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Staff chat with Beowulf McGuinness

Sunshine Riding School has a lot of different kinds of teachers so that we can meet the needs of different kinds of people. Just meeting Beowulf will tell you in seconds that you have just met a different kind of person. Beowulf has many different types of qualities that make him ideal to be a Sunshine Teacher.

Beowulf was born in January 1999 here in Luton. He was born nearly 6 weeks early but due to his size, he was never really considered a “premie”. His love for food, life and adventure was evident from very early on. Born into a household of cats, dogs, and an animal mad mother, it was not a big surprise that he has made horses his life. I had a chance to meet up with him earlier this week, and asked him some very pointed questions about his life, his goals, and is drive to teach.

How old were you when you started riding?

Six I think. (It was.) And my first horse was Sky, a 12 HH bay pony.

Beowulf & Sky

Why did you start riding?

Because I didn’t want to do ballet. I had coordination issues and my school [Hillborough Infant & Junior] thought that ballet would help solve them.

What has been your biggest challenge?

Learning which way left was.

Beowulf recounted to me the story of riding at Greenacres in Harpenden with James Miller. Beowulf was on Brefney, a 13 HH pony, cantering down the centre line when he was told to turn left at the bottom. Beowulf dropped his reins and held his hands up to see which one made the ‘L’ so he could turn that way. Apparently his teacher was unimpressed by this and was yelling for Beowulf to pick up his reins again. Beowulf proudly smiled and said, “I did turn left safely.” After that his mother put a red elastic band on his left hand so he would not drop his reins like that again.

Beowulf’s 1st Show, Age 8

What has been your easiest challenge?

Jumping. Jumping anything. I was biting on the bit as it were to start jumping, and I was told I had to wait “3 weeks”. Each week I would ask James if I could start jumping and he would say no. One day he just gave up and said ‘fine. Let’s do it.’. So I jumped and he said I was to keep on jumping as I really could jump.

What is your favourite discipline?

Eventing. You need to do all 3 disciplines. It’s a complete sport – not just feet on the ground or being a daredevil. It makes you and your horse a full athlete.

Wulf age 13 eventing with Charlie

Beowulf started competing in Show Jumping at 8, Dressage at 10, Cross Country at 11, and won his first one day event at 12.

Beowulf age 12 with Charlie

What is your least favourite discipline?

Dressage. It’s too mimsie. Serious though, it’s a lot of finesse and that where I struggle. It’s a subtle sport and if you don’t know what you are doing then it doesn’t develop properly. Also, most people laugh at it because it doesn’t seem as exciting as jumping.

Who is your favourite teacher?

Charlie and Hilary Carrel of Colts Unlimited, Sheridan Wyoming. They really explained the nuts and bolts of jumping and not just pointing me at a cross pole on the ¾ line. Charlie explained to me how to ride a course and what I should be doing at each point.

Charlie and Hilary Carrel have been World Champions of American Quarter Horse Association as well as Reserved Champions. They can be found on

Charlie Carrel working with Beowulf on Seamus, 2013

Who is your Riding Hero?

I don’t really know if I have one. On a push I would say Charlie Carrell or Jock Paget. William Fox-Pitt had money and connections when he started. I like those who come up on their own.

What is your dream?

I’d like to do 5* eventing or The Olympics or both. Burghley Horse Trials is the goal as it is the hardest.

Wulf and Scorch

Who is your favourite horse?

I have a list: Charlie – my first horse; Tango – my current horse; and I’m A Scorcher. Charlie taught me to jump on Scorch and I really loved that horse.

Why did you decide to teach?

To be honest – money. This sport is expensive. Also teaching hones my skills and I find it rewarding to grow and build someone from a nervous rider to a competent one. I work with ‘Spectrum Kids’ (children with autism, ADD, ADHD, and other educational, emotional or physical needs) because I’m good at it. I’m quiet and calm and I can adjust as needed to give them the experience they need. No two SEN riders are the same.

What job do you hate?

When I have to manage the yard, it is mitigating arguments. People just need to be reasonable. It’s when the fights and gripping begin that I want to quit.

What is the hardest thing you have taught?

Diagonals. People just don’t get them. I don’t get them and when I do, it’s only 30% of the time.

What is the easiest thing you have taught?

Jumping. Low jumps where you are getting the rider over their first few. It’s really rewarding and they are so happy.

What do you still have to learn?

Diagonals. No further comment. That’s why I do sitting trot in dressage.

Wulf and Tango (also known as Chestnut Colt 13)

Beowulf is young and driven. At 22 years old he still dreams big and is intent on making those dreams come true. He has plans to teach and create a once-in-a-lifetime eventer with the foal June Storm. Beowulf believes that June will be ready to seriously complete just about the time Tango is ready to retire in 8 years. It is clear that no matter where or what Beowulf does, jumping horses will be part of it.