Cian O'Connor
Olympic Bronze Medallist

Cian's Blog

Cavan a class show with great activity

  • Saphir winning the 6&7 yr old final in great style
  • Serendipity and Ross in the 6&7 yr old final
  • Cooper showing his perfect technique
  • Homebred ESI Florence with Andrea

The Cavan Indoor Championships was as good a show there that I can recall for 15 years. There was a super buzz around the place and a hive of activity between a successful foal sale and with numerous Irish and foreign buyers trying out horses it certainly gives the whole sport a welcome boost. The competition was good all week and I was delighted to see young Michael Duffy (Vinnie and Sandra's son ) claiming an amazing double when winning the derby and the Grand Prix with the same horse - full marks to him and it was especially nice to see how happy he and all his connections were following the GP.

The foal sale was a great success and should act as an encouragement to breeders to breed performance mares with a good stallion and you will have a fair chance of yielding a handsome return. I bought two colt foals by Flexible. It's a bit like the lotto I know, but if you don't play, then you definitely have no chance of winning the jackpot!!

All my horses jumped great with Karlswood horses placing in the top 3 in all the young horse finals (see news).

Kernan’s Equestrian Centre is next for us on the weekend then we're off to Birmingham for horse of the year show the following week.

Chat soon,


A win like none other!

  • Little Ben, getting his rest
  • Proud moment - delighted to welcome home Ruthie and baby Ben - feels great to be a daddy!!

Last Tuesday 17th September Ruth gave birth to our little boy Benjamin. It was an incredible experience and will no doubt change our lives, only for the better. I'm improving at changing nappies and getting used to the fact that now there is someone in the house more deserved of attention than me!!

Last week we heard of record prices paid for a top showjumper and I see this as only good for the sport. We all like to have goals and aim high and the reported €11 million paid for Paloubet for Edwina Alexander to ride certainly created a stir in the equine world! As I see it the market has changed considerably in the last 5 years. The middle market is weak and the only two types of horses that are easy to sell are "easy ones" or "top ones".

In Ireland too often we like to crib and blame others as to why we are not attracting more international clients. There are several reasons for this but one obvious one is the current system of young horse classes throughout the summer is majorly flawed. It encourages riders to jump the young horses too often, to gallop against the clock and in doing both you are neither producing the horse correctly to either market it for sale or to develop it to the next level. Emphasis should be on training the horse to ride nicely, jumping him less often and maintaining a healthy sound animal as all these traits will help with either sale or further career.

Breeders and riders should be honest with themselves and look to the market and move accordingly - all the emerging markets and high prices paid can only be good for the sport and the industry but we must educate ourselves so we can service the demand otherwise we will get left behind!

Having said that well done to all the Irish who did well in Lanaken at the World Breeding Jumping Championships for Young Horses, especially Greg Broderick who won the 5 yr old final.

Off to Cavan for the week.
Check back next week for more news, 

The Waiting Game!

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!!
Best wishes,

A typical Monday at Karlswood

  • Gain Line enjoying the Spa at Karlswood

Hi Everyone,

I always enjoy returning home to Karlswood Stables at the end of the summer season and getting some much needed downtime after the excitement of the Grand Prix win in Dublin. The horses are back home now, enjoying the spa we have installed here, and also doing a bit of hacking along some of the scenic trails and pathways we have around us.

This week Billy Twomey, Conor Swail, Cameron Hanley, Shane Breen and Shane Sweetnam are competing for Team Ireland in the Jumping Nations' Cup at the European Championships in Denmark, and I wish the lads the best of luck while they're over there.

It doesn’t get much better than this!!

  • Blue Loyd double clears in a fast timePic:

Hey everyone,

What a week! Dublin horse show is simply a buzz from start to finish. You can feel the enthusiasm and excitement from everyone present, public and exhibitors.

The Irish team fell slightly short on Friday in the Aga Khan finishing third but all the horses jumped well. It’s my 10th time on the Dublin team and it’s without doubt the most enjoyable competition to ride, in the world.

Unique won a good speed class on Wednesday and Gain Line was fifth in both the young international horse qualifier and final. Blue Loyd was super on Friday just making a single mistake in both rounds but jumped out of his skin in Sunday’s grand prix - recording one of only two double clear rounds with a faster time to take the honours at one of the most prestigious grand prix events in the world. It feels great to win anywhere, but to do it at home for the home crowd is something special.

