When Jessie Drea was called up as the traveling reserve for Team Great Britain at the 2014 World Equestrian Games, she didn’t expect that her journey to Normandy would mark the beginning of a break in her career. But the 23-year-old rising show jumping star took the somewhat unplanned, but welcome changes to her life in stride. First, Drea’s top international mount, the Irish Sport Horse mare Touchable (Touchdown x Irco Mena), was sold to an American rider. Then a month later, Drea and her fiance Steven Good learned they were expecting their first child.
For Drea, it was a time to take a temporary step back from competing while she focused on her family. Drea’s father Michael, a prominent horse dealer in the United Kingdom, supported her decision while keeping a keen eye out for her next big horse. In recent weeks, it seems that those horses have appeared, first with the purchase of Mullaghdrin Touch The Stars, a 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse stallion that was campaigned to the CSIO5* level with Ireland’s Edward Doyle. Michael Drea returned to Ireland again this week to complete Jessie’s string when he purchased two sales graduates of the 2015 Goresbridge Supreme Sale of Showjumpers, Dekato and Javas Wild Child. Read on as Drea details her plans to return to the top level of the sport with a new string, the support of her family, and a whole new perspective on life courtesy of her young son, Tiger Drea-Good.
Q: Some mothers choose to return to competition as soon as possible after giving birth, but you did the opposite. What did your choice to take extended time away from competing mean to your new family?
A: I’m at a great time in my life right now, Tiger has brought a whole new meaning to what’s important. From the outside, it all looks like quite a structured plan, Touchable and my other older horses being sold, then me getting pregnant a month later, when in actual fact it naturally just happened that way. If God planned the whole thing he did a fantastic job! I was riding eleven days after Tiger was born, but I was adamant that I didn’t want to be going to shows just for the sake of it, and having only younger horses meant that there wasn’t so much of a rush as it’s more a case of furthering their education as opposed to having very important goals. I had an extremely problematic pregnancy and it’s taken the last 3 months to get fit and feel as though I’m back to my best again- and also to fit into my riding jacket!
Q: Family support has been a cornerstone of your career thus far. Can you describe your family’s involvement in showjumping?
A: My family have always made a living out of dealing horses and we’ve all worked very hard to be in the position that we’re in now. It’s a struggle sometimes working so closely together, like any family we can annoy each other and disagree on things as there is a lot of pressure on each one of us to maintain our roles, but we do and it works. I’m very lucky that they share the same passion for this sport as I do, and I’m grateful for the opportunities that we’ve made together.
Q: Is there anything unexpected that motherhood has taught you that applies to your career?
A: Having a baby definitely made me grow up in a lot of ways, and the love that I have for my little boy is indescribable. No one wants success more than I do, and actually Tiger has made me even hungrier for it because i’m doing it for him as well now. But the end of it all, whether I’m on an up or a down and at every stage of my career going towards the future, he puts life into perspective.
Q: And we’ve got to ask, what’s the meaning behind your son’s unique name?
A: I’d love to come out with some sentimental and beautiful reason as to why I called my baby Tiger, I’ve just spent five minutes trying to think of a reasonable answer to this question that might make me sound more sane, but I’m going to have to stick with the truth. I was laying on the sofa one night watching a film with a mini bump and my fiancé Steven Good. This was quite early on in the pregnancy and we were constantly adding names to a mental long list. I’m not sure how or why, but Tiger just exploded in my head, and straight away I knew that was it. It felt as though I’d remembered it as opposed to the fact that it was an idea. My parents loved it, most other people didn’t including Steve, but now he adores it after seven months of persuasion!
Q: When you sold your top horse Touchable soon after the 2014 WEG, did you initially plan to get another horse to stay at the top level?
A: I didn’t have my eye on a particular horse, the plan was to keep buying and producing young ones. If an older, more experienced horse came up that suited the situation then great – if not then it would take me a little longer to get back to top level. I’m ok with that – it’s not ideal in all respects, but I’d rather have horses that I really like, than just buy anything so that I can be seen at good show.
Q: With the news this week that your father has bought two high profile horses from the Goresbridge sale, it seems that you’re ready to make a comeback. What are your plans for Dekato and Java’s Wild Child?
A: I’m so ready! I believe Dekato will be a top class horse, he looks to have lots of easy scope and he’s been very well produced by Alexander Butler and Neal Fearon. Next year he’ll be eight and so ready to move up. Java’s Wild Child is a consistent winner at 1.50m and the plan is that I can have a lot of fun on him at that level whilst the other two (Dekato and Mullaghdrin Touch The Stars) will be little more serious!
I’ve not actually sat on the two Goresbridge horses yet, all three new ones are arriving in a couple of days so I’m really excited!
Q: Let’s talk about Mullaghdrin Touch the Stars, another Irish Sport Horse your family recently purchased. Is it a coincidence that he’s a full brother to your mare Touchable?
A: It is and it isn’t. I don’t want to say “yes we bought him because he’s Toots’ brother” because it’s not true and it would be a little ridiculous. Having said that, I initially knew of him for that reason and have been following his results for a while. It’s funny, despite the fact that he’s a hand bigger, a different colour and has a pair of testicles, I can definitely see a lots of similarities. They both ooze scope and power and have a good mind. He’s a far bigger, stronger type of horse, but he goes his own way a little bit and I think it’s more a case of making friends with him and working it out together, rather than dominating him – Touchable was like that to.
Q: In fact you’ve invested heavily in young Irish-bred horses from the same dam line; you own three foals out of Touchable’s full sister, Knightfeld Mena. Why do you believe in these horses so much?
A: Touchable’s ability is no accident, it’s a testament to good breeding with a fantastic damline. The mother of Touchable, and Touch the Stars for that matter, Irco Rain, is also the dam of Mullaghdrin Gold Rain, another very successful 5* horse. The three I own from her full sister are by Flexible, Arezzo VDL and For Pleasure. They’re three very different sires but all bring something very exciting, that should work well with Knightfield Mena. Plus I’m great friends with Michael Doherty, who owns Knightfeld Mena, and I don’t think that there’s anything better than a bit of trust and friendship in a deal to make it lucky!
Q: Team GBR is made up of a competitive, heavily seeded group of top riders. What will be your strategy to get in among them again?
A: I have a super string of horses, it’s up to me now to do my job right and get results. Great Britain has a superb Chef D’Equipe in Di Lampard and I think she is very fair, if I deserve to be back in the Team then I will be. So now it’s time for me to get my head down, work hard and make it happen.