By Marianne van Pelt Pic Above: Patricia Ryan riding 'Kilpipe' clear the penultimate fence in the cross country discipline at the Camphire International Horse Trials In Co Waterford. Dan McGrath/Editorial Images.
Patricia Donegan Ryan is known for her soft hands. Not because they are like the velvety underbelly of a house cat – they are in fact good strong working hands – but because they are so sympathetic to the horse she is riding.
Her equine dentist says, “Trish will ring me up and say something’s off in a horse’s teeth…and I know I’ll find something. She has got a great feel for animals. There aren’t many riders like that.”
Patricia (Trish) has had plenty of opportunity to develop her feel of a horse’s mouth. Working side by side with her husband, Mike Ryan, an international eventer as well, Trish has had the chance to represent Ireland at the highest levels of the sport. One of only a handful of couples in the world that compete side-by-side, the Donegan-Ryans have competed for Ireland at the European Championships, the World Equestrian Games and the Olympics. Trish was a member of the Irish team in Sydney in 2000 and again in Beijing in 2008, while Michael was a member of the Olympic team that finished fourth at the London Olympics in 2012. They are out competing just about every weekend, most recently at Camphire International Horse Trials and Country Fair in County Waterford, where Trish was sixth in the showcase Castleacre Insurance and Chubb Masterpiece 3*** class on the Irish-bred Dunrath Eclipse.
“It’s a pleasure to compete at home in Ireland, and Camphire is a very special event with great atmosphere and a top-class course designed by Mike Etherington-Smith, who also designed the cross-country course for the European Pony Championships in Millstreet this week. It was a challenging field, including other riders who’ve competed at the Olympics, so although you always want to win I was pleased with sixth. “
The Donegan-Ryans are based at Trish’s family farm in Bandon, with great support from Trish’s sisters, who also work in the business. The Donegan Ryan team specialise in producing all levels of eventing horses from young stock right up to international level, giving Trish plenty of opportunity to use those remarkable hands.