ANYBODY who knows me well will know that I get restless when on a break. The idea of it sounds fun but after a few days I'm like a box walker, anxious to get out and take on the world again! Ruth and I are expecting our first child in three weeks’ time and while the time has flown by (for me anyway!) these last few weeks seem to be taking forever! We're both really excited and a little nervous about our new arrival but it will be great to start our family and open up a whole lot of new areas in life to explore. The intenseness of my business can become overpowering and I feel that it's important to have a balanced life and this new arrival will certainly be a welcome addition and create more important matters for us to attend on a daily basis!
I really enjoyed watching the European Showjumping Championships last weekend from Denmark. Fantastic competition with no margin for error. Victory went to Roger Yves Bost aboard Lady Forbes's brilliant mare Myrtille. My good friend Ben Maher who led the whole week had an unlucky back rail in the first round of the final but went on to take silver to add to his growing tally of medals! The ever cool Scott Brash rode some of the best rounds of the week to take bronze. From an Irish perspective it gave us a reality check about where we need to be if we are serious about winning medals at next summer’s World Equestrian Games and nailing Olympic qualification. I was disgusted to read in several publications in the aftermath knocking Bosty's riding style as if to say, "well it just shows you any style can win". This is complete rubbish. Roger is one of the most professional, organised hard working and competitive riders who has been at the top of the sport for the last 20 years. He wins more classes than most and has an incredible eye for a stride. Horses love him and try their hearts out for him, which for me is indicative of the world class horseman he is and I was thrilled to see him take gold. It annoyed me when people who themselves wouldn't ride a rocking horse criticised his style of riding because it is perhaps less pretty than others - but give me a fighter any day and you can keep the posers!!
With time on my hands currently, it gives me a great opportunity to take stock of my own business and sporting goals both achieved and that I am aiming for. So far this year has been a great success on both fronts and I find I get a lot more business done when I take a little break from riding like now as it allows me to both buy and sell some horses. I bought two super 5 yr old horses in the last two weeks and look forward to training them over the winter. I also sold the very talented Gain Line. Following his win in the 7 yr old championships at the global tour in Chantilly and his double clear during the RDS he drew considerable attention to himself by numerous buyers. He will now join the Ukranian team and I wish them all the best. I sold them Temple Road a few years back who went on to finish 12th at the London Olympics so hopefully we will be seeing Gain Line in Rio 2016. I make no apologies for selling good horses. New money buys new goods. Over the last number of years I have always sold my best horses and this has allowed me to become a significant player in dealing at the very top end of the sport. Some never sell, others only the ones they don't like but I am now known as a seller so therefore people know I buy the best horses I can find, to compete and produce and ultimately to trade on. The key to this working is buying the best quality available and not to settle for anything less. I enjoy the deal in the same way as winning a class and the adventure of finding the next one and turning that into a superstar is my motivation on a daily basis.
I went to Cavan show on Saturday and watched hundreds of horses jumping. It really is a tremendous facility by any standards and the Clarkes just add that personal touch that makes you want to go back. Although when I study the difference in the national circuit now and 10 years ago it's a little scary. It's clear to me that many of the massive entries are people who keep a few horses and go to the show as their hobby. We have less and less professionals based here in Ireland and that has had effects down the line. Don't get me wrong, I'm not criticizing those who left, in fact they had no choice in most cases for themselves but from the sport’s point of view going forward I think we need to sit up and take note. If all the young riders who are coming through now decide to base outside Ireland, then as has been the case in the last 10 years, the standard of competition on the national GP circuit deteriorates, the fact that the better riders aren't here then their young horses aren't being produced here so our standard slips and the few buyers that come won't return if all we are marketing is nice riding horses. Higher prize money, training grants (with trainers who have a record of producing winners) developing and using the wonderful Abbottstown facility which HSI have full use of, are all ways to keep the future stars here. I know the ferries are a hassle and the longer drive, but the myth that you need to be at shows each week is a complete farce. Being based here allows the horses to do three shows abroad, regroup, rest and attack again. We all talk about how to improve the sport at national level but until riders feel that it's possible to succeed from home they will keep leaving. My bronze medal, my GP win at the Dublin Horse show and my record of jumping on 94 Irish teams to date while producing and selling world class horses all from being based in County Meath surely shows that nothing is impossible!!
Hopefully next time we chat, I'll have a healthy new born to introduce!!