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Mark McAuley: A self-made success story

Tuesday, 30 January 2018
Interview

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson. “Miebello is fantastic,” Mark McAuley says about his top horse. Photos (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

Awarded ’Rookie of the Year 2017’ in Ireland for his great results, the past year surely was one of the best in Mark McAuley’s career so far. Riding the grey gelding Miebello, McAuley went from a familiar face to a force to be reckoned with on five-star level in a matter of months.

Mark lives in Switzerland with his wife, Charlotte Mordasini. “We are based just outside Geneva. Our stables are in France, only ten minutes from the Swiss border,” Mark explains. “La Tuiliére is Charlotte’s grandparent’s place. Her grandmother used to ride and then she started to breed a little bit. Now we are building 20 new boxes, and a new indoor and outdoor as well so we are growing. At the moment, we have 25 boxes but it is not enough. We are breeding quite a bit, and we buy a lot of young horses. We are three riders now so we need more space,” Mark tells about the ever-expanding operation at La Tuiliére.

Originally from Ireland, Mark was surrounded by horses from an early age. “I grew up north of Dublin in a horsey family. My father was a rider, he jumped up to national Grand Prix level and my mother was a three-day eventing rider, she competed on quite a high level too. And my grandfather was the master of the hunt, so I started to ride very young – I have always been riding,” Mark tells about the beginning of his equestrian career, that was the only option for him from the very start. “I never thought about doing anything else, really. I left Ireland in 2009 when I was just turning 22, and went to Italy and rode in Cervia for two years. I rode mostly young horses there, and then I got offered another job in San Remo. I went there and spent four more years in Italy,” he tells. “Three years ago I moved from San Remo to Geneva.”

“I think Ireland is a strong country with a lot of good riders, but I think breaking through is not too difficult – because if you are good enough to be on the team, they give you a chance,” Mark reflects on the pros and cons of coming from a country with a strong equestrian culture. “I think they are fair like that. In 2017 we had a huge amount of riders competing in Nations Cups; they give the young ones chances, they give everybody a chance. In that respect breaking through it is not difficult.”

And when the Irish are out and about, you always see them sticking together. “I think that especially when you live abroad, go to a show and there is another Irish rider there you just naturally get together”, Mark smiles.””I think we are patriotic like that, we are proud to be Irish and enjoy each other’s company.”

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson “I love the lifestyle, I love being at shows," Mark McAuley says – here with Jacintha v Kriekenhof.

With years abroad and lots of long days, we wonder what has kept the young Irish man going? “To be honest, I just love the sport,” Mark says.  “I love the lifestyle, I love being at shows. Even before I got to this certain level, I was just as happy on two-star level. For me, I never sort of said ’I don’t want to do this unless I do it at the top level’ – I just love the sport, no matter what level. Also at the start, when I was doing young horses, I enjoyed that too.”

“I suppose what I enjoy the most, is when everything comes together and it all works,” Mark continues. “When your horses jump as well as you want them to and of course, in the end, the best is winning. But it is not everything. I would never sacrifice a horse to win a class. For me it is really important that the horses keep going over a long period, and are given the time they need. I definitely love winning, but it is not everything for me.”

“I have ridden a lot of horses. Even growing up, I rode so many different ponies and horses for others. I think that is important, you learn something from every horse you ride. You learn a lot by riding a lot of different horses,” Mark tells about how he has learned the tricks of the trade. “I trained a bit with Henk Nooren when I lived in Italy, that was a great help for me. Apart from that, there is an Italian man called Gianluca Bormioli, who also helped me, but I never really had a trainer if you like. I always watched other riders a lot. I think it is the best way to learn, watching the best riders in the warm-up and in the ring, even when they are just flatting their horses… In the end, the sport is all about feeling in my opinion. And if you have feeling, you can teach yourself; by looking at videos, watching other riders and what they are doing. But you do have to put a lot of effort into that. And a lot of time, but that is always how I have gone on.”

For the self-made Irish, there is no one in particular he can name as an idol. “I have a lot of respect for people like Ludger (Beerbaum) and Marcus (Ehning), guys who have been at this level for such a long time and who make horses last for a long time. There is not really one person in particular that I idolize. But for example, what Bertram (Allen) has done is amazing. It seems we tend to forget that he is only 22-years-old, it feels like he has been around forever. He has won so much already and I admire him for that. When I was 22, I was nowhere near to what he has done!”

There is one person that Mark believes has had an invaluable impact in his career. ”My father. Everything I know I have learned from him at the very start. We are close, even though we don’t see each other as much as we would like maybe. But we talk and he comes to the shows when he can. He loves the sport and he is absolutely delighted, maybe even happier than I am, that it is going so well,” Mark tells about his father John.

Mark McAuley with Miebello. Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson. "In our sport you are up one day and down the next, it keeps you humble," McAuley says.

“In ten years… I suppose in ten years, for me a dream come true would be to be in the Top 10,” Mark says when we start to talk about the future. “That would be a big goal of mine… I think it is not going to be easy, you need to have enough horses. But our goal is for the both of us, Charlotte and me, to have a team of horses that we can compete on a high level. To have a solid team of horses with young ones coming up behind the top ones. And I think we are on the right way,” he says.

The safety of knowing the string of horses he has at the moment is there for the long-term, is something Mark finds very important. “It is the best feeling. There is nothing worse than not knowing if you are still going to have a horse in six months’ time. Then it is hard to be motivated in giving a horse the time it needs, if you are worried about losing them. For me, it is nice to finally settle down and to be able to make long term plans knowing that the horses are our own and we can give them the time they need. It is hard to build something without knowing this.”

With the goal of building a solid string of horses with young ones growing alongside the older ones, we ask what Mark looks for in a horse. “The obvious things like carefulness and scope… I try to figure out how clever the horse is at the jump. I think it is extremely important. You can have a horse with all the ability in the world, this we have seen so often, but sometimes they are just not clever enough in the ring. And then they are not good enough, in my opinion. They have to be very clever in this sport, that is probably the most important thing.”

Like Miebello? “Miebello is fantastic,” Mark smiles. “When you jump him at home, or in the warm up, you think he has scope for 1.40m maximum. But then he goes into the ring and he just grows – you can feel him underneath you, he just grows when he walks into the ring and he has ten times more scope and he is such a fighter. He wants to be clear.”

With the experiences gained in the ring, just married and with a baby on the way, we are sure that 2017 was just the calm before the storm for McAuley – calm being the very word we would use to describe him. “I think it is a bit of an Irish thing, we maybe don’t show our emotions that much,” Mark smiles quietly. “But also, we are going to a show every week, so if you have a bad day, the next week there is another one – it is not the end of the world. For sure it is difficult, because you really want to do well and when it doesn’t go your way, you are extremely frustrated. But you have to try and control that. There is no point coming out of the ring and throwing your hat on the ground… You have to try and stay levelled. Also, it is important to celebrate when you have a good result but not get carried away”, Mark continues. “Because you can go in the ring the next day, and you can have a bad round. In our sport you are up one day and down the next, it keeps you humble.”

 


Text © World of Showjumping by Nanna Nieminen // Pictures © World of Showjumping by Jenny Abrahamsson

No reproduction without permission



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