‘I have one horse and they have three or four each’ – meet the show jumping family as the Dublin Horse Show approaches


A Cork family of high performing show jumpers will star in a new series focused on the world of Irish sport horses.

Olly Sweetnam (22) stars alongside her sister Abbie (21) and brother Ryan (18) in Horse Country, a six-part documentary series on RTÉ.

Show jumping is an important part of the Sweetnam family’s way of life and Holly’s uncle Shane Sweetnam competed in the Olympics last year.

The Irish Sport Horse is an Irish Warmblood sport horse breed used primarily for dressage, eventing and show jumping.

The series documents the lives of the people and their horses that make up this world.

Holly said her earliest memory of entering this world was when she was just four years old.

“I couldn’t imagine my life without horses, not even the community and the horse world, like all of my best friends I grew up with who have competed since we were eight,” she said.

“It’s phenomenal, it’s just an amazing sport to compete in and horses in general are such interesting animals and I really couldn’t imagine life without them to be honest.”

Ms Sweetnam is a final year student in Food Marketing and Entrepreneurship at University College Cork and retired from horse riding to complete her studies.

“I don’t drive that much anymore myself, but I go everywhere with my brother and sister and I help them with everything. I only have one horse myself and they have three or four each, so I help them out at the horse shows almost every weekend,” she said.

Ms Sweetnam said it was a “great experience” to be part of the documentary to highlight the world of Irish sport horses.

“They came onto the farm here in West Cork and spent the day filming and watching and talking to us and then when they came with us to the horse shows the cameras were in the background and once we lined up we were ‘ I would just have a few words with them,” she said.

“It was an experience, even if you talked about your round after the competition and tried to explain it. It was good to analyze everything and step back and see it from everyone else’s point of view.

“I’m glad we did that because it’s a big part of the Irish industry, Irish Sport Horses is huge around the world and not a lot of people know about it.”

The series was filmed in the summer of 2021 but Ms Sweetnam said the family’s life hasn’t changed all that much during the pandemic as they still have the horses to look after every day.

“When Covid hit our life didn’t stop because you still had to work with the horses every day and you still had to do everything,” she said.

“We live out here in the West Cork countryside and spent every day with the horses and riding the horses and it was just so lovely to be lost in them for so long.

“In that sense it wasn’t a shock to the system because it was natural for us to go ahead with everything, it was just normal life down here, we had things that bothered us.”

Ms Sweetnam said the Dublin Horse Show at the RDS is the most important calendar event of the year for her family.

“For as long as I can remember, it’s been the show you look forward to every summer. It’s incredible to watch all the international riders compete, it’s an incredible show that everyone looks forward to every year,” she said.

“It brings everyone together, this year my uncle Shane will be attending, he lives in America so he comes over and it brings our family together for a week a year.

“Abbie will be attending and my brother Ryan and Shane it’s a phenomenal show and I’m so glad it’s back to normal this year.”

The first episode of Horse Country airs Tuesday 2 August at 7pm on RTÉ One. ‘I have one horse and they have three or four each’ – meet the show jumping family as the Dublin Horse Show approaches

Fry Electronics Team

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