Cian O'Connor
Olympic Bronze Medallist

Cian's Blog

China - a wonderful experience

  • Speaking at the National Day School in Beijing with Ronan Tynan.

It was an incredible experience to visit China for my first time last week.

I was invited by the organising committee to compete at the World Cup show in Beijing International Equestrian Club. It's a tremendous facility whose equestrian operations are well guided under the capable hands of Irishman Austin Melia.

During my stay I taught some of the club’s young riders and walked the courses and advised other local riders, enthusiastic to learn.

The great Irish tenor Ronan Tynan was also performing during the event as he sung at the opening ceremony.

Ronan and I were asked by the show to speak at Beijing National Day School to over 700 students on our experiences in life and how we both managed to come out on top despite setbacks.

This was extremely well received and we were both nearly mobbed at the conclusion of the talk as the kids wanted to speak to us and get posters signed!

As there are still quarantine issues in China regarding re-exporting horses it was not possible to fly in our own horses and thanks to Austin Melia I was riding a lovely grey mare called Wavanta.

It took a few classes to gel together but for the final day of the show we knew each other well.( See news story HERE.) We were the only double clear of the competition, becoming the first non Chinese national to win the FEI World Cup in the People’s Republic of China.

Home now for two weeks ahead of my indoor campaign which then gets underway in Caen France.

I'm also delighted to learn this week that Blue Loyd is one of the world's best horses. On his results he is placed 12th in the world, making him the highest ranked horse competed by an Irish rider. See the story HERE.

Best Wishes,


Best of both worlds!

  • Straight from Cavan to Beijing- what a life!

After a busy and enjoyable week in Cavan where I won the Grand Prix we are off to China this week to see how things are done over there and explore new markets.

Cavan was so well run and a really pleasant place to compete for the six day Indoor Championships (see news story HERE).

Prior to my Chinese trip I was fortunate enough to have been able to meet with the Chinese Ambassador to Ireland, Luo Linquan (see news story HERE) who was a charming man and gave a great impression of the warmth and hospitality that awaits Ruth and I on our arrival in Beijing this week.

The horses will be kept ticking over at home in my absence and I have an action packed schedule of shows planned for the winter (see schedule HERE).

I have some new faces in the stable which I will tell you about on my return.

Chat soon.


On the Move

Just boarded a plane from JFK airport in New York, heading home. I was coaching at a big national show in Saugerties outside New York for the last week.

It's always fun to travel and watch how others do things and often learn something useful. This trip was especially interesting because as I wasn’t competing I had time to watch and study others. I suppose before I start the standard wasn't very high in the bigger classes but the lack of horsemanship and quality riding was somewhat surprising.

As I was growing up we looked to the American riders for their smooth style and equitation seat but over time by being busy or having too many horses to ride and perhaps less attention to detail, it seems that the basics are fading away and other countries like Ireland who were not known for coaching until the last 10 years really are beginning to show the way.

Of course McLain Ward and a handful of other Americans are as good as any in the world but Darragh Kenny, Darragh Kerins, Richie Moloney and other American based Irish riders could give a riding lesson to many who think they are superior!!

Its the same old mantra that hard work and dedication with a good structure will pass out those who sit back on their laurels.

One interesting point I noticed was the lack of control the riders had in the course. On a distance that measured a little short on five strides many were just galloping in four some making it, others not. Generally in Europe we tend if it's a half stride to add another stride to keep the horse together but there is a happy medium.

Certainly leaving out strides all over the course will not work long term as the horse will get too open and the stride way too big to jump shorter distances. I firmly believe this is why many Americans have great success at home but find it harder when they travel to Europe. The ideal is to be able to do both lengthening and shortening which for most of us is what we try to achieve in our daily flat work.

The Irish Breeders Classic gets underway this Thursday in Barnadown and has been combined with the final of the national and premier leagues over the weekend. Hopefully the show will be well supported as for most of us it will be the last outdoor show of the season.

The Irish Aga Khan winning Team is being honoured at the Curragh this Saturday, organised by my horse feed supplier Gain. So a busy week ahead which is good- let's hope it's a fruitful one!

Chat soon.


Back to normality!

  • Blue Loyd back at home

It’s been an unbelievable year for me and as things are settling down its nice to look back on the journey that culminated in an individual Olympic Bronze medal. Last weekend was enjoyable as we took 11 horses to Cavan to compete for three days.

It's important for me to concentrate on my younger horses now who hopefully will become international stars for the future that I will both campaign and market for sale on the world stage.