I'm extremely grateful to Blue Loyd’s owners Frank Stronach and his granddaughter Nikki for giving me the opportunity to ride Loyd in Dublin, and on two occasions this year we were able to contribute to the team’s score in the league. At the end of the league now, Team Ireland ultimately qualified for the final in Barcelona and indeed for next year’s top league, and I'm thrilled that we were able to play our part.

This week we travel to Millstreet for the 3 star international show and Blue Loyd will also be in action with Nikki in the international classes.

Check back next week for more news,


Beautiful but hot Chantilly - Town of the horse

  • Cian racing on the famous track at Chantilly
  • Cian racing on the famous track at Chantilly

After our long summer tour in Europe we finished it at the beautiful and chic Global Tour Show in Chantilly, France which has a rich tradition of equestrian sport, set in the middle of a race track with a beautiful backdrop of the iconic chateau and Grand Ecuries.

Overall, a very successful weekend with Gain Line, my 7 year old being the star of the show jumping clear the first day and then winning the 7 year old championship at ease on Sunday against some stiff competition. Unique didn’t fail to deliver, continuing his winning streak by placing 1st in the 1m45 on Sunday morning. Cooper finished off on a good note yesterday in the Grand Prix with an early 4 faults. We are still getting to know each other at this level and after tweaking and analysing a few things I think we are ready for Dublin in 2 weeks’ time!

All the horses are on their way back to Ireland now and myself and the staff are looking forward to a short break before gearing up for my favourite week of the show calendar - Dublin Horse Show!

This weekend, I will do a local show, Tattersalls, with some other horses. Let’s hope the weather stays fine!


Long but successful week in Aachen

Hey Everyone,

I rarely take a morning off but I must admit this morning I simply could not move!! The long week in Aachen had taken its toll and I was just wrecked!!

All the horses jumped out of their skin there and I was clear in all the feature classes from Wednesday through to Saturday. I was pre qualified for the GP but opted not to jump as I was so pleased with Cooper's development in the past month, I thought there was just no need. He was clear for a time fault in Wednesday and Friday’s main competitions and really showed his braveness and class in the way he tackled those huge courses. I will rest him now for two weeks along with Unique, then aim them at the Global Champions Tour show in Chantilly in three weeks’ time.

We are all counting down the days till the Dublin Horse Show and it promises to be as good as ever. For me it’s all about trying to peak there and I feel this year I have it right - my horses have not been under pressure or over jumped so I'm hoping for a big week in Dublin in August.

Check back soon for more news,

Up one extra vehicle after Sommerstorf

  • Cian celebrates grand prix victory wearing his new Alessandro Albanese jacket and Horseware jods

Sommerstorf may have been hard to find on Google Maps but we had no problem finding our way home and were up one more vehicle on our return!! I heard of a nice two star show with good ground in the east of Germany so I decided to go and school my horses for the bigger shows coming up, and I planned to not try to win - only train - up until the Grand Prix. There was a Volkswagen GTI to the winner which I had my eyes on from the start.

Acorada only jumped once and was clear and I was very pleased with her - she will be aimed at the speed classes in Aachen in two weeks’ time. Gain Line jumped a super clear in the 1.40m youngster tour on Saturday and he jumps in Fontainebleau next weekend. Apolonia is a new mare to me and looks very exciting. Only 9 yrs old, she jumped the GP qualifier with the last fence down and I look forward to asking a few more questions from her in the coming weeks. Unique, however, is the star of the show. You can nearly put your money on him in 1.50m classes. At the last show in Nörten-Hardenberg he won and was third, and here I aimed him at the GP and he won it in style by almost two seconds. In the process we picked up the GTI Golf which I gave to Frenchy, my groom, as an appreciation for all his dedication and commitment to me and my team over the last 7 years. (Read the article from the Irish Examiner)

We have a few easy days then head for the four star show in Fontainebleau, France where I also take Cooper to give him a few classes ahead of Aachen the week after.

It's all busy and all good - fingers crossed it stays that way!

Best wishes,

St Gallen - bad weather ruins the show!

Hey Everyone,

The Irish team along with 6 other nations battled the elements on Friday last to compete in the third leg of the Furusiyya Nations Cup series (read news story here). The FEI, together with the course designer, ensured the course was built with the ground conditions taken into consideration. As the horses’ wellbeing is our number 1 priority, we were happy that the decision to jump was the right one, as the lines were straight forward and there was no treble or water jump. It was far from ideal, but not dangerous whatsoever, which was proven by the fact that there were no injuries and all the Irish team horses came out of the competition 100% sound.

