Irishman Ivan Dowling, who grew up hunting with the Galway Blazers in Ireland and has hunted Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds in Unionville, Pennsylvania, for the past twelve seasons, is developing an impressive reputation at race riding and training. He was the first professional huntsman to ride in the most challenging timber race in America, the Maryland Hunt Cup: a series of twenty-eight upright post-and-rail fences over a distance of four miles, some five feet high with no ground line!
Cheshire huntsman Ivan Dowling, #8 at right, aboard Glasson Lad at Fairyhouse Racecourse, Ireland. Noel Mullins photo.
Dowling has opened his own barn down the road from the Cheshire kennels, called Grey Lake Stables, with his fiancée Stephanie Boyer. Boyer is a former eventing competitor, having completed the CCI**** Rolex Three Day Event in Kentucky on her own horse, Macloud, in 2009. She has also worked for US international eventing riders Phillip Duttton and Boyd Martin. Together, Dowling and Boyer are producing and selling hunters, eventers, showjumpers, and training steeplechasers. In 2014, Dowling trained the runner-up, Organisateur, in the prestigious Virginia Gold Cup. Dowling has ridden many winners for other trainers over his years in America, both in point to points and on the racecourse, including winning the Novice Timber Rider Championship in his first year of racing.
More recently, the couple have provided their steeplechaser, Fort Henry, to Susan Oakes, who is a joint Master of the Grallagh Harriers in County Galway. But she is probably better known as the winner of the "Dianas of the Chase" side saddle point to point in Melton Mowbray, United Kingdom, three years ago. She is also the world side saddle record holder over the puissance wall at 6 feet 7½ inches. Aboard Fort Henry, Oakes is taking part in the series of three side saddle races in America this summer. She won the first leg, at the Cheshire races, and triumphed again last month at the Mrs. George C. Everhart Memorial Invitational [see eCovertside's related story here]. The third and final race takes place on Sunday, May 22, on the High Hope Steeplechase card at the Kentucky Horse Park. Oakes has won the series already, but would like to win it outright.
Grallagh Harriers joint MFH, Susan Oakes, leading Glasson Lad with Dowling up. Noel Mullins photo.
In a bit of racing reciprocity, earlier this month, Dowling travelled to Ireland to ride Oakes’ Glasson Lad at the Meath Foxhounds and Tara Harriers Point to Point at the home of the Irish Grand National, Fairyhouse Racecourse. He had a lovely ride around, and Oakes rode her other steeplechaser, Deurs, in the La Touche Cross Country Race at the Punchestown Racing Festival in Kildare later that week.
All eyes are now on Kentucky for the third part of the side saddle race series, and Dowling, Boyer, Oakes and Fort Henry will set out from Grey Lake Stables in Pennsylvania next week for a twenty-hour round trip to Kentucky, where they hope to raise the Irish Tricolour at the racecourse in the Blue Grass State.
To read more of Noel Mullins' works about horses, and the Irish horse in particular, please visit his website, www.noelmullins.com.