Despite the cold weather and showers it was a great first day to the Horseware show in Louth last Saturday. I jumped three horses in the opening leg of the National Grand Prix and, with 100 starters, the course designer, Tom Holden, did a superb job to get just 15 clear rounds. Quidam's Flower jumped a super clear but picked up one time fault - so pleased with her as it was our first GP together and she's only 8 yrs old. Quidam's Cherie jumped a smooth clear and as she was the only one that I was jumping in the 1.50m Grand Prix the next day, I opted not to jump her off. Blue Loyd shows no signs of his 14 years’ young and jumped out of his skin and was double clear. A good start to what will hopefully be a good season with these three great horses!! (See video of Quidam's Flower).
On Sunday, Quidam's Cherie was 4th in the 1.50m opening leg of the National Premier series in Dundalk. Great clear in the first round over a difficult track and an unlucky rub in the jump off for four faults, but I feel this show should set her up well for international travel starting this week. Full marks and well done to Kenny Graham who took top spot - delighted for him as he has worked very hard.
This coming weekend I will be jumping Quidam’s Flower, Quidam’s Cherie and Blue Loyd in Fontainebleau, France. (See Tour Calendar)
Check back next week for more news.
- Minister Simon Coveney and Prof. Pat Wall at recent forums to develop a strategic plan for the future of the industry
We've been home now for two weeks following our American stint and all the horses are enjoying some down time. We take a few easy weeks here before building up to travel to France at the end of the month. I plan to jump at CoilÓg on Easter Monday and then the following weekend at Horseware Ireland’s show in Dromiskin. Robert Splaine named the La Baule team last week and I'm thrilled to be a part of it. On paper it looks like the strongest team of riders we have had together in a long time for the opening leg of the Nations Cup series. I join Denis Lynch, Billy Twomey and Cameron Hanley for the French fixture and all are performing well, so I'm really confident that we can repeat our 2011 victory there!
Horse Sport Ireland, Teagasc and the RDS have completed 4 regional forums which were attended by the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to try to develop a brief that could strategically guide the sport horse industry forward. This initiative should be supported and complimented. Holding open forums to any interested party in the current climate of shortage of funds and decline in the industry nationally over the last number of years was a brave move. The Chair of Horse Sport Ireland, Professor Patrick Wall, chaired the meetings and did an excellent job in allowing everyone have their say and managed well to co-ordinate all comments into structured headings. Some years ago I recall my grandfather saying to us calmly when people were arguing, "everyone is entitled to their point of view!" And that is just the issue - everyone sees the situation from their own goldfish bowl and if we are to move forward, there must be give on all sides and cohesiveness on some common points that will better the whole industry.
I was shocked at the request by many looking for handouts and demanding the government fixes their problem. If I buy a horse that is not as good as I thought I sometimes end up selling for a fraction of what I paid. New money buys new goods. This is a business and should be run as such rather than the romantic notion of bring your mare to the closest stallion and hope for the best. Drastic times require drastic measures and it’s up to all of us to cut our own cloths to measure and in my view the government support that should be given to the industry must concentrate around excellence and development rather than passports and culls. People must look at the situation with a 10 - 20 year plan.
It bothers me that those who are at the top of this sport are often referred to as elite. I don't see it used as a word to describe the top rugby players. Prejudice is always irrational. Those at the top fly the flag around the world and promote Ireland on the world stage. I'm not just saying that the best in their profession should be supported but rather anyone in the industry who is forward thinking and crucially, striving for excellence. It could be a school set up to educate grooms or identifying top mares and supporting their breeders, or supporting those who open new markets for trading Irish horses. We have an abundance of talented horse people in Ireland and if we could all pause and look to the big picture, we have the ability to create great changes. It is always the talent not the money that counts in the end.
- Cian O'Connor wins the Welcome Stake Grand Prix at Live Oak International aboard Carolus Z
Last weekend I travelled north to Live Oak Estate in Ocala, where they were hosting an international show with driving and jumping taking place. The show is run by Chester Weber and his family. Chester is a world class international four in hand competitor and will be aiming for WEG this summer. This show was run by horse people for horse people, and the competition was held on a beautiful grass arena, which was a welcome change.
I brought Quidam's Cherie and Carolus Z, who jumped great (see news) and ended up winning the leading rider award, which was nice. This week we are back in Wellington for the final week. Nikki has three horses to compete and I'm going to aim Quidam's Cherie at Saturday night's $500,000 Grand Finale!
