We got to sit down with Tredstep Ireland™ founder, Aidan Keogh recently to hear about his experience of finishing the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event™. Read on to hear how he prepared, what he was most excited about, how he feels about his rides and more.
Finishing the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event is quite impressive! Congratulations! What do you think was most helpful in preparing for the big event?
To finish Rolex was a wonderful experience and something I have wanted to do for many years. Anyone who has worked and competed horses will understand that many variables must come together at the same time to even put you in a position where this might be possible. Master Tredstep (aka Wilson) is currently my only horse at this level. I have had him since he was a 4 year old and we have taken a great journey together. I had taken a break from competitive eventing some years back and when Wilson and I went to our first International event together, we realized it had in fact been 18 years since I had last done one, which makes our journey together more special as we were both learning our craft. So to answer your question “what was most helpful in preparing for the big event,” really it is all about a progressive accumulation of experience and trust in each other, the variables aligning, believing in ourselves and deciding to have a go.
Going into the competition, what were you looking forward to the most?
Sometimes, as riders, we get too caught up in the tension of the competition and pressure of trying to produce our best performance on that specific day. This is a sport I love and I am blessed to be fit, healthy and in a position to take part, so I was looking forward to enjoying the moment and the occasion. We all know that best laid plans can go astray on the day and your performance may not be what you wished for but you must enjoy the journey that got you there and savor the special days, especially an event as iconic as Rolex, irrespective of your final result.
We imagine it feels electric at Rolex. What was the atmosphere like as a first time competitor?
I have been lucky enough to have walked the track on many occasions over the years as a spectator and supporter, so I was familiar to the general lay of the land and the facilities which are without doubt the finest in the world of eventing. As an international entry we were stabled in an isolation barn, but we were in good company. While I knew Tim [Price] and Zara [Tindall] a little, I had not spent any time with Michael [Jung] and Maxime [Livio]. Due to the distance the horses had to travel, we arrived on the Saturday evening which gave us a good few days to settle, take in our surroundings and eye up some of the cross-country while out hacking and schooling each day. It all seemed lovely and relaxed, but this was a false sense of calm. The moment we entered the main arena for familiarization it was clear where we were. The electricity just built from there and remained on full throttle till the end of the day on Sunday when all was done.
Which area of competition do you think was most challenging for your horse, Master Tredstep?
On this occasion it was mainly the cross-country phase which was going to be the most challenging due to fitness and the weather. Wilson had been off for 2 years, 2014 and 2015, due to an injury and last year he had a quiet comeback year with not a lot of runs. Rolex comes up early in the season with limited opportunity to get early prep runs. We also had some setbacks to our fitness program due to a stubborn foot abscess, so we were aware that this was going to play a major factor on cross-country day. That coupled with an extremely hot and humid day made it a tough task for Wilson, but he dug deep and made it home.
Your performance has a lot of areas to be proud of, what were you most happy about with your rides?
I am not a full time international event rider, I ride a very limited number of horses and have trained each of them from an early age up through the grades. I get the most amount of satisfaction by achieving this journey and relish in the partnerships created with each horse along the way. This has enabled us to compete at the highest level alongside full-time professional riders while not feeling out of place. I am proudest of that.
What do you do when you’re not competing?
I am officially the Founder and Managing Director of Tredstep Ireland™, so when I am not on or about horses I am busy in Tredstep. My main role in Tredstep has been in product development. As an event rider I am well placed to have an understanding of the needs of the dressage, jumping and cross-country rider and have been trying over the years to bring that knowledge to the design of all Tredstep products. I am blessed to have a hugely supportive team in the office which has enabled me to spend some extra hours working with the horses in prep for Rolex.
What’s next for you and Master Tredstep?
I am delighted to say Wilson has arrived home to Ireland in tiptop form and is currently enjoying some rare Irish sunshine and some lazy days. We will most likely start the prep for the autumn season soon with either Burghley or Pau in our sights. You cannot make rigid plans, but hopefully we will make it back to Rolex in the spring of 2018 and possibly then to WEG. Fingers crossed.