Cian O'Connor
Olympic Bronze Medallist

Cian's Blog: June, 2009

A Big Week Ahead

  • Irish Independent Echo Beach, who went clear in the Grand Prix in Aachen in 2006

I just checked into the hotel in Aachen, Germany, where today we had the veterinary inspection and the training class. Everything went well and I feel I'm ready for the week ahead. Last weekend I competed Splendor at Hoofddorp. It was a CSI2*, only about 15 minutes from Amsterdam airport. Splendor jumped really well, finishing 2nd in the main event on Friday and 6th in the Grand Prix.

Interestingly enough the venue is actually hosting the Junior and Young Rider Championships this week and I'm sure it will be a success as the all weather sand ring is top class.

Back to Aachen - it's always a show I love to do. It's my sixth time coming here. The German public really love their jumping and are a very knowledgeable crowd. This week I have Rancorrado, Complete, Irish Independent Echo Beach and Baloufina to call upon. With it being such a long week, with six days of jumping, it's important to plan it well so that they peak during the whole week.

The main focus as always for me at these CSIOs is the Nations' Cup. It takes place on Thursday, with the second round in the evening under lights. I will ride Rancorrado in that, Capt. David O'Brien rides Kiltoom, Denis Lynch rides Lantinus and Billy Twomey Je T'Aime Flamenco. We've been a bit unlucky in the Nations' Cups to date. You really need three horses jumping clear rounds to win. It has gone so competitive that recent Nations' Cups have been won on a team total of 4 or 8 faults. I feel we have a big chance in the Cup and all the team realises we have to put our best foot forward in order to get higher up the league table.

As with any major event you plan, you prepare, and you get mentally focused but in the end you also need a little bit of luck on the day. I know I have a few people up above looking down who'll be wishing us well, so fingers crossed for the Irish team next Thursday. You can follow the updates here on my news page throughout the week and check back next Monday for a full report.

Best wishes,

Norten-Hardenberg - A Classy Show!

  • The ever-reliable Baloufina

The CSI3* at Norten-Hardenberg is set in the grounds of a wonderful castle. The arena is quite small, surrounded on three sides by stands which were packed every day and the fourth side was occupied by a hotel, which is quite unusual but added a great atmosphere to the place. I gather the show has been established for many years and as a result they have had the same sponsors and great support from spectators which continues to this day.

My main aim over the past two weekends has been to build up Rancorrado towards the Nations Cup in Aachen and I'm very pleased that the programme I have planned is going the right way. He jumped clear in the big class on Saturday and finished 7th. Today in the Grand Prix he had two rails down but I was very happy with him as he was a big horse in a very tight arena that didn't really suit him and I know he will come on from this round.

Splendor also performed very well here, placing 4th in the 1m50 on Thursday and the ever-reliable Baloufina, who never lets me down, was just pipped to the post today by two-hundredths of a second in the 1m45, which was a World Ranking competition.

Next weekend I intend to jump only Splendor at the two-star show in Hoofddorp in Holland as I want to keep the other horses fresh for Aachen, where the trot-up is Monday week.

Touch base this day next week to let you know how things are going.

Balve - A Worthwhile Weekend

  • Myself pictured at the in gate at Balve having a chat with Jimmy Doyle, former Army groom and now a respected trainer in the US

The three star international show in Balve, Germany was a very worthwhile event for my horses. The organisation was top class, with good courses built by Frank Rothenberger on the excellent sand surface.

Balve is a family-run show run by Rosalie van Landsberg and her team, who are her friends and colleagues, and they do a wonderful job in the grounds of the castle and they entertained us there for dinner on the Friday night, which was very pleasant.

It was Rancorrado's first show in preparation for Aachen in a fortnight's time. He jumped clear in a 1m40 class and also performed really well in the Grand Prix, just having one rail down. Splendor was double clear and placed fifth in the 1m45 final on Sunday.