Check back next week for more news.
- Quidam's Cherie placed 3rd in the 4* Grand Prix
This sport is all about hopes and dreams. We all lose far more classes than we win, so it’s very rewarding when things go well, and the good days should all just be appreciated and enjoyed.
The 12 week tour in Wellington is very long, and I have to keep reminding myself that it’s early in the season and be cautious about over-jumping. My main horse is Quidam's Cherie, and since I got her - 10 weeks ago - I set my sights on this weekend, and, more specifically, the Nation’s Cup and the Grand Prix in Wellington. I knew I’d need time to educate and get the hang of her, but I reckoned she could move up a gear by now.
Luckily, we got it right, and the mare was superb in both classes (see news article), culminating in a double clear and 3rd place finish in the $150,000 Grand Prix (see the video). I have to say that I could not have done it all on my own and I'm extremely grateful to all my owners and sponsors, without whose support any success would be impossible. I'm very fortunate to have a great team of staff behind me and it’s really satisfying to see them enjoy and get a kick out of the good days as much as I do. We riders are so fortunate to work in a job that we love and enjoy, so much so that it doesn’t feel like work!
Time to set new goals and targets so the dream stays alive - high hopes indeed!!
- Quidam's FlowerA new 8 yr old mare showing off her impresssive technique
Apologies for not being in touch for a while but to be honest I haven’t had much spare energy to blog! Early mornings and a good day’s work tend to leave me ready for bed at 8pm in this Florida sun! All horses are in good shape and performing well. It’s over half way through the circuit and time has just flown by. We are fortunate to be staying with the horses at Adena Springs Stables which is a beautiful farm in close proximity to the horse show. I’m thrilled with all the horses and having been here several times now I’ve learned to pick and choose my classes and not to get too excited too soon by over jumping. The Nation's Cup is next Friday and I hope to be jumping Quidam's Cherie which I have set as a target of mine since December. I was double clear in this Nation's Cup with Blue Loyd in 2012 and again in 2013 with Splendor - so I’m going for my third double clear on the trot - fingers crossed!
Nikki Walker, whom I’m coaching full time, is doing really well with all her horses, especially Saphir, whom I won the Cavan Classic with last September, and Blue Loyd. She rides them both so well and with great confidence and they just love her, which makes the perfect partnership. As Nikki has developed in her own riding skills, the improvement is evident in her results with consistent clear rounds and placings, which makes my job very rewarding. Next Saturday Nikki will jump Blue Loyd as part of Team Canada in the Young Rider Nation's Cup, so we'll be all dressed in red and white and donning the maple leaf.
I hope you are all like myself relaxing at home after a long but good year! Last weekend I competed in London Olympia which was as usual a top class show, well run with a full house packed each day into the grand hall. The spectators are what make the show happen. They come year after year, creating a unique atmosphere which encourages the riders to try harder.
There are so many 5 star shows now with top money, run over just a few days that the riders are becoming accustomed to it, in some cases forgetting about tradition and how they got to where they are. It really bugs me to hear constant whinging from some riders who cannot see further than the end of their own noses!
I can see both sides of the argument. Shows like Dublin and Olympia, while very different, are both traditional sporting events in Ireland and the UK. Nostalgia alone will not attract the world’s best riders but I think it would be a great shame if the sport became about two day shows with bland arenas over the same type of fences, albeit jumping for big prize money while performing to a handful of spectators.
There is no doubt that the sport has developed hugely in the last few years and obviously the traditional shows need to keep up somewhat with the amount of world ranking classes on offer, and keep the prize pots big enough to ensure that they are in line with other shows. But having said that there is a certain onus on the riders to think laterally and not just have tunnel vision!
I personally would like to see much more TV coverage live from our top shows (whatever the cost) as this creates interest at grassroots level which will undoubtedly filter through the whole industry, the same way it captures the imagination of the young child who becomes fascinated by the sport on a visit to Dublin or Olympia. When the riders climb the long ladder up the world rankings they somehow tend to lose a sense of realism. After all, it’s called SHOWjumping and competing for huge money in front of empty seats may not be sustainable forever where the traditional shows have proven that they can and will survive the test of time. In addition an increase in TV coverage attracts sponsors, develops new owners into the sport and gives riders the opportunity to become sports stars themselves. This will be another way to increase their revenue stream and develop their businesses which will last far longer than their riding career. If it were not for the traditional shows many of us would never have gotten the breaks we got, but eaten bread is soon forgotten!!
