Ballymore girl is Olympic groom

Ballymore Eustace woman Alice Higgins is on her way to the Olympics.

Ballymore Eustace woman Alice Higgins is on her way to the Olympics.

The student has been appointed as the groom to ‘Coryolano’, the 16-year-old mount of her aunt Anna Merveldt, who will represent Ireland in the dressage competition in London.

Italy-based Anna was raised in Naas, and is one of four Kildare equestrian competitors at the games.

During the competition, Alice’s day will begin at 5.30am; she will be feeding and grooming the 16 year old gelding, mucking out and generally making sure he’s relaxed and ready for competition. Last thing at night, it will be Coryolano that receives a good night kiss from Alice!

“[recently] I went to Aachen with Anna and got a real feel for what it entailed” said Alice “You know, the atmosphere of a big stadium, the feel of a big show. I was walking around big names on the circuit like Emile Faurie and William Fox Pitt – amazing!”

Alice headed to Varese near Milan, Italy last Sunday, 22nd July to join Anna. With driver Zilla, the trio are due to take Coryolano across Europe to check in on July 29th at Grenwich Park, London, the designated Olympic Stables 2012.

It would be hard for Alice not to have inherited a love of all things equestrian. Her maternal grandfather, Paul Merveldt was manager of Ballylea Stud, Colbinstown (near Rathsallagh) where the 2,000 Guineas winner Pamapaul was bred. His wife, Countess April Merveldt and the two girls all had a love of horses, having previously lived in a stud farm in Templeogue – when it was still ‘in the country’. Her mum Lorli also rode competitively and is involved in buying and producing competition horses/ ponies for competitive riders, with daughters Alice and Emily amongst them. Her dad is Naas accountant Michael Higgins. As a qualified HIS Level 1Coach, Alice currently has her own ‘stable’ of adult and junior riders.

Alice who is in her final year studying English and History in Limerick, has been riding from a young age and has traveled to England as a member of Kildare Pony Club to represent Ireland in dressage.  In 2007, she won the Ridden Connemara Championship and the Connemara Equitation Championship at the Dublin Horse show on her pony Grey Victory. She has won classes at the British Show Pony Society Championship show and was a member of the winning Young Judges team. More recently, she won the Small Horse Working Hunter on her horse Nasdaq at the Northern Ireland Festival, and the same class at the Athlone Agri Show.

Alice’s paternal grandmother, the late Frances Higgins and all her siblings were keen racing fans, their late father Patsy having bred and trained racehorsers for Punchestown years ago. And I’d defy Kildare people to go racing and not meet a half dozen of the extended Ballymore Murphys at the parade ring!