Running concurrently with the CSI3* was the German National Championships. The final was on Sunday afternoon and I stayed back to watch. From my point of view this was particularly interesting - being able to walk these courses and study the riders in the ring and warming up and view the whole class without the pressure of competing. The championships were won outright in the end by Philipp Weishaupt with Souvenir, and he's the stable jockey for Ludger Beerbaum. It was nice to see him winning and he did a really good job. I believe the German chef d'equipe picks his team for Aachen after watching the championships, and it's always interesting to be open-minded and see how other countries work because one is never too old to learn!

This weekend I jump in Norten Hardenberg which I gather is about 100kms from Hanover. I'll take Rancorrado, Splendor and Baloufina there. Lucy Buchanan is also in action there with Cavalier Andy and one from my stables, PS I Love You, and I believe Kevin Babington is competing there also.

Have a good week and check back next Monday for another update.

St. Gallen - Happy Hunting Ground For The Irish

  • Irish Independent Echo Beach, who had a win and a second place at St. Gallen

St. Gallen proved to be a good show overall for the Irish, with a win and two top three places to my credit, the Leading Rider title to Denis Lynch, and Billy Twomey landing the Grand Prix. Interestingly enough, the last time the Grand Prix was won here by an Irish rider it was our chef d'equipe Robert Splaine in 2003. Last Sunday it was Billy Twomey's turn when he and Je T'Aime Flemenco produced the only double clear round of the day.

I was pleased with my week overall, unfortunately however I was unable to start in the Grand Prix due to Complete's over-reach injury during the Nations' Cup which prevented him taking part in the second round. Baloufina was second in the opening competition, Irish Independent Echo Beach won the 1m45 Two Phase on Thursday and then came out to place second in the 1m45 Table A on Friday.

Over the next two weeks I jump in two shows in Germany - Balve and Norten Hardenburg - where I'll use Rancorrado as my main horse with the aim of building him towards the Nations' Cup in Aachen at the beginning of July.

St. Gallen show also saw a farewell to legendary Swiss rider Marcus Fuchs, a wonderful ambassador for the sport. Marcus will have inspired many riders, including myself, with his determined style of riding and his commitment to win.

Have a good week, and check back here on Monday for more.

St. Tropez In Mullingar!

  • Roisin Fagan competing in the Pairs Relay

The Fagan family along with over 70 volunteers ran a top class event which was the CSI2* international at the Mullingar Equestrian Centre over the Bank Holiday weekend. The effort that goes in behind the scenes to make an event like this possible I can only imagine is absolutely immense, and to them I'm very grateful. We were all riding in short sleeves and we got a great reminder that when the sun is shining, there's no place like Ireland!

The highlight of the weekend was the 20,000 euro Grand Prix which took place on Monday. Splendor jumped really well but had an unlucky rail down to finish 9th. There were only two clear rounds and it was won by Scott Brash from Peebles in Scotland. He rode two very accurate rounds and seems a real nice guy also, and I for one was delighted to see him winning it as it added somewhat of an international dimension to the show.

Following the Grand Prix the Westmeath Hospice Pairs Relay took place, where a pony rider was teamed up with a professional and they both jumped a course of fences against the clock. This was a fantastic initiative as firstly it raised over 3,000 euro for the Westmeath Hospice and secondly it allowed the pony riders access to the professionals who all gave a lesson prior to the show to their respective pony partners and also gave advice during the course walk.

I was teamed up with a lovely kid, 10 years old, Roisin Fagan, who incidentally was delivered by my late grandfather Karl Mullen. Roisin and her pony Dougal attacked the course with great determination and when our two scores were added together we finished an eventual third. These kind of classes along with Puissances and Knock Outs are what the public wants to see, and full marks to the organisers for starting the ball rolling.

I fly to St. Gallen in the morning where I start to jump Baloufina, Irish Independent Echo Beach and Complete on Thursday. The Nations' Cup will be on Friday. Check back for more news over the weekend.

Best wishes,

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