Friday 17 November 2017

Equestrian: Horse world mourns passing of 'Miss Kellett'

Louise Parkes

Iris Kellett, one of the most influential figures in the history of Irish equestrian sport, died last Friday aged 85.

She leaves behind a long legacy of excellence as a competitor, trainer, breeder and horse producer, but will be best remembered for her own hugely-successful career and for her mentoring of many of Ireland's greatest show jumping riders, including Eddie Macken.

In 1935 at the age of nine, Iris walked her pony, Sparklet, from her home at Mespil Road in Ballsbridge to win her first rosette at the RDS -- and she never looked back.

She placed herself firmly on the map when clinching the British Ladies National Championship in 1947 and, that same year, was a member of Ireland's very first civilian show jumping side that competed in the Nations Cups at Newport and Blackpool against teams from England, Sweden and Italy. She already had 150 wins at national level under her belt.

She was always ahead of her time. At the age of 12 she was already teaching large numbers of pupils at her father, Harry Kellett's, riding school on Mespil Road.

Iris (right) was just 22-years-old when she won the Grand Prix at Dublin Horse Show -- a feat matched by only two other Irish lady riders in the history of the event. And her career went into over-drive when, in 1949, she won the coveted Princess Elizabeth Cup in London, a feat she repeated two years later. All of these successes were recorded with her great gelding Rusty, which belied his humble origins as a plough-horse to become one of the true stars of his age.

A devastating schooling fall brought her career to a halt in 1952, however. She fell so heavily that her leg shattered and her shinbone was driven into the ground. It would be 10 years before she would be sufficiently recovered, but she made an extraordinary comeback and in 1969 was crowned Ladies European Champion at the RDS before retiring. She then concen-trated her energies into training and moulding the next generation of Ireland's top show jumpers.

Her star pupil was Macken. He arrived as a raw recruit in 1969, but, blessed with many of Iris' best horses, including Morning Light and Maxwell, he duly followed in her legendary footsteps. Iris was also pivotal in the careers of Peter Charles and the late Paul Darragh among many others.

She eventually moved her training establishment to Kill in Kildare, was a Director of Bord na gCapall throughout the 1970s and helped develop a degree in Equitation Science at UL.

Such was the respect and awe in which she was held, she was almost always addressed as 'Miss Kellett.'

The Irish horse world is at a loss with her passing. Her funeral takes place today at St John's in Kill, Co Kildare at 11.0 with burial afterwards at Mount Jerome Cemetery, Harold's Cross, Dublin.

Irish Independent

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