  This is a daily task, 365 days a year of riding, hacking, coaching, feeding, training on gallops, hillwork, flatwork, travelling to forests, beaches and Endurance rides, pushing Diamond and herself to be fitter, stronger and faster with every week that passes.  It truly is a feat of endurance, perseverance and sheer determination just to get the horse fully fit and ready.  But to gain a FEI 1* qualification at this young age and on her first attempt is a true and full reflection of this young lady’s focus, drive and determination to succeed with her passion for Endurance Riding.

The event itself required Morgan and Diamond to ride across unknown open countryside for 80Km (50miles) in a race style competition.  The track traversed forests, open fields, beaches and roadways. They endured temperatures of 26C over 8 hours of riding and vetting, encountered loose deer, llamas and even a runaway stallion but on they went.  

However unlike a normal race where the first person to cross the finishing line is the outright winner, this event requires meticulous vetting of the horses after every 30-40Km.  If the rider pushes their horse too fast just to be first over the finishing line the horse could suffer an injury, be dehydrated, have a heart rate which is too high (meaning exhaustion) or go lame and in these instances the International Vets can only decide to eliminate both horse and rider from the competition.    The safety of the animal and the rider is always paramount to finishing the race and gaining the qualification.

To succeed in Endurance requires a full understanding of and a huge bond between the rider and their horse, listening and watching for any tiny change that shows a sign of an unhappy animal, total trust in each other and a desire to spend many hours together.

Diamond and Morgan have demonstrated these skills and traits in abundance.  Endurance and perseverance has paid off for this determined young Antrim lady.