The biggest challenge facing me, like many top riders, is how to have enough top class horses to stay at the highest level.

I'm fortunate to have had great supporters and with their help bought top quality horses over the last number of years but if I am to become number one in the world then I need to have five Blue Loyds at any one time so that I can compete more frequently on several horses at the biggest shows.

Unlike many other riders who I respect greatly I have never found a patron per se who would purchase horses to just keep. I have however successfully managed to take a more businesslike approach by putting together syndicates who would purchase a horse for me to improve, compete and then sell for profit.

I would love to take this to the next level by putting together an elite show jumping fund where I would have multiple investors and therefore increase the number of top horses that I could have at any one time. This job has many facets and now that I have done my talking in the ring on the world stage it's time to capitalise on that by ensuring that I remain at the top of the sport in the future.

This week I'm out of the country meeting clients and coaching. Work goes on harder than ever, now is not the time to rest on my laurels! Back to normality- whatever that is!!

Best wishes,


Dublin Show was just surreal!

  • The winning Aga Khan teamwith manager Robert Splaine holding the trophy

Hey everyone,

Everything is calming down following the wonderful celebrations in the aftermath of the London Olympics and the Dublin Horse Show.

In these past few weeks Blue Loyd and i have won an Olympic Bronze Medal, been part of the winning team for the Aga Khan trophy in the Nations Cup at Dublin and finished third in the Dublin Grand Prix.

Any one of these achievements in themselves would be considered a great feat but to have achieved all three consecutively is I suppose why there is so much support and goodwill for me and the sport right now.

The crowds who flocked to the RDS got plenty to cheer about all week most especially the magical performances of Clem McMahon, Darragh Kerins and Richie Moloney who sealed victory for us in Friday’s Nations Cup. Blue Loyd had his own fan club and he gave them plenty to shout about when finishing third in the massive Dublin Grand Prix.

Following the show there was a homecoming arranged in Ratoath which was something special. Both myself and Natalya Coyle, who finished 9th in the Modern Pentathlon at the London Olympics were greeted by hundreds in our local village. It was so nice to see so many people excited and basking in the glory of their Olympic heroes.

It has been an incredible few weeks and I’ve enjoyed every second of it. I really hope my Olympic success and the team’s success in Dublin can have some positive effects on the sport and that the powers that be will put there thinking caps on as to how to maximise these achievements to the benefit of all stakeholders and future Olympic hopefuls.

Chat soon,


A whirlwind week!

  • Myself with boxers Katie and Michael at Dublin airport

The last seven days since I was on the podium have been simply amazing and I haven’t stop smiling!

I had to come home ahead of the remainder of Team Ireland as I needed to prepare for the Dublin Horse Show which gets underway tomorrow at the RDS.

On my arrival home I joined all the Karlswood staff for lunch in the Snailbox pub, which was super as all these guys put so much into making this medal happen and so I feel they all own a piece of the bronze!

I've been inundated with media requests and did many radio interviews and a chat show with Tom McGurk which went really well.

On Monday the homecoming at Dublin airport was such a thrill. I'm honoured to be a part of this historic Team Ireland as a whole who brought home a record for Ireland of 5 medals from the London games.

The boxers have achieved so much and Katie Taylor's wonderful success has given the whole of Ireland a necessary lift.

I'm looking forward to getting back in the ring this week and giving the equestrian fans something to cheer about.

Come to the RDS and cheer us all on this week.


Dramatic Olympic Medal!

  • Posing for photographers in London

Hi everyone,

I’m writing this at 4am Thursday as i can’t sleep!

I’m absolutely wired to the moon and have just finished replying to the hundreds of text messages of well wishers that I’m honoured to have received.

It’s been an incredible journey to get to this day and so many people have helped me get here, most especially Blue Loyd’s owners, Charlie and Barbara O’Reilly-Hyland who backed my dream to aim at London with the goal of winning a medal. Game set and match and thank you guys!

Blue Loyd deserves the ultimate accolade as today he jumped like a real superstar. The support from the crowd today was amazing and something that really helped me go well.

I’m thrilled with the overwhelming support coming from back home and I really hope that this medal will give some young riders the drive to see that anything is possible if you keep plugging away!

Also Ireland is in need of a boost now more than ever and I know how well the boxers have done and with more to come I’m thrilled that along with them we can give the Irish public something to cheer loudly about!!

I’m home at lunch time and straight back to work as plenty to do ahead of the Dublin Horse Show which commences next Wednesday so please all come along and support us at the RDS.

