For a regular 14-year-old Junior Cert student, having a week off for mid-term after completing mock exams would mean a chance to have a lie-in for a few days.
Rhys Williams does not fall into that category though. Instead of taking it easy this week, he is up at 7am each day to muck out for the horses in Parc Stables. He does not mind though, mainly because he does not know any other routine.
2018 was a year to remember for the youngster as he won the individual gold medal at the FEI European Championships in Fontainebleau in France, while also picking up silver in the team event. He also had the distinction of being the only rider to jump a clear round to register a score of zero. That performance led to him being honoured with a civic reception from Clare County Council, while the accolades continued to pour in when he picked up the Junior Show Jumper Award at the Irish Field Equestrian Awards at the K Club last week.
He’s taking it all in his stride though and admits that all the awards won’t change how things operate at Parc Stables.
“We are up at 7am every morning to muck out and get ready for the day ahead. All horses have to be prepped and fed so the routine doesn’t change. My Dad Adrian always had horse in the yard ever since I was born and when he would be trying to sell a horse or had a quiet one, he would put me up on it and I loved it. I have been going to competitions since I was six which I always enjoyed. I never went hunting or anything like that, since day one it has always been show-jumping. When you put the work in during the week, and then you see it paying off on the day of the show, it’s pretty amazing. It pushes you to keep going and keeps you motivated” he said.
Being crowned European champion is not something everyone gets to experience, and Rhys admits it was a very special moment.
He said: “The Europeans in France was amazing. Two days before I won the gold, we had won the team silver which was great. When I went in, there was a lot of pressure to pick up the gold and thankfully everything went to plan when I managed to get a clear round in. There’s some horses you need to have that bond with and the one I won the gold medal on, I have been riding him for a few years now for Marie Burke at the Clare Equestrian Centre and I don’t think I have ever had a bad round on him. He’s always proven himself and jumped really well”.
Rhys bridged a gap of 40 years since a Clare man was crowned Junior Show Jumper, with Tom Costello being the last to pick up the award in 1979. He says while it was special, thoughts have already turned to the campaign that lies ahead in 2019.
“That was something that was a big surprise, and to win it out of all the show-jumpers in Ireland was special. Work has started now for the new season and the first big show is in Sligo where I will have to prove myself to get on the team for the Europeans again, so hopefully I can make it. The dream for me is to jump the Aga Khan in the RDS some year and maybe even the Olympics down the road too. That would be brilliant” he said.
When the school term rolls back around next week, Rhys will be looking out for the results from the mock exams, but he’s not the only one in the Williams household who will be interested in them.
“I’m just finished the mocks there last week and they all went well so I am confident enough of the results. Mom is putting the pressure on me now, she says she wants lots of A’s so we will see how that goes” he smiled.