The preparation in the lead up to riding at the prestigious Melbourne 3 Day Event is intense for any rider but doing it while juggling a ‘normal job’, a professional stable full of horses, a burgeoning saddlery business plus everything that goes with being mum to a busy two year old, and we’re talking a whole new level of hectic!
Victorian rider Jessica Tainsh, along with husband Simon, a professional eventer, run Kia Ora Performance Horses and together, are one of Australian Eventing’s super couples, training and competing horses from the beginning of their careers up to the top level of the sport.
At Melbourne, the pair are riding three horses between them. Simon has two quality contenders in the CCI 1*, ‘Where’s The Kaboom’ who recently finished second at the Woady Yaloak Horse Trials and ‘Remi Lord of the Realm’ who’s gone from strength to strength after winning the four year old Young Horse Class at last year’s Melbourne 3DE. Jessica is riding her nine year old off the track Thoroughbred ‘Punching In A Dream’ in the CCI 2* and is hoping for a top ten finish. “He’s an amazing jumper and so honest. Last event we nailed the dressage, so I feel like our preparation is on track. After that it’s just fingers crossed that everything goes to plan.”
It’s been more than five years since Jess last competed at the Melbourne 3DE and while she admits life and her riding has been altered by motherhood, getting back there has been goal she was never going to let go of. “I don’t think anyone should ever have to give up what they love. It’s definitely hard and my life is crazy but I think riding makes me a better mum and motherhood has made me a better rider. Having less time means I train harder and make it count.”
A flick through Jessica’s diary for the months leading up to the June three day event reveals the kind of schedule that would benefit from a degree in multi-tasking: no need for sleep, or strong coffee on tap! “Ha! Actually I don’t drink coffee but the occasional energy drink helps and I do really miss sleep, although Simon drives to competitions so I manage to catch up on it going to and from events on weekends.”
As well as fitting in a part time job three days a week, coaching commitments after work, schooling her own horses plus additional lessons on ‘Punchy’ and mum duties, Jess has recently added three weekly gym workouts to her routine. “I realised at the Ballarat Horse Trials a while ago that I just wasn’t going to be fit enough for Melbourne. We came across the finish line after cross country and I was completely exhausted so I’ve had to get serious with the cardio, interval and core muscle training. Punchy was lacking a bit of fitness too so we’ve added more hill work for him.”
The juggle at home is one familiar to all working couples, while out at events, having two riders in the family plus a baby adds a definite degree of difficulty. Jess credits a great support base of family and friends for helping with two year old Mackenzie, thus enabling her parents to stay on their game. “Both my mum and dad and Simon’s parents come to events. The girls who work for us are fantastic with Mackenzie as well, plus I have the lovely mum of one of my students who looks after her in return for free lessons for her daughter. Mackenzie loves it too. She’s spent her whole life coming to events, so we’re really lucky she’s a pretty calm, happy baby.”
As if a busy week at the Melbourne 3de wasn’t enough, between trot ups, course walks, and actual competing, Jess will also have a trade stall operating for her small business – KPH Saddlery. “I know! I’m crazy. Lucky I have my awesome sister, Rachael, manning it for me most of the time. I’ll just have to make appearances.”
For Jess, competing at Melbourne is about fulfilling a promise to herself to get back to the level she was at before having a baby and taking her a step closer to competing at Australia’s biggest 3DE, in Adelaide in November. She says for Simon though, it’s part of a longer term strategy. “We’re in the business of producing top level competitors and Simon’s rides are both young, quality horses with huge talent. His goal is a win and long term, it’s 4* at Adelaide. The challenge is to keep them performing at their best and make sure they stay sound.”
That’s a task that long term Kia Ora sponsor, Kelato Animal Health, plays a major role in and Jess says there’s several products that they consider crucial to the horses’ preparation. “The horses that are competing are given MuscleGUARD before and after cross country to combat any fatigue plus SwellDOWN on their legs for recovery. They’ll also have KelatoLYTE to keep them drinking during the event and replace what they’re losing through sweat. We’ve found ZanoBOLIC to be great for Eventers for muscle development and to keep their appetite up, while GastroAID is another product we use on an ongoing basis to avoid any stomach upsets.”
After Melbourne, all three horses will get a well-deserved holiday. For Jess though, things will merely go from crazy hectic back to just plain hectic! There’s always more horses to work, events to prepare for, students to coach…and Mackenzie, who, if genes are anything to go by may well have her own busy riding schedule and a spot on the truck not too far down the track.