Chat soon, and thanks again for your support,


Road to Greenwich

  • Off to the Games!

Hi everyone,

I'm absolutely over the moon at today's news of my Olympic selection. Please click here to news story for full details.

The Aachen show as always was superb on all levels. It is quite simply the best. It has been a lucky show for me and I have managed to go well there over many years. Blue Loyd jumped out of his skin, click here to see his clear round in Thursday’s Nations Cup.

As last to go in the ring there was a certain amount of added pressure in the second round as the team needed a good score. We fell foul of the very last pole on the back bar of the final fence in round one but in the second round Blue Loyd gave an exhibition of jumping to help the team finish a very creditable third.

KEC Alligator Alley jumped great all week when clear and four in Wednesday’s 1.50m class and placed 5th in Saturday night’s feature Accumulator competition.

I think I have a new star in the making in the 7yr old stallion Farfelu de Muze who only had one fence down throughout the week and was clear in the final but incurred a time fault. I'm really excited about this guy and I think he really is exceptional. See the young horse final here.

I have a busy few days ahead to get planning my final build up to London and to ensure Blue Loyd and I are in the best possible shape to deliver.

Keep you posted on our progress on the road to Greenwich!

Thanks for all your support. Please click Like on my Facebook page and follow my tweets.


Power of the Internet

Hey everyone

It’s been a busy week despite having no shows. Blue Loyd and KEC Alligator Alley and Farfelu de Muze are on their way to Aachen where we have a training class tomorrow night.

It’s amazing how I’ve always been an advocate of social media but I saw at first hand this week the power it really has, and how it can reach a global audience very quickly.

Following St. Gallen I wrote what I felt was an honest opinion of where we were as a team and I was flattered to see it being picked up by several publications both on the internet and in print, but somewhat astonished at the way some of my remarks were interpreted.

My record is there for anyone to see and I’ve always been a team player through and through. In that blog following St. Gallen I was merely throwing out for debate the notion that should we find ourselves relegated, perhaps time away from the Superleague wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world and could give us a chance to regroup and rebuild.

A Facebook discussion was started last week on the Team Ireland Equestrian page and it was interesting to see the comments made by people who clearly hadn’t read any of the original blog or the first publication that carried the story, Horse and Hound.

Everyone is entitled to a point of view across the board and with the benefit of being positioned at the coalface I think the riders who support the team year in year out are the ones best positioned to offer the most informed opinion.

I have spoken to several of my colleagues this weekend who agreed with my point of view and while we have been shining individually for many years with great individual results, the plain facts are that that hasn’t mirrored through to team performances to the extent it should have over the last number of years.

The end of this year is the end of the Olympic cycle and hopefully Horse Sport Ireland will engage with all stakeholders to come up with a formula to see Ireland have success over the next number of Olympic cycles. In my own business and in every business the people at the top make a three, to five, to ten year plan. Why should it be different for a national show jumping team?

I wish I could charge for the amount of hits my blog got last week because if I got a euro for each hit I’d be able to buy a new Grand Prix horse!

Please follow my updates on Facebook this week from Aachen, where the Nations' Cup is on Thursday night and where we'll be all trying hard to get some of those valuable points to hopefully move us from the bottom of the leaderboard table.

Best wishes,


St. Gallen - one of the best

  • The water jump at St. Gallen

St Gallen is without doubt one of the great shows on the show jumping calendar. The arena is magnificent, the organisation excellent and overall one of the shows that I love coming back to.

After three legs of the super league Ireland are not looking good on seven points and lying eighth on the leaderboard.

Unfortunately it’s the same old mantra - we have great jockeys but not the level of horses needed to be even close to being competitive at that level. When you see the strength and depth of other countries you start to accept the reality that we are in fact not at the races!

Solution? Be out of the super league for two years - that way the few horses that are coming through will get time to develop rather than being hurried and perhaps doing too much too soon?

As I see it there is no point breaking one’s neck to stay up in a league just to struggle for a season to do the same thing the following year. I'm not saying that’s the answer but we need to take stock and be brutally honest.

One huge problem is the lack of understanding of many within the industry of what kind of horse is required to jump clear at super league level.

For example Mullingar show is on this weekend with the Grand Prix today. It will be a great event no doubt and not easy won, but the gap between that Grand Prix there and the Grand Prix yesterday in St Gallen is quite simply chalk and cheese.

Food for thought but action needed, as presently it’s the same old soldiers doing battle - but for what??


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