Some of us have been lucky enough to have a horse of a lifetime, one that changed the trajectory of our entire lives, and for Bertram Allen – that horse was the spectacular Molly Malone V!
By Nadia Aslam. Photo @lenasaugen, @theresealhaug, ROLEX: Reto Albertalli, IJRC, Sportfile.
Molly was one of the very first horses that Bertram had the joy of welcoming to his barn once he turned pro. The pair went on to incredible heights together, taking the competition world by storm and cementing themselves as top-tier athletes in the showjumping history books. But as hard as it can be to accept, sometimes it’s time for our horse of a lifetime to pass the baton, and for Molly, her time had come to exit the spotlight of international competition and enjoy a well-deserved retirement.
Getting to Know Molly
Molly Malone V, or Molly as she’s known to her nearest and dearest, is the kind of mare we all wish we had in our barn, drop-dead gorgeous, a sweet attitude, and a work ethic that won’t quit. The 15-year-old bright grey mare — by Kannan and out of Janini, bred by Keith and Shelly Doyle — is a special one, and it’s clear to anyone who has known her.
Bertram’s parents first saw the mare as a five-year-old at The Sunshine Tour in Vejer, Spain together with Billy Twomey, and they were smitten. But, while the plan was for Bertram to take on the ride, it wouldn’t be immediate as the then 14-year old was still riding ponies!
“Molly turned out better than any of us could have imagined. Every level you went up with her; she just seemed to move through so effortlessly, and she was such a worker, nothing suited her more than having a job to do.”BERTRAM ALLEN
She was bought and shipped to England, where she’d train with Billy and Anthony Condon for the next couple of years, getting a good education, and one that turned out to stand her in good stead for the career that was to come.
It was only two years later that Bertram would then have settled in Germany and be ready to take on the mare himself! Even though he’d only sat on her once or twice at Billy’s yard, he’d never really gotten to know Molly.
“She wasn’t the kind of horse that you got on and immediately thought – wow, she’s going to the top. But it turned out she was better than any of us could have imagined. Every level you went up with her; she just seemed to move through so effortlessly, and she was such a worker, nothing suited her more than having a job to do.”
The Pair’s Success
Bertram and Molly achieved countless wins and placings together. In 2013, they took the Individual Silver Medal at the Junior Europeans in Spain. A year later, when Bertram was only 18 years old, the successful combination made history by winning the opening speed leg of the World Championship in Normandy, where they went on to finish 7th individually. The year after the duo took a historical bronze medal at what was Bertrams first-ever World Cup Final. Still, Bertram’s all-time favorite moment with the mare was winning the Grand Prix in front of an Irish crowd at the Dublin Horse Show in 2014!
“With every horse, you have those incredible moments that you look back on, and with Molly, I’m so lucky that there are probably too many to actually count.”BERTRAM ALLEN
Even before Molly came along, as a young rider, Bertram was already making a name for himself in showjumping. Still, we wanted to find out whether he felt that Molly had played a pivotal role in this incredible success?
“She had a massive impact on my career, and I know I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am anywhere near as fast if it wasn’t for her, I owe her a lot. With every horse, you have those incredible moments that you look back on, and with Molly, I’m so lucky that there are probably too many to actually count.”
The Decision to Retire
But she wasn’t just great in the ring, and that’s likely thanks to the way that all of the Allen’s horses are treated… like horses. These aren’t machines who are there purely to perform a task; for this young rider – he and his horses are partners in the sport that they all so wholeheartedly love.
Every decision is about keeping the horses happy and healthy. Not winning, not earning the most, and not selling for the most – but happy and healthy, and there’s no compromise on that.
This is the mindset that I’m willing to bet is going to keep Bertram at the top for years to come, he’s playing to win, but he’s playing the long game!
With that in mind, when it came time to retire Molly, she pretty much made the decision herself.
“Molly started feeling a little stiffer in her way of going; she still loved being ridden – but as the one responsible for her well-being, it was on me to make a tough decision. It was hard because I love riding the mare, she was just the greatest, and we had such a great partnership. Sure, I could have taken her down a level to keep her going, but she didn’t owe me anything, and I knew if I retired her, then we wouldn’t run any risks of injury so she’d stay happy and healthy.”
Happy and Healthy Horses Come First
After her last show, she headed home and started on a slowing down program with her riding, and that included plenty of time hacking out. Yes, you heard that right – this top international showjumping mare enjoys a nice trail ride, and that’s not something that was new in her retirement, it’s something that Bertram always has and always will do with his horses.
Why? Because if you truly want happy and not just healthy horses, you can’t fake it – it means that there’s give and take. Sure, you might want to get in the arena and get those half halts ironed out, but sometimes you can feel that it would be better for your horse to have a day in the forest to clear their mind and be ready to get on with work the next day.
“They get hacked out, they get turned out every day, they’re treated like horses, and if we see one of the horses is feeling a little off, we make adjustments.”
“Sure, I could have taken her down a level to keep her going, but she didn’t owe me anything, and I knew if I retired her, then we wouldn’t run any risks of injury so she’d stay happy and healthy.”BERTRAM ALLEN
This rider is as humble as can be, and while it’s clear that he’s worked incredibly hard to get to where he is today; he’s quick to praise the entire team that helped him and Molly climb to the top.
“I’m so incredibly lucky to be able to work with the people that I do, everyone shares such passion for the sport and cares 100% for the horses – and that’s so important to me. I know that Molly wouldn’t have reached the heights that she did if it wasn’t for the team around me, and for that, I’m so grateful.”
Settling Into Retired Life
Almost two months ago, Molly left Ballywater Stables in Germany to join Bertram’s other retired mount, the stallion Romanov, at stud in France. The plan is to put her in foal, but nothing is being rushed and decisions on who she’ll be put to haven’t been made yet.
With Bertram’s other retired competition mount, Romanov, standing at the same stud – we certainly hope that this is an indication of who she may be put to. While we’re probably getting ahead of ourselves, we can’t help but think about how nice it would be to see two horses that have helped Bertram climb to the very top – produce a youngster who could go on to take him even further!
Let’s Hear From You
We know all too well how hard it can be to hang up the reins of a beloved horse, but sometimes it’s the best decision we can make for our horses.
We want to hear your stories about retiring your horse of a lifetime, and being the kind of responsible horse owner that we admire, comment below with your story of retiring your horse of a lifetime!