By Helen Sharp
Photography: ABC Sport Horses, Lafrentz
John Kehoe, breeder of ABC Saving Grace, the six-year-old champion at the showjumping World Breeding Championships for Young Horses in Lanaken, 2022, explains what makes his mare so special, and why he may never have one better.
It’s around 20 minutes after the conclusion of the six-year-old final at the FEI-WBFSH WBCYH in Lanaken and my heart is still racing as I begin this article. There has been a particularly special feeling at the show this year for us Irish, and it would bring a lump to the throat of the hardiest equestrian to watch the camaraderie and support within the ranks from Ireland as they gathered at the pocket to support each other and the roar of the Irish crowd out-cheering all other nations. There’s so much to be proud of after the weekend’s sport, both in and out of the ring.
Ethen Ahearne and ABC Saving Grace (ISH) (Kannan GFE - Ardnehue Diamond Cruiser (ISH) x Cruising (ISH)) went up against 270 combinations in the six-year-old competition, with 40 making it through to Sunday’s final. In the final reckoning, only 14 combinations managed to conquer course designer Eugène Mathy’s test in the first round to go forward to the jump-off, with Ahearne and ABC Saving Grace the only Irish representatives and bringing the gold medal home in 36.74 secs.
Ethan said of his mount: “Well obviously she handled it brilliantly, she was the winner, but the first round, the first one or two jumps she was good and then she had a little spook at the water and then we just kind of got it done from there, home. After that she went back in the second round and got more confident and she tried her heart out.”
Having previously been ridden by Catherine Thornton, Ahearne and the gold-winning mare have been together less than a year, “I got ABS Saving Grace in November (2021) when I started my own stable and competed with her for the first time in February or March (2022),” he explained. “But so far, she has only jumped at national level. Last month in Dublin we were able to qualify for this World Championship, [laughing] so this was actually the first time we competed at international level and it was also my first time participating in the World Championships.”
ABC Saving Grace was bred by Patrick Kehoe of Ardnehue in Bennekerry in County Carlow, the initials of which provide the prefix ABC to his breeding programme. As we stand under a tree by the warm-up ring at Zangersehide, it’s still palpable in both our voices the thrill of what just happened. “Catherine did a great job on him,” Kehoe says. “I was planning on doing embryos. The funny thing about it is that even at the start of the year I was thinking if she’s going badly, I’ll take embryos off her, if she’s going well, I’ll leave her alone. That sounds a bit stupid, but that’s just the way it worked out, [laughing] no embryos this year now... To read the complete article you need to be a subscriber
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