Exclusive Coverage: The Aberporth Horse TrAils 2020

Horse Nation offers an exclusive look at what is perhaps the ONLY live competition in all of the UK for April 2020: the Aberporth Horse TrAils. This is coverage you won’t want to miss!

When the world has gone mad, sometimes the absolute best way to cope is to go a bit bonkers yourself, especially if you’re a lifelong horsewoman who’s been grounded from riding temporarily because of this tiny little thing known as a global pandemic.

Thank God for cross-country creativity, a grand prix-level wit and a delightfully accomplished rider!  Enter Faye Barry-Pavey and her soon-to-be internationally acclaimed three-day eventing mount, Mermaid!

Faye Barry-Pavey and her amazing mare, Mermaid. Photo by Anthony Pavey.

As with most great riders, Barry-Pavey has been so focused on her riding she didn’t quite realize she would soon become an internet sensation. I came across her extraordinary cross-country round via social media and knew right away she and Mermaid were destined to become The Next Big Thing. Check it out:

In an exclusive interview, Barry-Pavey took time out from her hectic training regime to give us a little more information about her training methods and riding success.

Barry-Pavey began riding at an early age and worked her way up through the ranks as a professional groomer. She groomed in several disciplines, including hunt, polo, and eventing. “Partied hard; worked even harder; partied harder even more.”

Her skills as a professional groom were extraordinary and let to her top job as Second Groom to Zara Phillips Tindall. “I figured that was about the tops I could do,” so a few years ago she left the grueling travel schedule of professional groom life and transitioned into a new career as a caregiver in a care center for special needs adults. At the same time, she became mum to the lovely Isla and began passing on her love of riding to her daughter.

Mum Faye and daughter Isla riding a favorite pony.

Barry-Pavey evented her own beloved mount, Sunny, to top awards.  Sunny was a homebred Connemara-Thoroughbred cross, and “a legend.”

Faye competing her beloved eventing partner, Sunny.

Tragically, she lost Sunny last year. Since then, she has been riding friends’ horses, focusing especially on a couple of young Connemara crosses to bring them along. That is, until the recent pandemic effectively grounded most equestrians in the UK, including Barry-Pavey. Sad to be grounded, and seeking to entertain herself and her family while self-quarantining in their home in Aberporth, Wales, UK (“the wet part,” she quips), Barry-Pavey came up with a wicked-good way to pass the time. “I saw the online competitions being posted, where you record a ride, send it in, and judges review and place them, and I thought – why not?”

Enter Mermaid, some household “jumps,” a tipple (or two) of gin* and a non-horsey husband who’s as game as they come.

*For the rider only; Mermaid was absolutely drug-free and FEI-compliant throughout the competition.

Like most eventers, Barry-Pavey prefers cross-country, yet she and Mermaid put in a very respectable “Prelim 7” dressage test at Aberporth:

Following the successful trot-up.

Mermaid was cleared for the stadium round!

Mermaid is a young mare, “feisty” and “quite testing on the course — it’s undulating ground.” As Barry-Pavey described the pair’s stadium round, “Mermaid doesn’t instinctively lock on to the fence; with Sunny, I could tell him which fence and he would just lock on and go.  Mermaid needed a lot of encouragement over several of the fences; I’m surprised I didn’t get called out for excessive use of the whip . . . She can be a bit marish and has her own opinion. I have to work hard to ride her.”

Asked about her riding style for this particular course, Barry-Pavey is frank. “I had nerves — dreadful nerves. But I think, if I don’t have those nerves, then I don’t respect the fences and you have to respect the fences.” She was “glad that last fence did come apart; it wasn’t a pretty round, but  – we’ve all got things to work on . . .”

Regarding Mermaid’s condition after the fall at the final fence, “I called my mum; we worked things out with homeopathy (no bute – FEI rules, you know), a lot of cold hosing, apples, carrots, coaxing and a bit of massage.”

When asked about what’s next for her and Mermaid, Barry-Pavey is optimistic. “Now that I have the videos of this competition, I’ll study them — I’ve got lots of homework to do. I’d like to show Mermaid’s versatility, so perhaps some polo, barrel racing and after that, maybe a bit of gymkhana. We’ll see how it goes.”

As with most equestrian events, sponsorship is a major key to success! Barry-Pavey wants to personally thank her sister Sarah’s company, NaturalAnimalShiP,** for sponsoring the Aberporth Horse TrAils 2020.

(** a correction to the sponsorship banner is noted, as it was originally posted as “NaturalAnimalShit”).

Aberporth Horse TrAils 2020 Sponsor, NaturalAnimalShiP.

No matter what’s next in store for this dynamic duo #TeamMermaid, we at HorseNation are so delighted they shared their fun and giggles with all of us, especially now when we need all the positivity we can find!

Faye Barry-Pavey with her daughter Isla and husband Anthony.

Check out the Aberporth Horse TrAils 2020. It’s perhaps the only live competition in all of the United Kingdom in April 2020.  #HistoryInTheMaking

Perhaps the only live competition in all of the UK during April 2020.