Hope you all have a good Christmas and wishing you every happiness for 2014.
I'm writing this blog on a flight from Milan to Dublin that I very nearly missed but for a decent friend who assisted my late check in! I'm coming from a beautiful new show in Parma (see news story), where all my horses jumped great. Last week German rider and dealer Holger Hetzel held a one day national show at his stable in Goch, Germany that attracted some of Europe’s best riders largely due to it being on a Tuesday afternoon. A great initiative by Holger and his team and one that I hope will help them garner interest in their showjumping auction which takes place there on Dec 3rd. I rode Blue Loyd in the national class there and he jumped really well, finishing 4th. This week my horses travel to Magna Racino where Ross and I have 10 horses in action.
While in Germany and Holland last week, I spent considerable time travelling to various yards trying horses. These horses are often proposed to me by agents/spotters and breeders. I do my homework by studying videos and results which are so easily accessible now on the Internet which I believe is only a good thing.
What surprises me is the huge increase in prices in even young horses in the past 12 months. I understand good grand prix horses due to their scarcity being expensive, but what you were being asked for a 7 yr old 12 months ago is now the average price for the same horse but one year younger. The sport is ever evolving and while we as riders, producers and horse dealers must move with it, we should also be cautious not to be drawn into a false world.
It's my firm belief that top horses of course must have talent but the vast majority of horses are made by the good education given to them by the horsemen and women who train them up the ranks. In my view when a buyer is wanting to buy the ready-made super star who has results and is well trained then this horse should be expensive to cover the work done, remembering many of the horses who are produced won’t make the grade so the producer will not strike gold all the time.
What I have no time for are people with badly ridden horses, middle men and imposters professing to have re-invented the game, jacking up prices of horses to just jump on the bandwagon of the current hype of big priced sales. Hope value is always the best time to sell. I must admit I'm probably braver than most and I regularly give a good throw for a horse but now it's becoming increasingly hard as everyone wants to hit the jackpot without doing the work. I now just decide what I think a particular horse is worth, make an offer and walk away. I will miss some but others in the depths of winter may pick up the phone and dial 00353!
We saw what happened in Ireland with people getting carried away paying over the odds on the notion of a bigger day - I most certainly don't want to be that mug!
Following Cooper’s second place in the GP in Birmingham I wanted to challenge him a little more so decided to take in a few more indoor shows than originally planned (see calendar). This week the horses travel to the beautiful city of Verona, Italy for the 3rd leg of the World Cup Series. I'm taking Cooper, Dual Star and Carolus Z. All three horses are in great shape and I'm really looking forward to the week ahead.
Following that we have a week off and then stay in Italy to compete at Parma with the same horses plus my Cavan 6&7 yr old champion, the exciting 7 year old grey gelding, Saphir. The indoor shows that I've planned allow me to develop my horses to the next level and get those ones who had a break back to full fitness. I'm looking forward to competing at Olympia again before Christmas. It's one of my favourite shows and has always been lucky for me. Following Olympia the horses make their way to Amsterdam where they fly to Miami for the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida which goes from Jan 8th - March 30th.
A lot of logistics and anything can happen along the way so fingers crossed that all goes according to plan!
Check back next week for the news from Verona.
I’m writing this early Monday morning in the airport lounge in Birmingham airport waiting for my flight home. We had a successful week at Birmingham, finishing with runner up spot in the Grand Prix (see news).
Birmingham was a three star show but like no other - the coverage, the crowds and the atmosphere is akin to any top indoor show in the world. We all love to perform and it’s great to have an appreciative audience such as here in Birmingham, who filled the stands from the opening class right to Sunday’s finale.
Sky Sports have revolutionised the sport in the UK with an incredible team who are now expert in bringing showjumping to your living room as never seen before. Detailed interviews, course walks and behind the scenes are all ways that they have moved the coverage forward and combined with unique camera angles and informed commentary, it really is a remarkable package. Sky Sports have covered Birmingham and Hickstead for some years now and in my view have been a huge factor in both increased interest and financial backing coming into British showjumping. A rising tide lifts all boats and people want to be involved with success - well done to all concerned!