Kellett is the only child of Harry and Dora Kellet. She is raised at Mespil Road, Dublin, where her father runs a riding school on the site of a former British Army cavalry stables, which he had purchased in 1924. Harry Kellett works as veterinary surgeon in the British Army, and passes his skills and ethos on the proper care of horses on to his daughter.
Kellett attends St. Margaret’s School, Mespil Road, and comes home each day to teach and help out at the stables. The Mespil Road stables are of such importance to her that she refuses an offer to study veterinary science at Trinity College, Dublin in order to fully commit herself to the school.
Kellett’s first appearance in equestrian competition is at the age of nine, when she wins ‘Best Girl Rider’ at the 1935 Dublin Horse Show and from then on she becomes a regular fixture in competition. She and her great horse Rusty compete as members of the first Irish all civilian Nations Cup team in 1947, and win the Princess Elizabeth Cup for the European Ladies Championship, at White City in 1949 and 1951. She proves the equal of top male riders, and is a fitting ambassador for the growing involvement of women in competitive show jumping.
A fall from a horse in 1952, resulting in a shattered ankle complicated by a bout of tetanus, puts a halt to Kellett’s show jumping career. It is almost ten years before she is back on top form, competing again for the Irish team in the Nations Cup during the 1960s and winning the European Ladies Championship, on Morning Light, at the Dublin Horse Show in 1969.
In 1969 Kellett retires from international competition to devote herself to teaching, training and breeding horses. In 1972 she sells the riding school on Mespil Road and moves to Kill in County Kildare. Here she goes on to train some of the greatest names in Irish show-jumping including Eddie Macken, Paul Darragh and Jack Doyle.
Kellett dies on March 11, 2011, leaving behind countless friends and a legacy as a competitor, teacher, and breeder that is unparalleled.
(From: “Iris Kellett Show Jumping Legend & Exhibition, Irish Horse Gateway (www.irishhorsegateway.ie), June 17, 2013, courtesy of RDS Archives)