The German team opted not to jump, which caused some controversy as under the current rules they will not now be allowed a place in the final in Barcelona this September. That was of course a choice for them and they will have to live with the consequences. However it does throw up a few debates that should be teased out. Firstly, St Gallen is a wonderful show but the excuse that it rained so hard recently is not acceptable in these times. Top-end showjumping is big business and in one way I can’t blame people who may not want to jump in less than top class conditions. The choice facing the St Gallen show is either to improve the footing so that it’s as good as Hickstead and Dublin, or relocate to a sand arena and consider changing their show date. Torrential rain has plagued the show on this date on-and-off for over a decade.

The other point worth looking at, is if it were a 300k Grand Prix would there have been as much talk about the weather? Personally, I don’t think so. I think all competitors would have togged off, but the excuse of only jumping for points and less prize money was a good scapegoat for keeping one’s powder dry in order to chase the big bucks in the coming weeks. In other words the FEI must really focus on making the Nations Cups the best shows in the world both through good venues, top money and offering a lot more ranking points - all incentives that will turn the balance in favour of these great traditional events. Don't get me wrong, shows like the Global Tour have revolutionised the sport and included a global awareness of top class showjumping. But I think that the Nations Cup shows are fantastic as they have loads of competitive classes, and attract a huge audience daily, as opposed to other shows which really only focus on the Grand Prix.

Obviously we all want the best conditions possible, but it seems that some riders give out less about poor warm up arenas, cramped stabling conditions or other imperfect facilities at the big prize-funded individual shows, while the team shows get a bashing if anything is out of place. The responsibility lies with the sport’s governing body to raise the game and make team jumping what it used to be - the pinnacle of the sport. It will be interesting to see how this series plays out, but the thinkers behind it would need a wake-up call. We must make the game easy to follow. It's far too complicated that even the riders and equestrian press are struggling to make sense of it! Keep it simple would be my advice on coming up with something that works. Seeking audiences from outside the sport is always a challenge, but will remain a distant dream if the ordinary Joe public can’t follow it. For me it’s crazy to have a competition that some guys win, but whose points don't count! It’s impossible for people watching at home to make sense of it all. Globalisation is important and we must strive to be inclusive, but not at the expense that no-one, including ourselves understand the competition!

My top horses have a break this week, but I travel to Lisbon to help Ross who will be riding Carpe Diem on the Irish Team this Friday.

Check back next week for more news,

Nörten-Hardenberg - A Hidden Gem

Hey Everyone,

I have to say I came away from the show last weekend thinking this is what showjumping should be about, and the importance of us riders to support these kinds of shows. Let me explain. Nörten-Hardenberg is a small town near Göttingen, about 110km south of Hanover. The horse show is set on the grounds of an extensive 300 year old estate and the world class Burg Hotel looks out literally onto the showjumping arena which is situated in a walled garden and totally surrounded by stands for the show. Enthusiastic supporters flocked to the show with their rain gear and umbrellas and the stands were full day and night no matter what the weather. It's one of the few venues that manages to attract the public and makes a valiant effort to create a spectacle from each class which is good for the riders and the competition sponsors. Live TV coverage for the two major classes is also a big bonus.

Count von Hardenburg, his family and the show’s organisers create a family-like atmosphere throughout the weekend and the hospitality that is laid on for riders and owners is second to none. Remembering that this is a 3 star show which does not have to provide meals etc. for riders, the organisers nevertheless go out of their way to make everyone feel at home. In contrast, at some of the "major" shows nowadays you don't even get a bottle of water unless you buy a VIP table, which I am completely against. As international riders we must safeguard the direction of the sport. Shows like Nörten-Hardenberg which manage to keep going in tough economic times deserve our support as they manage to create top quality sport and keep tradition alive, along with some kind of natural environment- a real horse show, which I feel many other shows seriously lack.

It's the kind of place when you have been once, you will pencil in to the calendar for next year. Nowadays there are so many good shows but often I come away disappointed that the whole weekend was only about one class and for the rest of the time they can feel like a training show. Not this one. Nörten-Hardenberg is the best kept secret in the international showjumping calendar and I for one will be booking in early for next year!!

We travel to St Gallen, Switzerland this weekend for the second leg of the Furusiyya Nations Cup League. I take Cooper, Blue Loyd and Unique. The Irish team is looking to maintain it's good position in the standings following an excellent display from the lads in La Baule - so let's hope we can do our bit this Friday!

Check back next week for more news.

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