JULY - EFO Feature Rider of the Month: Selena O'Hanlon
1. How did you enter the Equestrian Industry?
My mother Morag has always worked with horses all over the world with the best in the world from all disciplines. She competed at the 3* level of Eventing while I was growing up in Ontario so that’s how I got hooked.
2. What is your favourite thing about being an eventer?
The camaraderie is my favourite thing about being an eventer. The people (for the most part) are a fantastic bunch, all over the world. My Canadian teammates in particular.
3. What does it taken, in your opinion, to be successful in this field?
Hard work, long hours, dedication and lots of support, sponsorship and owners. Horses are a lifestyle not a hobby or job. You are needed 365 days of the year and have to sacrifice a lot to be at the top of our sport. It’s costs a fortune and there is very little prize money involved.
4. What accomplishment are you most proud of within the Equestrian Industry?
My ability to bring on young horses and/or difficult horses. I also am quite proud of the fact that I have been able to take older horses to the top level and sustain them there till they retire happy and sound. Some of this is just plain luck of course but lots of it is a proper program that I am religious about maintaining. I do all the work myself so that I control every step they take in order to produce longevity in their careers. Taking two horses around KY 4* successfully in the same year.
Our team silver medal in WEG 2010 is something I’ll never forget. My horse and I gave 100% in all three phases.
5. The most memorable horse which you have owned or ridden is _______ and why?
Be Bold Juliet is probably my most memorable. She was considered “unrideable” and I couldn’t stop thinking about her fabulous jump. My mum bought her for me for my birthday. She was tiny but mighty with a club foot and low straight neck and withers. She was the best jumper I’ve ever ridden. Taught me nothing about show jumping as I got away with everything and still left the rails up. She was a naughty dressage horse and really never did a test we could be proud of. I did my first advanced on her (that was the only time she pulled out a reasonable test). I was on 2* NAYRC team with her. Later on in life I bred her and Anne Marie (my groom) currently rides her son Rather Boldly aka Riley at the preliminary level. Juliet’s first foal was a small mare I sold who is also a successful eventer. Juliet made me believe anything was possible.
6. What does an average day look like for you?
Chaotic! We have about 25 horses here at Balsam Hall in Kingston Ont.
A handful of wonderful boarders, my own horses, training and sales, Foxwood High (the best) plus a few working students. Anne Marie has been working with me for over a decade now I believe so she’s my head girl and fei groom.
7am start (on a good day) water, hay, grain, turn out. Muck stalls then have a quick breakfast. Student lessons are usually in the am and I ride all day. I teach clients in the afternoons and early evenings. Thank goodness I have my mum here to share the load. During the winter I’m in Florida with about ten horses and AM. Morag is here in the frozen north holding down the fort, riding and teaching.
7. What are the most common challenges you face?
Staffing. Finding reliable working students can be very stressful. I am blessed with a few diamonds. Kate Sykes has been working with us for ages. She works four days a week in exchange for her horse and is fabulous in every way. She is also a very gifted healer and when we are injured (or the horses) she works her magic and relieves pain. I’ve already mentioned AM who I couldn’t live without! My mother is a woman of many talents: PR, accountant, instructor, rider, grounds keeper, chef, cleaner, driver, Santa...I MEAN EVERYTHING! Veronica is a second year student who I hope we get to keep forever because she has shown herself to be the next generation of reliable, talented, kind, positive hard working horse woman. Kaycee is our wonderful working student who sadly we will be saying good bye to as she carries on with her academics.
As a competitor my biggest challenge is finding owners who have the means to take their horse to the top of our sport. It’s a very expensive sport at the top level and requires relentless dedication from everyone involved.
8. Do you have any suggestions for young riders looking to enter this field?
Treat your parents as your first owners/sponsors. It’s good practice because that’s the role they play in the beginning. Start early trying to find a good support team and get as many good horses as you can to ride. Every horse has something to teach you.
9. If you weren't in the Equestrian Industry, what do you think you would be doing instead and why?
I love teaching an feel I would probably be teaching. Not sure what exactly? I also enjoyed studying child psychology when I was in school so I could see myself continuing on in that area of education.
10. Do you have any pre-cross country rituals?
I have lucky socks. If I get really nervous I can go to sleep. I walk the course A LOT!
11. What has been your favourite event to compete at so far?
12. Describe the funniest wardrobe malfunction that you have had when riding?
My first KY 4* riding Colombo in the dressage my stock came out the front of my jacket and was flopping around in front of me. I was cherry red in the face, sweating and puffing with effort and then my stock popped out to really add to the effect of how hard I was working in the test. My friend Geraldine (hunter background) was horrified and bought me a FITS show shirt and stock that very same day. It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship with FITS riding apparel. They have been sponsoring me every since.
13. What is your favourite post-horse show thing to do?
Post horse show I like to go to any type of water front and swim. Lake, pool, ocean (preferably warm) and relax. Rarely does it happen though.
14. What do you like to do for fun with your horse?
I love hacking. Even if I couldn’t show I would still love riding but if I couldn’t hack I don’t think I would continue riding forever.
15. Does your horse have a favourite treat?
Woody LOVES MINTS. Particularly scotch mints.
16. What do you like to do when you manage to get some time off and away from the barn?
I like to go somewhere near the ocean (ideally gulf side it’s warmer) with Brian my boyfriend.
17. What is your go-to late night snack?
Cereal is always my go to snack. Light, good in any weather and so many flavours to chose from.
18. Everyone has a favourite piece of tack/equipment - what is the one thing you could not do without (besides the obvious, saddle/bridle)?
Breastplate. Many people think it’s odd I ride in one daily. It’s nothing to do with holding my saddle forward though. It’s all to do with a handle. For balance, or when your tired, young horses, spooky horses, horses I want to minimize how much hand I use on them, gives my a focal point for where my hands need to be. Or I can hold it with my pinky fingers to “quiet” my hands. Basically I call it my holy 💩handle.
19. What is the fondest memory you have with horses?
Toby was my first horse and he taught me everything about trust, bravery, caring for animals (helping the helpless), understanding horses. He was my guardian angel. I even taught my first student on him. I’ll never forget anything I did or learnt from that horse.
20. Describe your dream vacation (does not have to be horse related).
I like being near the water. Especially the ocean so I would like to go somewhere where you live in tiki huts on a boardwalk over top the ocean. A glass bottom floor or boat so I could see the ocean animals. Whale watching is on my bucket list so if I could do that as part of my dream vacation that would be awesome. Scuba diving with sharks, turtles, dolphins any underwater creatures really.
Thank you so much for taking the time to sit down and answer our questions. Selena we wish you the best of luck this show season and in the coming years!