That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, in conversation with Elaine Heney of Grey Pony Films, County Tipperary, in a two-part written interview.
“My parents are both equestrians, and grandfather, James Heney, started and showed young horses, and his philosophy was that you should be able to ride a horse with a silk thread. My great-great-grandfather also had horses.
I fell in love with horses at a very young age when I started to ride. My first pony was an energy-efficient Shetland.
I had some tech skills from my university courses and working in the tech industry in Dublin, so I was able to combine both my tech and horse knowledge to create an online equestrian business.
I am an award-winning movie director, #1 best-selling equestrian author and an equestrian app publisher.
Also, I have a masters in music and media, the Pony Club B test and an HSI coaching cert.
Since I left university, I have continued to learn every day, both with horses and advancing my online skills – whether it is using my tech skills to set up an online bookstore on Shopify or attending international equestrian events.
My professional development training in both online business and horses has taken me as far away as San Diego, Vegas, San Francisco, Nashville, the UK, Italy, and Australia.
In late 2022, I attended both the Golega Horse fair in Portugal and Madrid Horse Week in Spain, and I plan to attend Equitana in Germany this March. I will never stop learning.
Grey Pony Films
I was the executive director of ‘Out of the Wild’, a movie by Mark Rashid which was filmed in Red Rock Canyon, just outside Las Vegas.
I attended my first film festival, which was a 100% equestrian festival, in New York with that movie.
This event had a big impact on me. I decided I wanted to produce and direct horsemanship documentaries.
That led to the start of Grey Pony Films and the creation of a number of new projects, including working on documentaries and online programs for international horse trainers.
In addition, I have written 20 equestrian books, which are published on Amazon worldwide. They range from educational books for adults on horsemanship, riding, dressage, and bitless bridles, to wholesome fiction books for kids about the Connemara pony.
Many of these books reached the best-selling charts on Amazon USA, UK, Canada, and Australia.
As I type this right now, the Forgotten Horse book (book 1 in the Connemara Adventure series for kids age 8+) is the #1 best-selling equestrian book in Canada on Amazon, #1 best-selling book in children’s equestrian eBooks on Amazon UK and is the #1 best-selling Horse Riding eBook on Amazon USA.
Also, I have written two educational books for children – Listenology for Kids and Horse Care for Kids – which are a great way for pony-crazy youngsters to learn more about riding and taking care of ponies.
I really enjoy creating books for young riders. My goal is to write books that kids fall in love with and which include good horsemanship strategies also.
My favourite horse books are my two Connemara pony book series – the Connemara
Adventures, about 12-year-old Clodagh and her Connemara pony Ozzie, and the Coral Cove series, about 12-year-old Ciara and her Connemara pony Misty.
These books are suitable for kids aged 8+, and they’re a great way to encourage children to read more – while also improving their horsemanship knowledge.
It is lovely to get letters, social media messages and emails from parents to let me know how much their children are enjoying them!
Award-winning documentary and apps
I produced and directed the seven-part docu-series called Listening to the Horse, which featured over 70 of the world’s most respected horsemen and women.
This documentary won the Best International Training Series at the EQUUS Film Festival in New York in 2019.
Besides, I designed and published four apps (iPhone and Android) for horse riders. These apps help riders to advance their riding – from making schooling fun with lots of creative pole-work exercises for all levels to dressage test training tips.
They also cover listening to audio lessons while you ride, improving your posture and your horse’s focus, strength, lightness and agility and using GPS to track your daily rides.
A day in my life
Every day is different. I spend time with my horses every day. It is usually a mixture of liberty work, groundwork, improving my riding and California Vaquero skills.
I ride all my horses bitless in a rawhide bosal and mecate. I am working on progressing my lateral work, lightness, softness, self-carriage, and collection while riding one-handed.
Also, I love working with the garrocha, which is a 12-foot-long wooden pole you carry with you as you ride, used in the Spanish tradition.
It is not seen that often in Ireland, but I think it should be, as it is a wonderful way to improve a rider’s skill and posture and develop smaller cues.
Also, I work at my computer, so it depends on what the main project I am working on is – whether it is a new app, book, website, or documentary.
This could be anything from finishing the edits on a new book, talking to a book publisher, planning my next horse event, or attending a conference.
Getting to ride as a student with horse trainers I would consider world-class – including Mark Rashid (USA), Steve Halfpenny (AUS), Tanja Penders (Germany) and Jeff Sanders (USA) – has been among my highlights.
Not only are they all incredible horse people, but they truly understand the horse and have the horse’s well-being at the centre of everything that they do.
There was another pinch-me moment when, on a trip to film a documentary in Spain a few years ago, I was lucky enough to get a private garrocha lesson at the Royal Stables in Cordoba.”
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Part two to follow on That’s Farming