Elite eventer Selena O’Hanlon is an established upper-level competitor, having represented Canada at the Olympics, World Equestrian Games and Pan American Games in years past.
She and her mother, Morag O’Hanlon, an accomplished eventer in her own right, operate O’Hanlon Eventing at Balsam Hall in Kingston, Ontario where the OHE team keeps a busy training, teaching, and boarding business running year-round. This time of year, however, Selena can be found getting a jump on the season at Sweet Dixie South, a premier base for eventers in Ocala, Florida.
Selena was on the cusp of competing at her second Olympics last year, this time with Foxwood High, a 14-year-old Canadian Sport Horse gelding owned by John and Judy Rumble, but a rollercoaster of a selection process ended with them ultimately not making the trip to Rio.
Now after a quiet fall season, Selena is getting back into the swing of things with Foxwood High as well as working on bringing along some younger prospects. She was very kind to take some time to catch up with EN and answer a few questions between her busy training schedule.
EN: What are your plans for Foxwood High (Woody) this year?
Selena: “We’ll do a few events this spring to get us ramped up for Rolex in April. We had a great start to the season finishing fifth in the Advanced combined test at Ocala with a clear jumping round. I knocked some rust off and hope to keep climbing the leaderboard.
“Then at Rocking Horse the following week Woody was a rockstar in the Advanced B division. We broke our breast plate clip where it attaches to girth on the first water. I had to reach down and grab it at the gallop then carry it in my right hand for fear of it hitting him in the eye. Every time we did a big drop I had to let it go and grab it again after which gave us some time faults. Looking forward to Red Hills next.”
EN: Do you currently have any up-and-coming young horses that you’re excited about?
Selena: “I have a 5-year-old old OTTB called Benny (AKA Plenty of Benny). He is a lovely gentle giant who loves to snuggle and gives excellent head cuddles. He is going to be my next super star!”
EN: After the complications surrounding the naming of the Canadian Olympic Team last year, how have you regrouped and moved forward after ultimately not making the trip to Rio?
Selena: “Woody’s owners, John and Judy Rumble, have been very understanding and supportive during that difficult time. This year his owners and I will make the decisions surrounding his program and what events he will run leading up to Rolex.”
EN: You’ve participated in the Horseware Indoor Eventing Challenge at the Royal Winter Agricultural Fair multiple times now. What’s the most challenging thing about that event? What’s the most fun thing about it?
Selena: “The challenge is competing so late at night, indoors with lots of lights and noise on a horse you don’t normally ride. The fun is seeing my fellow teammates and friends and having everyone coming out to cheer. And also the great food!”
EN: Your mom is quite an accomplished eventer herself and you two work together closely to operate O’Hanlon Eventing. What is one of the biggest lessons she’s taught you as an rider and trainer?
Selena: “To listen to each horse, ride with your mind, and that patience is the only way forward.”
EN: The weather in Ocala is pretty hard to beat, but what’s something you miss about Canada while you’re in down south over the winter?
Selena: “My mum! And I also miss working out at the Kingston Athletic Therapy Centre with a trainer and other top athletes who are generously sponsored by KATC and also being treated by their wonderful therapists/osteopaths.”
EN: During the off-season, what are some of your favorite things to fine-tune or work on to prep for the upcoming competition season?
Selena: “When riding in our indoor I like to focus on straightness using the mirrors. I also like to go back to the basics with gymnastics and foot work and take some pressure off the horses with smaller fences and No Stirrups November.”
EN: What’s your most memorable competition moment so far?
Selena: “I have two: one is winning the team silver medal at the 2010 World Equestrian Games and the other is taking two horses, Bellaney Rock and Foxwood High, to Rolex in 2014.”
EN: If you could ride any famous event horse — past or present — what horse would you choose and why?
Selena: “Eagle Lion would be amazing since I knew him well and have looked after him for my long-time friend and coach Bruce Davidson. Eagle had muscles on his muscles; he was a powerhouse and a force to be reckoned with. He was brave and was the perfect size for excellent maneuverability, plus he was an easy keeper and a beautiful bay with kind eyes and a cheeky personality on occasion. I followed his career and had all his posters (signed no less by the godfather of eventing himself). A legend through and through!”
EN: Which Omega Alpha product is your favorite and why?
Selena: “I would say RegenerEQ because I have seen it make huge transformations in all different types of horses — all the way from my 5-year-old OTTB Rumshaker who needed to relax, bulk up, and recuperate after leaving the track, to Foxwood High who needs it to help him through long trips all over the world for various championships. It helps in so many ways with stress, ulcers, weight, muscle, tissue restoration, and even their coats improve.