Cian O'Connor
Olympic Bronze Medallist

Cian's Blog: March, 2009

All The News From Italy, Most Of It Good!

  • PS I Love You winning the Welcome Stakes in Arezzo

Hello everyone,

I've been in Italy for a week now, and I must say it's gone quite well. I came over last Monday and Tuesday to give a clinic in Milan for two days where Irish Young Rider Declan McEvoy is now based. That was good fun working with new horses and new people, and following that on Tuesday night I got the train from Milan to Arezzo where my horses were already getting used to the surroundings, having come directly from Spain the week before.

Overall I was thrilled with the show, all of the horses jumped out of their skin - two wins, from PS I Love You in the 1m40 Welcome Stakes, and Baloufina clinching a 1m45 Accumulator. PS I Love You then went on to place 7th in the Speed Derby. In the two main classes Complete finished 3rd in the Grand Prix Qualifier and 5th in the Grand Prix. As with most things in show jumping it's all about timing, and these successes gave me valuable world ranking points which I needed before the end of March, as the Global Champions Tour invitations for the summer depend upon the next ranking list due out.

Yesterday morning I came in early, checked all the horses, they were all in good shape and they went out for a hack and they will have a few days of light work before competing again next Thursday.

I actually took the afternoon off and went to Rome with two of the Mexican riders who are competing here at Arezzo. It was nice to do something different and get away from horses for a few hours. One place I visited was the Piazza Pantheon - the feature there is the Basilica di Santa Maria ad Martyres. It's an amazing structure with the outside over 3,000 years old, but inside it was a place of prayer and I even sat down for a few moments to see if I could get some divine intervention to help me gain a top three place at the Global Champions Tour next Saturday!

Some might say it'll take more than a prayer, but I always think God loves a trier!

My horses for the 5 star Global Champions Tour will be Complete and Splendor, and running concurrently is a CSI2* where I will jump PS I Love You and Baloufina.

Keep you posted.

Best wishes,

Back From The Sunshine Tour!

  • Me with Complete at the Spanish Sunshine Tour at Vejer de la Frontera. Complete was sixth in the 1m50 Grand Prix on March 1st.

I've just come back from the Spanish Sunshine Tour. It's a five week tour, and by tour they don't mean different locations, but a prolonged series of competitions at Dehesa Montenmedio in Vejer de la Frontera in Spain through most of February and March.

This is something of a mouthful, so that's why we all call it the Sunshine Tour!

This year the Sunshine Tour really lived up to this name, as the weather was fantastic. Just because it's Spain doesn't mean this is always the case, and in some previous years we've had to compete in heavy downpours.

But we had brilliant weather for most of the five weeks, and now all the riders are sporting their new tans, and the horses are showing their summer coats. Following the five weeks both horses and riders are fit for the season ahead, which is really the purpose of this trip for most of us.

The great thing about this venue is that there are so many classes and it caters for all levels. Monday is a day off and Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday there's young horse classes only - five yr-olds jumping 1m15, six yr-olds 1m25 and seven yr-olds 1m35 maximum.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday comprise what's called the Big and Small Tour. The Small Tour has four categories and ranges from maximum fence heights of 1m10 to 1m40. This is ideal for young riders or amateurs, and many top riders, including myself, use the Small Tour to give their clients some experience of international jumping which might not be available elsewhere.

Ireland were very well represented in this category this year with Thomas O'Brien, Joanne Sloan-Allen and Frank Curran all winning 1m40 classes. Additionally, Frank Curran was second in the Small Tour Grand Prix Final on the last Sunday of the Tour with a fantastic double clear aboard his father's "Pepp".

Luckily for me, all three were pupils of mine and as they went so well, I'm not out of a job yet!

Like the Small Tour, the Big Tour has four categories, with fence heights ranging from 1m35 to 1m55. The Irish contingent had several victories over the five weeks, with wins scored by Dave Quigley, Paul O'Shea, myself and Billy Twomey. However, the thinking of the top riders is that this is basically a build-up to the season ahead, more than hot competition to win trophies and prize money. I mean, it's a long year and we all want our horses to peak in the summer, so we use Spain to do what we frequently don't get time to do - which is train them in the ring.

By that I mean being able to try out different bridles, different pace, different stride patterns and so forth, so essentially by the end of five weeks if you do it properly your horses should be healthy and sound, then after a few weeks' break they're ready for serious international competition.

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