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Eyes on the prize: Jessica Burke blazes a trail for HSI

WBCYH Lanaken 2017: Jessica Burke riding Castlelawn Captain Junior (ISH)[TIH]

By Horse Sport Ireland / HSI
Photography: Sportfot, Jump in Action

She hasn’t quite come out of nowhere, but Jessica Burke’s swift rise to the top in showjumping has been nothing short of inspirational – from teaching maths in the classroom to riding for the Arion Stud in Hampshire, England, and counting strides in the five-star arena, Galway girl Jessica is proof that chasing your dreams can lead to living them.

After a standout year in 2022 that saw her on the EEF CSIO3* winning Nations Cup team in Lisbon with Namamia (BWP), as well as a hat-trick of wins at the Horse of the Year Show last October courtesy of her ever reliable partner Express Trend (ISH) and the mare Inpulss (KWPN), Jessica has not looked back. She has landed five-star wins across the globe, most recently last month in Sharjah, and has danced into the big time with four- and five-star Nations Cups in Sharjah, UAE.

Horses vs academia!

Where horse racing has Rachael Blackmore, showjumping now has Jessica Burke – a young woman at the top of her sport who the next generation of girls can look to for inspiration. Of course, her success hasn’t come overnight – she represented Ireland at Pony European Championships as a teen and had plenty of success with ponies, but with a firm grounding and her head screwed firmly on her shoulders, Jessica applied herself to academia and chose a career as an educator – a maths teacher to be exact.
“I suppose you could say it’s going well,” Jessica says, with an air of calm confidence. She is instantly engaging, relaxed, and warm. First impressions would suggest this is a woman comfortable in her own skin, yet almost overnight she has become the poster girl for women’s showjumping in Ireland. At least we suggest as much. “Oh my God, I don’t know about that now – that’s funny to even think that way,” Jessica adds.
Jessica’s career and its recent trajectory have been building towards this point, and it also took a massive leap of faith on her part: “In my head anyway, it has been building towards getting to where I am now. We always had nice horses and we were producing away quietly in the background, but I always saw it as building towards getting here. We always had a few young horses, and you know, I was kind of happy to do that. But I probably didn’t have enough belief in myself to go and do this either.”

Jessica with Express Trend (ISH) – WBCYH Lanaken 2017

A balanced career

Too humble to sing her own praises, Jessica managed to balance her career as a maths teacher along with being a producer of young horses and also being competitive week in, week out on the Irish National Grand Prix circuit. For Jessica, Monday to Friday in the classroom, weekends and school holidays in the arena. “I suppose it started with Express Trend (ISH) – I had him come up and we had always had success, and then I won the four- and six year-olds in Dublin in 2017, but at that stage it was still mainly young horses that I was dealing with,” she continues.
Those wins in 2017 came onboard the mare Lux A Special Lady (ISH) in the four-year-olds, and the stallion Castlelawn Captain Junior (ISH)[TIH] in the six-year-olds, with whom she partnered to represent the Irish Sport Horse Studbook later that same year at the WBFSH World Breeding Championships for Young Horses in Lanaken, Belgium... To read the complete article you need to be a subscriber